Tom Elliott Selected For Not-for-Profit Leadership Position

Tom Elliott has been selected as the Executive Director, Member Services for the Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG).  VSMG has over 25 years of experience in group purchasing insurance for government entities in Arizona.  Their range of managed trusts and pools include healthcare, dental coverage, workers’ compensation and liability insurance.  The organization has saved their members and taxpayers millions per year in premiums while maintaining high quality benefits.

Tom Elliott, Executive Director, Member Services, VSMG

Tom Elliott, Executive Director, Member Services, VSMG

Tom Elliott started with VSMG on July 1st, after serving with distinction as the Assistant Superintendent for Business Services at the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) since 2005.  Tom Elliott has thirty years of executive level experience in auditing, financial management and public administration.  He holds degrees in science, business and accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

“I have seen the high quality of staff and services provided by Valley Schools and I am honored to take on this new role in my career in public service.”  Tom Elliott said.  “I look forward to continuing their long tradition of saving money for Arizona members.”

Tom Elliott and his wife Kathy

Tom Elliott and his wife Cathy

Tom Boone, Chairman of the VSMG Board, has long looked upon the possibility of bringing Tom Elliott on board given his proven management abilities and vast experience as a Trustee on various employee benefits Board of Directors.  “Tom Elliott has served in both large and smaller school districts, as an auditor, and is heavily involved in the community.  I can think of no better candidate to have filled this position.”

Tom Boone

Tom Boone

The opportunity arose when Andrea Billings, the Administrator for the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) took a new position with Aon/Hewitt Consulting.  Andrea has been working with VSEBT to insure a smooth transition.  As Executive Director, Member Services, Tom Elliott will serve a more comprehensive role, as VSMG continues to improve its service model and reorganize when necessary to maximize service to their members.

“As a CPA, it is exciting for me to join an organization that has had the highest audit ratings possible every year for their entire quarter century of service.”  Tom Elliott pointed out.  “As the insurance market continues to change rapidly, especially in healthcare, it is important to have this long track record of steady, upstanding and open organizations like VSMG to protect their members during these rough waters.”

Tom Elliott is an avid sports enthusiast, coached youth hockey, and has served on many community boards and associations.  Congratulations and best wishes to Tom Elliott in this new position!




Planning the Key to Healthcare Savings

Planning is one of the keys to long term healthcare savings.  Each year, the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) hosts a planning session in which all of its member organizations participate and are briefed on various issues.  The organization is a professionally managed trust that allows group purchasing options for its members.  This commitment to providing information, a look back, and a look forward, followed by effective planning has consistently reduced costs and saved millions per year for their members.

Tom Boone, VSMG

Tom Boone, VSMG

This year, the following items were briefed on their agenda:

Opening Comments – Tom Boone, Chairman, CEO, Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG)

1.2013/14 and Beyond – Long Range Planning – Lisa Rafferty, Aon/Hewitt

2.Benchmark Data – Dave Petta, Aon/Hewitt
3.Financial Statements and Claims Experience Reports, Andrea Billings, VSEBT
4.Valley Schools Update – Patrick Dittman, (VSMG)
5.Procurement Versus Trust Participation – Options in Insurance Buying, Bill Munch (VSMG) and Andrea Billings (VSEBT)
6.Healthcare Reform – Lisa Rafferty, Aon/Hewitt
Open Discussion
logo vsmg
More organizations should regularly discuss their current performance, upcoming changes, and plan for the future.  Too often organizations do not pay attention to their healthcare or other employee benefits except at renewal time, and then it is a rush to make stop gap decisions to get rising costs under budget.  This may lead to poor choices and pushing more costs onto burdened employees.  Careful planning and discussion and lead to long term strategies, well thought through and explored, that yield much more manageable increase curves over time.
aon hewitt

Healthcare Planning

In today’s healthcare market, with so many changes and the impacts of National Healthcare Reform unclear, it is important for every organization to have proper healthcare planning.  Unfortunately, for most employers, even larger ones, healthcare is something looked at only during renewal time.  Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) in conjunction with their consultant, Aon/Hewitt, provide annual healthcare planning sessions with the leaders of all their employer organizations.  These include the top executives and the human resource officials so that they can be informed at all times of where healthcare is going, and how to plan for it.  VSMG plans and implements for change on a regular basis for its members, but does not view that as enough.  “We need to make sure all our members stay informed of our efforts, understand the reason for staying ahead of the curve, and approve of the direction we are leading,” said Tom Boone, Chairman and CEO of VSMG.

