Home » News » Newsletters » Classified Benefits Newsletter » Classified Benefits & Wellness Newsletter November 2019 Issue #2

Classified Benefits & Wellness Newsletter November 2019 Issue #2

Published by:

Arthur Hart, Classified Benefits Coordinator

Phone: 541-790-7679 e-mail: hart_a@4j.lane.edu


PEP Funds

The PEP Fund provides opportunity for professional development to help classified employees improve professional knowledge, competence, skills and effectiveness relevant to their current district position. The program allows for reimbursement for job-related training activities, tuition reimbursement, registration or material costs, conferences, and workshops. PEP funds are limited to staff development options initiated by employees.

This school year classified employees may make up to two requests, not to exceed a combined total of $500. Requests are processed on a first-come, first-served basis until funds run out.

Please contact Arthur Hart at hart_a@4j.lane.edu or 541-790-7679 for questions regarding the use of PEP funds.


403(b) Vendor Fair

4J will be hosting a 403(b)/TSA Vendor Fair:

On Tuesday, November 12, 2019

From 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

At the Education Center Auditorium

A 403(b), commonly referred to as a Tax-Sheltered Annuity (TSA) plan, is a retirement savings plan available to 4J employees.  By contract article 19.16, 4J offers classified staff a district contribution match.

Here’s how it works: The district will pay an amount equal to 1.75% of your monthly gross salary into your 403(b) savings account, if you commit .75% of your monthly gross salary into that same account.  You may elect to contribute more of your income into the 403(b) savings plan, but 4J will not contribute more than 1.75% of your monthly gross salary.

To get your 403(b) savings plan going you must first open a 403(b) account with an approved vendor.  Fortunately, we will have approved vendors at our district 403(b) vendor fair, and they can answer your 403(b) questions and get you signed up to start saving.

A 403(b) salary reduction agreement is on the 4J website, and will be available at the 403(b) vendor fair.


Exercise vs Depression

Nearly one in 10 adults in the United States struggles with depression, and prescription antidepressant medications are a common way to treat the condition. However, pills aren’t the only solution. Research shows that exercise is also an effective treatment for depression, although exercise alone isn’t necessarily enough for someone with severe depression.

How does exercise help depression?  Exercising has many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good endorphins. However, for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections.

Helpful exercise doesn’t require a gym.  Physical activity such as walking the dog, gardening, going for a bicycle ride or some sit-ups/push-ups at home can have a positive effect.  Any physical activity that gets you moving can help improve your mood.  Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression symptoms.  Even as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time may make a difference.

How do I start exercising?  Unfortunately, depression can affect our sleep, our energy levels, and our perception of pain, and all of this can really drain our motivation to exercise.  You may need to start small, and build up your exercise regimen over time.  Setting reasonable goals and meeting them can help you keep on track and motivated.  Consider asking someone to go walking with you.


Are You Sleepwalking?

The Food and Drug Administration is advising that rare but serious injuries have happened with certain common prescription insomnia medicines because of sleep behaviors including sleepwalking, sleep driving, and engaging in other activities while not fully awake. These complex sleep behaviors have also resulted in deaths. These behaviors appear to be more common with eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist) than other prescription medicines used for sleep.

As a result, the FDA is requiring a Boxed Warning, the most prominent warning, to be added to the prescribing information and the patient Medication Guides for these medicines. They are also requiring a Contraindication to avoid use in patients who have previously experienced an episode of complex sleep behavior with eszopiclone, zaleplon, and zolpidem.


Out, damned spot! out, I say!

William Shakespeare, Macbeth


E-Cigarettes and Vaping

In September of 2019 Federal health officials announced that they were moving to ban the sale of flavored liquids used in e-cigarettes.  E-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales. The liquid usually has nicotine and flavoring in it, as well as other additives.  E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products because most of them contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco.

Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including:

  • ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
  • flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
  • volatile organic compounds
  • heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead

E-cigarettes are very popular with young people. Their use has grown dramatically in the last five years. Today, more high school students use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes is higher among high school students than adults.  This has created a concerning national youth health epidemic.

It is clear that there is a lot about vaping we don’t know.  However, we do know the Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit.  If you are interested in quitting smoking or vaping, you can try a cessation program available through your district health insurance.


A Breath of Fresh Air

NASA research has brought many down to earth health innovations to our planet bound lives.  However, NASA has also spent a lot of effort trying to find the best planet bound health innovations to take into space.

The NASA Clean Air Study of the 1980s discovered that several common houseplants were able to filter out toxic chemicals in the air such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia.  Though important for a closed system like a space station, recent studies have shown that health effects from indoor air pollutants may be just as serious here on earth.

Dr. B. C. Wolverton led the NASA study about 30 years ago, and according to its results, The Florist’s Chrysanthemum and Peace Lily are the best plants for purifying the air.  The Variegated Snake Plant, English Ivy, Red Edged and Cornstalk Dracaena, and Bamboo Palm are also notable for removing indoor air pollutants.  One plant per 100 square feet is recommended for efficient air cleaning.

More than just an air purifier.  A 2015 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology suggests active interaction with indoor plants (like touching and smelling) can reduce physiological and psychological stress. This is accomplished through the suppression of sympathetic nervous system activity and diastolic blood pressure, and the promotion of comfortable, soothed, and natural feelings.

Plants can increase productivity.  Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that plants in the office can significantly increase employee’s satisfaction and improve their self-reported levels of concentration and perceptions of air quality.  Furthermore, enriching a previously spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15 percent.

A good rule of thumb may be to exercise your green thumb.   If your green thumb is inconsistent, try starting with a plant that is forgiving and easy to care for, like a spider plant or a snake plant.  Be aware that some houseplants can be toxic to pets.  If you have a pet that loves to chew on leaves, you should consider a non-toxic plant.  Happy gardening.


ACT WorkKeys Testing

WorkKeys is a series of tests provided by ACT to measure foundational skills required for success in the workplace.

Highly Qualified status was created by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requiring individuals working as educational assistants, particularly in the Special Education and Title IA program, to have a basic set of “credentials.” The Act requires these types of educational assistants to either have, at a minimum, a two-year Associate’s Degree or 48 semester credit hours (72 quarter credit hours) of college credit.

If you would like to become highly qualified, but do not have enough college credit, you may take a WorkKeys assessment that tests your abilities in math, reading, and graphic literacy.  The district offers three WorkKeys tests, including Applied Math, Workplace Documents (Reading) and Graphic Literacy.

To sign up for the free WorkKeys testing offered by the district, please fill out the online Eugene 4J WorkKeys Test Interest Form.

The full test is offered regularly at the Ed Center, and takes about three hours to complete.  WorkKeys practice material can be found on the ACT website.  For more information about WorkKeys testing, please contact Arthur Hart at hart_a@4j.lane.edu or 541-790-7679


Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.                -Richard Bach

This newsletter is reviewed and edited each month by the District 4J and OSEA representatives of the Classified Joint Benefits Committee (JBC).The information in this newsletter is summarized, and is not intended as advice or counsel.

This entry was posted in Classified Benefits Newsletter. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • News Archives

  • RSS Recent Posts