Boulder Valley School District

Leadership profile: Prevention is top of mind for BVSD’s new director of benefits and risk management

David Janak
Randy Barber

While his title has two parts– benefits and risk management – David Janak says the throughline is evident. His job, simply, is helping employees stay healthy and well.

“I look at my role as preventive,” Janak said. “Really what I'm trying to do is keep people out of both systems. I don't want you to file a workers’ compensation claim or need treatment in the healthcare system, because I don't want you to get hurt.”

Aiming for prevention, but prepared for whatever might happen
Of course, a lot of his team’s job is ensuring the systems are in place, including health insurance, the Employee Assistance Program and Workers’ Compensation, so that it is there to care for employees, when needed. They, however, are always looking for ways to help staff avoid those systems, whenever possible. That is why Benefits often provides incentives for employees to eat healthy and get active. 

“We know if you're doing those things, if you're eating right, if you're getting a normal amount of exercise, if you're sleeping right, a lot of health care is avoided,” Janak said. “You're not going to incur a lot of chronic conditions, so we do a lot to promote that.”

He also strongly encourages employees to do their preventive screening. 

“It's not fun, but go get it done,” Janak said. “If you catch it on the front end, some of this can be reversed. If you don't catch it early, it often manifests itself. Who knows where you're going to wind up in a year later?”

He, however, is quick to note that he is no poster boy.

“I'm probably the worst person in the world to be preaching because I'm not very conscious of it myself. I should eat better, I should exercise more, I should sleep more. All of the above,” Janak said with a laugh.

Benefits Open Enrollment is coming up. Behind the scenes with the Benefits Committee 
Of course, catching up on sleep might be a bit difficult right now.

“It is a very busy time,” Janak said. “We just finished the ACA (Affordable Care Act) reporting (both the 1095-C postcards we get in the mail and the required disclosures to the federal government) , which is a big project. Then, on April 15 we’ll start open enrollment.”

Janak and his team understand the importance of the benefits to employees and the organization, which is why they take preparing for Benefits Open Enrollment (April 15 - May 3, 2024) so seriously.

“We know that our benefits are a method of retention and for attracting staff, to some extent,” Janak said. “We have to be competitive with the districts around us and the other employees around us and still offer a quality package.”

He encourages employees to take a moment during this enrollment period, and every year, to understand the changes and whether their current coverage is the right fit for them and their families.

“Most everybody knows they've signed up for benefits when they started here and they really don't pay attention. They just kind of hit click and I'm done and off it's going. I think everybody should take at least a minute and think through what plan you are on,” Janak said. “Does that really meet your needs as you're moving through life? What you needed when you were 22 might be a lot different than what you need when you're 40.”

While most employees simply expect health insurance plans to continue to be available and affordable, Janak says most people don’t realize the work goes into the benefits package the district offers annually, including by a group of employee-volunteers who help guide the process – the BVSD Benefits Committee.

“Every corner of the district staff is represented on that committee,” Janak explained. “We have representatives from all of the bargaining units, including educators at each school level (elementary, middle and high schools) and classified employees, as well as Human Resources and Business Services. My staff, of course, is there to help with the process.”

“I very much appreciate their work,” Janak added. “I think it's hard work. They are educators, bus drivers, custodians, etc., not insurance people. They're not experts in the field, but they help us make key decisions about our insurance options.”

Over the course of the year the Benefits Committee learns about our plans, even speaking directly from representatives from each of the companies.

“We met with representatives from all of our benefit programs – Kaiser, UMR, Zero Card and Delta Dental – to determine if there are cost increases associated with any of those plans,” Janak said. “The Benefits Committee then considers those increases and helps us determine how we're going to handle those increases. They consider whether we're going to make changes to the plan benefits or if the district can absorb the cost or if people are going to absorb the costs.”

While the committee does not make specific decisions on specific employee insurance claims – the decisions are not easy. 

“They see recommendations on changes to deductibles and the copays. They see recommendations on out of pocket maximums. They see recommendations on different procedures that may or may not be covered by a plan. They've had to come to terms with some pretty stark realities, and that's not ever fun,” Janak said. 

Janak says, thanks to the large Babyboomer generation, there have been some tremendous advances in medicine in the past couple decades. Those new treatments often come with high costs.