Tom Boone, VSMG

Tom Boone, VSMG

logo vsmg

Attached here is one such document provided to their members to keep them informed of the ongoing processes at VSMG:

What Does Your Benefits Consultant or Broker Really Do For You?

In these changing times in healthcare and employee benefits, with a slow economy and high unemployment, it is more important that ever to reassess your operations.  One of those is the area of health consultants, or benefit consultants.  As with travel agents, who used to get discounts and plan your trips for you, consultants and brokers are losing in the new changes in healthcare.  Airlines stopped giving discounts to travel agents and paying for free travel.  They could not give you a better a deal than Travleocity, Priceline, Expedia, or a host of other sites.  That is why very few travel agents survived.

In the new employee benefits arena, increasingly brokers are challenged to provide savings you could not get in your own market.  Some try to complicate matters or keep their clients in the dark about what they do.  Brokers can get anywhere from 1% to 20% or more depending on the size of the contract, the type of employee benefit, and the incentives they have to place business with certain insurers.  “Free brokers” still get paid, but they get paid by the insurers.  That being the case, do you really think they are working for you?  Or for those who pay them?  As the market consolidates and National Healthcare Reform is implemented, many brokers and consultants will go away, unless they have some new value added.

That is why I am so impressed with the new model of purchasing cooperatives.  They work exclusively for their members, not the insurers.  They are able to negotiate huge group discounts with insurance carriers, and hire their own consultants that work for them and are not allowed to take any compensation or incentives from carriers.  The Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) is one such purchasing group, and perhaps one of the best in the country, saving their members million in premiums and overhead costs per year.

The VSMG does not hide its practices behind a veil of secrecy like the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz.  On the contrary, they hold quarterly benefits meetings, board meetings, do presentations at each member site, hold an annual information conference, report regularly and openly on their audited financials, investments and expenditures, and even have an annual study session to explain to each member organization exactly what they are doing.  Here is a Power Point from one such recent meeting.  Does your broker or consultant do this for you?  In this case VSMG, run by Tom Boone, hires Aon/Hewitt as their consultant for the trust, Aon/Hewitt being the largest benefits consultant in the world.

QEB 03272012 revised

How would you like this type of in depth reporting a dozen or more times every year?  If so, contact Sheri Gilbert at 623-594-4370.

Paradise Valley Unified School District Saves nearly $650,000 per year in Employee Benefits Fixed Costs!

Paradise Valley Unified School District Saves nearly $650,000 per year in Employee Benefits Fixed Costs!

At a presentation on November 1, 2012 at the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) made by the Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG), it was shown that PVUSD is saving nearly $650,000 per year in employee benefit fixed costs alone through its membership in a group purchasing trust.  By group purchasing, fixed costs are reduced dramatically.  PVUSD is also self-insured, which means it only pays for the actual cost of paid medical claims, it does not pay any carrier or organization any extra profits, add-ons, or “wiggle room” pricing on its claims.  This saves them even more money, as the medical claims are about 90% of the expenditures, while the fixed costs are only 10%.  Kudos to the administration and Governing Board of PVUSD for their outstanding decision to save dollars on benefits in order to keep precious resources for teachers, staff and dollars in the classroom!

Here is an attachment of the power point presentation:

PVUSD presentation 11-1-12 – FINAL

The PVUSD Governing Board Members:

Governing Board Members
Sue Skidmore Dr. Sue M. Skidmore, Governing Board president 
Sue Skidmore earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Mount Union College and a Master’s degree from Youngstown State University.  She also holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Arizona State University.  Dr. Skidmore has been a public school teacher, high school principal, and school district superintendent and has taught at the university level.  Additionally, she is the founder of a Web-based company that specializes in enhancing grammatical and writing skills and has co-authored three English reference books.  She has been actively involved in the district’s United Parent Council, serving two years as its co-president.  Dr. Skidmore is in her third term on the Governing Board and has served three years as Board president.  She has two daughters who are graduates of PV schools.  Her term expires in December 2012.

Julia Bacon Mrs. Julie BaconGoverning Board member 
Julie Bacon earned a bachelor’s degree from Shippensburg University (Shippensburg PA) and a master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond VA) in social work.  She and her husband have a steadfast commitment to education in raising their two children, one who graduated from, and one currently attending, a Paradise Valley Unified School District school.  Mrs. Bacon served as president of the United Parent Council and has actively volunteered in the district for more than a decade in many different leadership capacities.  She is currently a member of the district’s Community Legislative Network.  As the daughter of two public school teachers and first generation college graduates, education is a top priority in her family. Her term will run through December

Nancy Case Mrs. Nancy Case, Governing Board member 
Nancy Case received a Bachelor of Science degree in Retailing from Brigham Young University in 1978. She and her husband, Art Case, are the parents of seven children, ages 6 to 26. All of their children have either graduated from or are currently attending Paradise Valley schools. Mrs. Case has enjoyed volunteering in her children’s schools. She has also tutored many students and taught reading classes in her home. She loves to teach. Her term will run through December 2012.

