Harris County School District finalist for national award

Local News

HARRIS COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) – Harris County School District’s revamped retirement plan is among the best in the country and now a finalist for a national award.

The school district made changes to their 403(b) retirement plan in 2019 after Superintendent Roger Couch and Benefits Coordinator Renee Lipp noticed their faculty and staff’s retirement funds were not growing as much as they should. Because of their changes, the retirement plan is now one of two finalists for the Public Defined Contribution category of the PLANSPONSOR magazine award program.

The changes included hiring a financial advisor and working with financial groups like, Lincoln Financial and Mentoro, to make changes like automatic enrollment, meaning every faculty and staff member are automatically enrolled in the school district’s 3% matching benefits program.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Stacey Carlisle said they also offer financial wellness education for their faculty and staff.

“We’ve had school-setting lessons, workshops and conferences. We’ve had webinars and seminars. We’ve also surveyed employees to see what their financial goals are,” said Carlisle. “So all of the curriculum, all of the financial wellness lessons have been designed for what they need so they can meet their goals.”

Leigh Smith, Harris County High School Teacher and 403(b) committee member, says preparing for her future has always been a priority.

“My mother told me early on when I started my career to make sure you look out and you prepare for your future,” said Smith. “So when I first started teaching I immediately, as a first or second year teacher, joined a financial group.”

Smith said they have seen exponential growth in their funds since the new 403(b) plan was put into place, even during the pandemic.

“Even during the downturn during COVID, our fund was still stable and there was still slight growth,” said Carlisle. “And once now the economy has been bouncing back we’re seeing tremendous growth since then.”

Carlisle added it’s important for the school district to have a great retirement plan in place for their faculty and staff.

“We know it’s important because we want the very best employees to serve our students and our communities and we feel like they deserve it,” said Carlisle.

The winner of the award will be announced sometime in May.

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