May 2004
  • Quote of the Month
    • "We learn and grow and are transformed not so much by what we do but by why and how we do it."
      --Sharon Salzberg, O Magazine, The Power of Intention, January 2004

University Holiday: Memorial Day on May 31st


University offices will be closed on Monday, May 31, 2004 in observance of Memorial Day.

Reminder: The 2003-2004 TAMIU Holiday Schedule can be accessed at http://www.tamiu.edu/adminis/ohr/holiday.shtml.


Staff Enrichment Day 2004

Are You Registered for Staff Enrichment Day?

If not, register now at www.tamiu.edu/adminis/ohr/sedreg.shtml. Don't miss out on the fun!

Construction Update
There is exciting contruction news regarding the Science Building.  You can now see the start of construction of the building's unique feature...the planetarium's pyramid!   Plus, furniture for the building is already being ordered!
Completion date for the new student housing facility is on schedule. The exterior of the buildings is complete, and insulation and sheet rock are being installed.  There will be, however, one inconvenience for our campus because the utility duct bank between the Science Building and the new student housing facility will need to be constructed. This means that the east road will have to be cut so that the utility duct bank can be installed. The hope is that the contractors can do the cutting of the road after graduation day on May 15.
The System Facilities and Construction Department is negotiating the contract for the master plan with Ford, Powell, Carson from San Antonio.  The first meeting will be held on campus soon Contract negotiation for Phase V began on April 23, and there will shortly be a contract with F & S Partners from Dallas.
More construction news is to come...keep reading your HR News & Views!

Highlights from 4/22/04 SEBAC Meeting


The System Employees Benefits Advisory Council (SEBAC) met in College Station on Thursday, 4/22/04. Representing TAMIU at the meeting were Elizabeth N. Martinez (Associate VP for Administration), Jessica Palacios (HR Benefits Manager), and Cassandra Wheeler (HR Benefits Specialist).

Below are highlights from this 4/22/04 SEBAC meeting. However, more detailed information about the meeting is available from the System Human Resources Office website at http://sago.tamu.edu/shro by clicking on the heading "SEBAC information."

As a reminder, all employees and retirees wishing to share comments and concerns about employee benefits can contacting the TAMIU HR Office at (956)326-2365.

Premiums for the A&M Care 350 and 1250 plans will remain the same during the 2004-2005 plan year, and premiums for the 65 PLUS plan, which is available to Medicare-eligible retirees, will drop significantly. Effective September 1, 65 PLUS participants will pay nothing for retiree-only coverage, while participants enrolled in retiree-and-spouse coverage will pay $50.87 (down from $126.54). Additonally, the plan co-payments and deductibles will not change.

Also, effective September 1, all three plans (350, 1250, and 65 PLUS) will provide limited coverage for smoking cessation and weight loss products through Eckerd Health Services (EHS), the plan's prescription drug administrator. EHS will follow medical guidelines to determine whether a participant qualifies for these products, and the products will have refill limits.

Premiums for the Mercy Health Plan will be increasing slightly for the 2004-2005 plan year, and participants will also see an increase in office visit and prescription drug co-payments.

The A&M Dental plan premiums and deductibles will not change.

Premiums for the CIGNA Dental HMO will increase slightly. However, all co-payments will remain the same. Employee-only premiums will increase from $17.82 to $18.71; employee-and-spouse premiums will increase from $31.69 to $33.27; employee-and-child premiums will increase from $31.93 to $33.53; and employee-and-family premiums will increase from $49.13 to $51.59.


Employees enrolled in Health Care Spending Accounts will now be able to pay for qualifying medical expenses using debit cards provided by Tax Saver Plan, the plan administrator. The cards will debit participants' Spending Accounts directly to pay most expenses. This will eliminate the reimbursement process and, in many cases, the follow-up paperwork.

Benefits and premiums for all other insurance programs will remain the same for the 2004-2005 plan year. Additional information will be available during Annual Enrollment, which will be from July 1st through July 31st.


Annual Enrollment Will Be Electronic Via HRConnect

Again this year, TAMIU is helping reduce printing and mailing costs by administering Annual Enrollment electronically (rather than by mail) through HRConnect. Employees will review their benefit information and make all their Annual Enrollment decisions right from HRConnect. During this year's Annual Enrollment period (July 1st through July 31st), HRConnect will include everything needed to make the right benefit choices:

•  Overviews of A&M System insurance programs
•  Premium information
•  A list of your current coverages and September 1 out-of-pocket costs
•  A calculator that automatically shows you your monthly out-of-pocket costs based on any    changes you make

All Annual Enrollment information will be sent electronically to the TAMIU email address on file in HRConnect.  Look for additional information on Annual Enrollment in the next issue of HR News & Views!