Anne Greenberg Mrs. Anne Greenberg, Governing Board member 
Anne Greenberg earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University.  She is co-owner and executive vice president of Health & Medical Multimedia, as well as the editor of two publications for the American College of Cardiology. The webmaster for the United Parent Council, Mrs. Greenberg is a member of the district’s Community Legislative Network and has served on numerous district and school committees. She also is a member of the state board of the Arizona Academic Decathlon Association and of the Legislative Committee and Arizona Relations Network for the Arizona School Boards Association, which honored Mrs. Greenberg with an All-Arizona School Board award in 2011. Mrs. Greenberg and her husband, Rick McGuire, have two sons, one who graduated from and one who currently attends Paradise Valley schools. Her term will run through December 2012.

Mark Lane Mr. Mark Lane, Governing Board member 
Mark Lane owns a photography business, and studied business administration and accounting at Phoenix College, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. He and his wife, Debbie, have a daughter who attends a Paradise Valley school and two daughters who graduated from NAU and ASU. Lane is a Shadow Mountain High School alumnus and has been an active volunteer in the district and community through school council, United Parent Council and Little League. His term will run through December 2014.

Governing Board Secretary
Terri Calascibetta
Superintendent’s Office
602-449-2292 Fax

 e-mail Governing Board



Valley Schools’ Annual Conference Features Steven Masley, M.D.

Each year an organization known as the Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) holds an annual conference for their membership in order to present new ideas on saving money on health care through wellness programs, workers’ compensation, group purchase of insurance, utility management, procurement and a range of other topics.  In the past, the conference has featured guest speakers including Congressman John Shadegg, Dr. Andrew Weil the wellness guru, and Dr. Nick Yphantides, author of My Big Fat Greek Diet.  This year the featured speaker will be Dr. Steven Masley, author of Ten Years Younger.


Have you wondered, How Old Are You, Really?  You know what’s written on your birth certificate, but as you’re aware your chronological age may not match your biological age.  you are invited to hear a presentation by Steven Masley, M.D., a physician whose work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, the Today Show, and over 200 media interviews. His program, Ten Years Younger is scientifically proven to work, with results published in multiple peer reviewed medical journals.

The Ten Years Younger Program is designed to combat the roots of accelerated aging. Poor nutrition, toxins in the environment, stress, and exposure to free radicals all make us old before our time, along with a little-known aging culprit: low- and no-carb diets.

“Dr. Masley shows us how we can take control of the aging process. Follow this simple ten-week plan, and you’ll find yourself getting younger, day by day.”
– Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Steven Masley, M.D. is a board and fellow certified family physician and nutritionist, author, speaker, and award-winning patient educator. His research focuses on the impact of lifestyle choices on aging, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cognitive function, menopause, and weight control. His passion is empowering people to achieve optimal health through comprehensive medical assessments and lifestyle changes.

You have a chance to see Dr. Masley in person at the 5th Annual Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust Conference on October 5th at the Pointe Hilton Resort at Squaw Peak. He will be discussing the positive impact of a healthy lifestyle not only for your physical well-being, but for your pocketbook as well. A question and answer session will follow his presentation. The conference begins at 8:00 am. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, as well as an opportunity to get a free blood panel screening! Join us in our quest for a healthier you!

Attendees will receive a free copy of Dr. Masley’s book, Ten Years Younger.

Please RSVP to Rebecca McGonigle:






Rebecca McGonigle
Wellness Coordinator, VSEBT
PO Box 41760
Phoenix, AZ 85080-1760
623-594-4370 x3020

623-594-4375 fax


Sheri Gilbert Promoted at VSMG

Sheri Gilbert has been promoted from Account Manager to Director of Business Development and Retention by the Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG).  Here is her picture and a copy of their announcement:

Sheri Gilbert

We are pleased to announce that Ms. Sheri Gilbert has agreed to accept the position of Director of Business Development and Retention.  This promotion is well earned and is an example of our policy of internal promotion of staff where possible and our ongoing commitment to changing the structure of Valley Schools as necessary to provide the very best and most efficient services to our members.

Sheri Gilbert joined the Valley Schools team in August of 2006 and has been instrumental in building the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) by providing excellent Account Manager services and developing new and innovative programs.  Sheri is the creator of the award winning Wellstyles program, which she developed from scratch to provide the latest in wellness savings and incentives to our members.