“There's been extraordinary advances in treatment of cancers and of heart disease and of just a host of chronic illnesses that prior to them and even during their lifetimes, if you had a cancer diagnosis, for instance, it was go home and put your affairs in order. Now there's so many different gene therapies and different things that can make that a whole different experience, but there is a price to that,” Janak said. “Even something as common as diabetes is treated differently now. There are treatments and clinical diagnoses that are going to cost you $30,000 a month. You'll have a much higher quality of life, but that’s a lot of money. The [insurance] plans have to pick up that cost in some form or fashion and we have to figure out how to do it.”

In some cases the committee may know someone with a specific type of medical condition and have to wrestle with the realities that their decisions may have on employees’ lives.

“This committee is very sensitive to that. They absolutely take that into consideration. It's not just numbers. It's real people, and they know the people, and so it's hard for them when they know somebody in their work group that's going through this. And now all of a sudden we're changing copays or we're changing deductibles or out of pockets or whatever, and they look at that and instantly this person comes to mind. That's hard,” Janak said. “They often ask, ‘what can we do to help support? What can we do differently that might make this impact a little less than what we think it's going to be.’”

To make everything more complicated, everything has to be triangulated with the labor negotiations happening right now and approval by the Board of Education, before the end of the school year.

“It's sometimes a balancing act as to how to get there, Janak admitted. “There are a lot of players that we have to satisfy by the time we get to the end, and then we have to make sure we have those recommendations available so that the board can approve them in April.”

Employee Assistance Program: Don’t forget your ‘best friend’
Perhaps the best kept secret in our benefits package is the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Sure, most folks know that you can get counseling  (eight sessions) during a crisis (or any reason), but they likely do not realize that it can be used for a lot more than that.  

“This is a pretty holistic EAP, and so it would be a shame to have staff not utilize it when they have need,” Janak said. “There's some fun stuff. I mean, if I’m struggling to pull together an 8-year-old birthday party, I can call these guys and they'll help me get that done.”

In fact, during the pandemic, the EAP helped employees find diapers and baby formula during, when there was a shortage.

Additionally, he says that many employees don’t know that if you do use EAP for mental health, your sessions run out and your counselor believes you need additional support, they will help you transition to health insurance care or expire other options.

Plus, they have worked to ensure the counselors they offer are diverse and able to support employees of different cultural backgrounds.

“We've worked really hard with Comsych to come up with culturally sensitive counselors. So, if there is a desire to meet with someone that is of your similar race or background, that's an option.

You can learn a lot more about everything EAP and the other programs offered through Benefits and Risk Management, by reading the monthly Benefits newsletters.

Getting to Know David

Here are a few more details, so you can get to know our new Director for Benefits and Risk Management.

The view from the dias
When David presents the benefits to the Board of Education next month, he knows what they will be looking for – after all he once was in their seat – at least in Rapid City, South Dakota.

David grew up in a small town in south central South Dakota named Winner. After college he spent about twenty years with banks and investment companies and insurance companies and then ran for the school board in Rapid City, South Dakota. 

At the end of his second term, the school district recruited him to become the director of its business services, which incorporated most of the non-instructional operations of the school district, everything from budgets to helping to call snow days.

He says that it has given him a great understanding and appreciation of our elected leaders and their viewpoint.

“I often think, ‘when I was sitting in that chair, what did I want to see? What would have caused me not to approve this? If, as a board member I would have a tough time approving something, I rethink whether we're going to bring it to the board meeting at that point or not.”

Enjoying getting to know Colorado
A few years ago, David and his wife had the opportunity to follow his grown children out to Colorado. That was certainly a blessing when the pandemic hit.

He is enjoying the great outdoors in the Centennial State.

“I have really enjoyed getting familiar with Colorado,” David said. 

He says it is similar to the Black Hills of South Dakota with a couple key differences. 

“The Black Hills are beautiful, kind of a smaller version of the Rockies,” Janak said. “I do miss the fact that in the Black Hills you could go up and find a hiking trail and you might have been the only person on it. Here it is hard to find a hiking trail that I'm not the 2,000 person on. It is much busier here.”

“Even the national parks and state parks in the Black Hills are far less crowded than they are here,” Janak added. It speaks to the scenic nature of Colorado and that people here really like to get outside and outdoors.”

Biography aficionado
You can often find David sitting down with a good book. His favorite are biographies.

“I read biographies of historical figures,” David said. “The most recent one that I just finished, not too long ago, was on Churchill.”

Another favorite he’s been reading was on a longtime power family in Europe.

“Nobody would know this name, but the book is about the Warburgs. They're a family of bankers that started in the Austria Hungarian empire and how they've progressed over the course of multiple centuries.”


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