Your contacts for Annual Enrollment or HRConnect are Jessica Palacios at ext. 2362 and Cassandra Wheeler at ext. 2363.


Re-Enrollment Not Necessary for Extended Pay Plan

As a reminder, it is not necessary to re-enroll in the Extended Pay Plan (EPP) each year. All current participants will receive a letter in late August reminding them they will remain enrolled, unless they sign and return the letter to stop participation. The EPP is available to all full-time faculty who work less than 12 months each year and allows them to extend their pay over 12 months.

If you are not currently participating in EPP and would like to, please stop by the HR Office in PH 314 to complete an authorization form. If you have any questions about the EPP, please contact Jessica Palacios at ext. 2362 or Cassandra Wheeler at ext. 2363.


Eckerd Health Services (EHS) Purchased by CVS Corporation

Eckerd Health Services (EHS), the A&M Care health plan's prescription drug provider, is being purchased by CVS Corporation, one of the nation's largest retail pharmacy companies.


The sale, which will not be final until this summer, is not expected to result in any immediate changes in EHS' network pharmacies, mail-order procedures, or customer service telephone numbers.

If you have questions regarding your prescription drug program, please contact Jessica Palacios (ext. 2362) or Cassandra Wheeler (ext. 2363).


Eckerd Health Services (EHS) Prescription Drug Formulary Revised


Eckerd Health Services (EHS) has revised its prescription drug formulary and mailed copies to all A&M Care Plan participants. To view the new formulary online, click here.

If you have questions regarding your prescription drug program, please contact Jessica Palacios (ext. 2362) or Cassandra Wheeler (ext. 2363).


Eckerd Health Services (EHS) Introduces Its Second Disease Management Program

EHS recently introduced its second disease management program to A&M Care participants. This program, called EHS Patient Care, uses prescription drug information to identify people who have multiple chronic conditions.

If you have questions regarding this new program, please contact Jessica Palacios (ext. 2362) or Cassandra Wheeler (ext. 2363).


Welcome, New Employees!!
  Angie Escamilla, Staff Assistant
Special Programs (GEAR-UP)
SC 118 ext. 2766
  Claudio Arias, Coach (Men's Soccer)
Athletics Department
KCB 107 ext. 2893
  Rose M. Ortiz, Advancement Information Services Specialist
KL 262 ext. 2173
  Andres G. Barrientos, Service Worker
Physical Plant
H 200 ext. 2325
  Stanley D. Pearson II, Associate Director
Office of Student Activities
SC 226D ext. 2283

Jessica W. Ratliff KL 268A ext. 2614
FROM: Communications Specialist, PAIS    
TO: Associate Director, PAIS    
Graciela Huerta CH 102 ext. 2926
FROM: Half-Time CDC Coordinator, Department of Special Populations    
TO: Part-Time CDC Educator, Department of Special Populations    

  Toni M. Contreras, Expeditor
Purchasing & Support Services
  Virginia Garcia, Director of Career Services
Career Services

Time To Check Your Vacation Balance


Summer is just around the corner and it's time to think about your vacation! But before you plan too far ahead, please review your vacation leave balance. There is a maximum number of vacation hours that employees may carry forward from one fiscal year to the next. That number varies based on the employee's total state service. The following schedule shows the maximum vacation hours that may be carried forward based on total state service:

Employees with total state service of:
Hours accrued per month:
Maximum hours to carryover to the next fiscal year:
Less than 2 years
2 but less than 5 years
5 but less than 10 years
10 but less than 15 years
15 but less than 20 years
20 but less than 25 years
25 but less than 30 years
30 but less than 35 years
35 years or more

Vacation hours that exceed the maximum carryover provision at the end of the fiscal year will be credited to your sick leave balance on September 1st. LeaveTraq can show you your maximum vacation carry over hours as well as any vacation which may lapse into sick leave. Simply log on to LeaveTraq and click on the "more>" button.

Again, please review your vacation leave balance to determine if it will exceed the maximum hours allowed for carryover. If you have any questions, please contact Xochitl Kladis at ext. 2364.



The Importance of Reporting a Leave of Absence

There are various leave benefits available to employees, and the Office of Human Resources wants to ensure these benefits are afforded to employees in the event of need.