Sheri Gilbert also developed the new PREP program to encourage further savings in health costs through incentivizing employees to take advantage of wellness, prevention and other available services to reduce their costs while increasing their overall health.  Sheri has served as liaison with several VSEBT districts and has an outstanding reputation and earned respect from all she has worked with.  Sheri has also been very effective in increasing participation in voluntary benefit programs which save employees and their dependents money without costing the employers anything.

Sheri’s drive, ability to create cost-saving programs, and dedication to the service of our members has earned her this new position.  Her duties will include developing new members to join the Valley Schools family, helping current members to take advantage of additional savings, and keeping in touch with current members to ensure that they are receiving the level of support and the savings they expect from participation.

Sheri will continue to serve her current members until a smooth seamless transition can be made to her replacement.

Please join us in congratulating Sheri Gilbert on her new role and her new challenges in helping Arizona public entities save crucial tax dollars by participating in group acquisition of insurance and employee benefits.


Tom Boone

Chairman and CEO

Valley Schools Management Group


It is rarer than ever today to see an organization that is cutting its own budget instead of charging its members more and more each year.  It is refreshing to see that an Arizona organization that serves teachers, school districts, cities and towns and other entities can tighten their budget.  For three years in a row now they have managed to keep costs 10% lower than in 2009.  Kudos to VSMG!

reposted from VSMG Press Release.



August 27, 2012

Phoenix, Arizona – The Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) Board, voted unanimously to approve a no increase budget.  After having already cut ten percent of their total operating budget in the prior two years, this will be the third consecutive year with costs significantly lower than in 2009.

“It is an ongoing challenge to keep reducing costs and to maintain a high level of service year after year,” said VSMG Board Member Tom Elliott.  “However, we provide services to public entities that have already been hit with dramatic cuts and we believe it is our responsibility to bear the burden as much or more than our members.”

“We look at every budget item in great detail, and if it is not completely essential, we eliminate it”, stated Tom Boone, Chairman and CEO for VSMG.  “This year we have saved significant costs by changing from paper mailers to electronic postings and working with our insurance providers to keep their costs low through effective partnerships and negotiations.”

Recent studies by Aon/Hewitt, the largest employee benefits consultant in the world, confirm that VSMG has been saving dramatically for its members through cooperative purchasing and low administrative costs.

“It is getting tougher each year to keep our costs at zero increase and below, especially since most of our administrative costs are external.”  Ted Carpenter, another VSMG Board Member added, “We have to purchase stop loss insurance, claims processing, disease management, COBRA administration and many other items from vendors, and we have to keep their negotiated costs flat as well.  With double digit increases in health care each of the last three years, that has been difficult, but we have managed through hard work.”

Good News for Breast Cancer Screening

Seven Minutes Can Save Your Life!

SOLIS healthcare, a premier provider of mammogram screenings and treatment of breast cancer have teamed up with the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) to provide free screenings to thousands of teachers across the state.  Teachers will receive Harkins movie passes just for getting their mammogram.  This famous Arizona provider of women’s health is that determined to encourage women to have mammograms on time.

At age 20, you should start self-examinations for lumps.  From age 20-39, your doctor should check for lumps during your annual physical.  For women over 40,mammograms once per year, for women over 50 once every two years.  If you feel any lumps either in the breast area or the lymph nodes under your arm, you should immediately seek out a medical provider to be screened.

With early detection through mammograms, tiny lumps can be detected and treated before they spread.  Early detection can increase your chance of survival dramatically and cut costs to around $5,000, shared by your insurance plan coverage.  Late detection means the cancer may have advanced and spread, first to your lymph nodes, later to other parts of the body. At this point more radical treatment is required, averaging $150,000 and more importantly, a much higher mortality rate.

Here is a chart that shows the difference:

There are around 250,000 new breast cancer cases each year.  5,000 of those are in men.  Though rare, men should also feel for lumps in their chest wall on a regular basis.  220,0o0 occur in women over 50, however, the 25,000 women per year who develop breast cancer before age 50 often have more aggressive tumors, and that is why annual mammograms are recommended.  If you have a lump, don’t panic.  90% of tumors are benign, and with early detection your prognosis is much better.

Don’t let yourself or your loved ones die because they failed to get their mammograms.  If you are in a school district of 3,000 employees, statistically, one or two of your fellow workers will die per year because they did not get their mammograms.  It is that important.

Solis BenOra has five comfortable facilities around the valley.  While this particular program is available through VSEBT for its members, ask your employer about Solis Health.  You can get more information at: