FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Esack, 717-418-7526, firstname.lastname@example.org
PSERS Board Chair Retires After 30 Years of Dedicated Public Service
HARRISBURG – Chris Santa Maria, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS), is retiring at the end of the month.
Mr. Santa Maria, Board chair since 2020, led his last scheduled public meeting on Friday at PSERS headquarters in Harrisburg. His official retirement will be effective Dec. 31, 2023. That date coincides with the end of his second three-year term expires as one of the Board's three active certified member trustees even though he retired from his teaching job in the Lower Merion School District in June.
When the calendar year ends, Mr. Santa Maria officially will have retired from a 30-year career in public service. His career took him from high school classrooms and union negotiating tables in the Philadelphia suburbs to the state Capitol complex, where he adroitly led PSERS 15-member Board of Trustees through a contentious chapter in the System's long history.
"In 2020 I was asked to step into the chairman's seat," Mr. Santa Maria said. "I can confess now that I hardly felt qualified to lead a Board of such notable dignitaries and public servants.
"I once thought that a board as large as this was a detriment to success, that we could never find consensus," he continued. "But I've come to appreciate that there is no doubt about the solid foundation upon which we stand. We all are committed to the health and longevity of this pension system and the half million members it serves. That's our bottom line."
As Mr. Santa Maria wrapped up his last meeting, with his wife Cynthia in attendance, his fellow trustees feted him with a written resolution and spoke of his calm, unifying leadership he showed through a series of investigations and litigation, some of which remains ongoing.
"It has been an honor serving with Chris on the PSERS Board," Board Vice Chair Richard Vague added. "He oversaw this PSERS Board with great dignity and perseverance during a crucial period in PSERS history and never wavered in his fiduciary duties to PSERS members. Through it all, he remained thoughtful, kind, and considerate to PSERS staff, policymakers, and the public. On behalf of PSERS Board of Trustees, we thank Chris for his dedication and service and wish him a happy and healthy retirement."
Mr. Santa Maria taught social studies, and AP Government, Economics and Politics for several years at Lower Merion's Harrington High School, where he also served as Department Chair from 1999 to 2011. He was President of Lower Merion Education Association from 2007 to 2018. Following his election in 2016, Mr. Santa Maria's first elected term on PSERS Board ran from 2017 to 2020; and his second term ran from 2021 to 2023.
"When I was asked to run for an open trustee position on the Board back in 2016, what I knew about PSERS was that it was an integral part of my retirement planning, which was less than ten years away," Santa Maria added. "What I have learned and could only appreciate once I got here to the PSERS Board in 2017, is how many dedicated employees it takes to keep the machine running smoothly. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the staff that watch over our investments, administer our benefits, make sure that we account for every penny of spending, make sure that we comply with every rule and law, and last and most importantly to the quarter million retirees - myself now included - make sure that our hard-earned retirement checks are deposited monthly."
About the Board of Trustees
The 15-member Board of Trustees is an independent administrative board of the Commonwealth. The Board stands in a fiduciary relationship to the members of PSERS regarding investment decisions and disbursements of the System's funds. The Board also performs other functions outlined in the Public School Employees' Retirement Code, such as certifying contribution rates, authorizing the actuarial valuation and independent audit of the System, and publishing an annual financial statement of the condition of the Retirement Fund. In addition, the Board oversees the operational activities performed by the System's Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer.
About the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System
PSERS, founded in 1917, began operations in 1919 to oversee a statewide defined benefit pension plan for public school employees. PSERS' role expanded upon the passage of Act 5 of 2017 to include oversight of two new benefit options consisting of defined benefit and defined contribution (DC) components and a stand-alone DC plan. As of June 30, 2023, PSERS had total net assets of $72.8 billion and a membership of about 251,000 active, 250,000 retired school employees and 27,000 vested inactive members.