To facilitate these leave benefits, an employee must report their leave of absence (sick leave, vacation, etc.) to their supervisor and the Office of Human Resources immediately. Furthermore, it is especially crucial to immediately report a leave of absence that is to be extensive.

Leave of absence issues may be complex, and all cases differ. The Office of Human Resources will assist in verifying the employee's leave balances, determining if additional documentation is necessary to support the leave of absence request, and determining if the employee is eligible for any other type of available leave (i.e., Family/Medical Leave, Parental Leave, Emergency Leave, Sick Leave Pool).

If you have any questions about or need assistance with leave of absence issues, please contact Xochitl Kladis at ext. 2364.


Let's Review Time Card Rules

By following these instructions, you will assist the Office of Human Resources and the Payroll Office in efficiently processing timecards and accurately maintaining your records. For questions related to timecards and leave requests, please contact Xochitl Kladis via e-mail or at ext. 2364.

Timecards Must Be Maintained Daily
To avoid errors, we suggest timecard entries be made daily. To correct an error, draw a line through the error, enter the correction, and initial the change. Timecards must be completed in ink, and correcting fluid should never be used.

Timecards Must Be Totaled
All hours (hours worked, hours paid, coded hours, OCT, SCT) must be totaled and entered in appropriate sections. Also, OCT and SCT balances must be carried forward onto your new timecard.

Timecards and Leave Requests Must Match
If your timecard indicates time off for any reason, a corresponding leave request should be submitted via LeaveTraq prior to taking leave or immediately upon return from leave. Do not wait until you submit your timecard to submit your leave request(s).

Timecards Must Be Signed
Timecards must be signed by the supervisor and the employee prior to submitting to the Payroll Office.

Timecards Must Be Turned In On Time
Timecards for full-time and part-time classified staff, as well as student workers and work studies, are due in the Payroll Office, KL 159, by 12:00 NOON on the due date. The Payroll Office has furnished supervisors with a red inter-office envelope to submit timecards and the HPPR (Hourly Payroll Preparation Report). For a schedule of the bi-weekly pay periods that includes due dates for timecards and HPPR's, call the Payroll Office at ext. 2376.


Conducting Interviews and Checking References

As supervisor/interviewer for your department, you have the critical responsibility of selecting the best-qualified candidates for vacancies in your department, while adhering to all applicable laws and regulations. By implementing a proper pre-employment screening practice, you can increase the chances of selecting qualified, motivated, and dependable workers for your department. The following helpful tips for interviewing and checking references can guide you during your selection process. (You can also refer to the System online training called "Conducting Effective Interviews" which can be accessed via HRConnect under the TRAINING tab.)

When asking interview questions, consider three rules of thumb:
Ask only for information that you intend to use to make hiring decisions.
  2. Know how you will use the information to make that decision.
  3. Recognize that it is difficult to defend the practice of seeking information that you do not use.
Review the job description
  - Draft and agree upon the interview questions to be asked.
Review the candidate's resume/application.
  - Agree on the format of the interview.


Ensure that you know and can identify the indicators of the candidate's ability to perform the job.
  - Introduce committee members (if applicable).
  - Describe the format of the interview.
  - Ask open-ended informational, situational, and behavioral questions.
  - Let the applicant do most of the talking.
  - Keep the interview on track.
  - Observe non-verbal behavior.
  - Take notes.
  - Leave time for the candidate to ask questions.
  - Ask if you can check references and pursue references not listed on the resume.
  - Describe the remainder of the search process and the time it will take.
  - Thank the candidate for his or her time.
  - Evaluate the candidate.
  - Document the interview.
  - Check the same number of references for all candidates.
Ask if there is anyone you should not contact and why you should not contact this person.
  - Ask the candidate to notify individuals whom you will call for a reference.


Ensure that all references are individuals who have worked with the candidate in a professional
    capacity and who are not relatives or friends of the candidate.
  - Ensure that at least one reference is a former or current supervisor of the candidate.
  - Ask the candidate if he or she worked under any name other than the one given you.
Consult with the TAMIU HR Office if there is need to check credit reports, criminal records,
    and/or driving records.
  - Review (or seek) letters of recommendation.
  - Verify dates of employment, titles, and periods of time in each position.
  - Verify salary (if applicable).
  - Verify education and licenses.
  - Identify strengths and weaknesses.
  - Ask references how well the candidate works with others.
  - Obtain opinions about how the candidate would perform in your position.
  - Ask about the candidate's work ethic.
  - Ask why the candidate left the position in question.
  - Ask the candidate's former supervisor (if identified as a reference) or the HR office of the
    candidate's former employer if the candidate is eligible for rehire.
  - Document all reference-checking activities.

Updating Your HR Files...Beneficiary Designations

Significant events such as marriage, divorce, death of a beneficiary, and the birth of a child, should prompt employees to review their beneficiary designations.

If you are enrolled in any of the following: Basic Life Insurance, Alternate Basic Life Insurance, Accidental Death and Dismemberment, the Teacher Retirement System; and you experience a significant event, you should immediately notify the Office of Human Resources to review and make any necessary changes to your beneficiary designations.

If you are enrolled in the Optional Retirement Program, and you experience a significant event, you should contact your respective vendor to review and make any necessary changes to your beneficiary designations.

Please contact Jessica Palacios at ext. 2362 or Cassandra Wheeler at ext. 2363 if you have any questions or need assistance.


Workers' Compensation

An employee of The Texas A&M University System who suffers an accidental injury or occupational disease, as a direct result of and in the course and scope of employment, should immediately notify his/her supervisor and complete the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission's Form TWCC-1 called "Employer's First Report of Injury or Illness."  The form is accessible from the HR website under FORMS. The supervisor, in turn, must notify the HR Office immediately and ensure Form TWCC-1 is completed and submitted promptly. Failure to report the injury within 30 days of the occurrence (or the manifestation of an occupational disease) may result in the denial of a claim.

If you have any questions concerning Workers' Compensation, please contact Xochitl Kladis at ext. 2363.


Getting to Know U!

Dr. Dan Jones


Dr. Dan Jones, Provost and VPAA, has been running since 1977 and has run in 5 1/2 marathons (5 completed and one half-completed). He has not missed a day of running since May 1985...that's 6,900+ consecutive days!

TAMIU, we want to get to know you! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself, and we will feature it along with a photo in this section of the newsletter. Submit your information to Xochitl Kladis via email or at ext. 2364.

Mug O' The Month
Ruby Gonzalez is a Staff Assistant in the Admissions Office. She joined TAMIU in December 2001.

Ruby received a prize for being the first to identify the TAMIU employee in the "Who is This?" section of the previous issue of the HR News & Views.

Who is This?  

The first person to email Cassandra Wheeler and correctly identify this TAMIU employee by name and title will win a prize!

The identity of the employee who appeared in the last issue of HR News & Views can be found in "The Answer Corner" section of this newsletter!

The Answer Corner
The following are frequently-asked questions received in the Office of Human Resources. To ask us questions, use the "Ask HR" button on this newsletter.


Who was the baby in the "Who is This?" section of the last issue of "HR News & Views"?



That was Julie Garza, Staff Assistant in the Office of Special Programs. TAMIU employees who wish to submit their picture for the "Who is This?" section may contact Cassandra Wheeler via email or at ext. 2363.


If I go on leave without pay, will my state service and longevity pay be affected, and will I still earn vacation and sick leave?


Unless you are on military leave without pay, you will not receive state service credit for any full calendar month in which you are on leave without pay. This means the time you spend on leave without pay will not be included in the calculation of your total state service for purposes of longevity pay (or hazardous duty pay), vacation accrual rate, or retirement benefits. You will not earn vacation or sick leave for any full calendar month you are out on leave without pay.  If you have any inquiries pertaining to leave, please contact Xochitl Kladis at ext. 2364.


That Extra (S)Mile!
This section describes the deeds of TAMIU employees who have been observed going the "extra mile" for our University.
I would like to recognize Jessica Rocha, Staff Assistant in Student Counseling Services, in the newsletter.  The first person people meet when they come to our office is Jessica.  Because most of the students who come to our office may be somewhat apprehensive, Jessica is quick to make them feel comfortable with her gentle smile and cheerful disposition. As the person on the front line, it is important that she welcomes students so that they know they are in a safe place.  Jessica is always ready to help all staff members and students. The best part is that she does it with great enthusiasm!
The GEAR-UP Tutors were caught smiling during GEAR-UP Family Day held on Saturday, April 21st.  The Tutors assisted by escorting parents and supervising the activities. The Tutors were Saravana Gonvindaraj, Rosie  Reyna, Emmanuel Dominguez, Lucia MaldonadoThelma Malacara, Muhammad Rabbani, and Laura Gutierrez.  Thank you for your great representation of TAMIU!
If you know of any employee performing in such a way that deserves mention in this column, send their name and details of their deeds to Cassandra Wheeler via email.




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