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Advancing the discipline of risk management in public education.
In This Issue
Testing for Toxic Schools
Using Adhocracy
Risk Group Directory
Leadership Spotlight
Project Task Forces
Insurance Handbook Project
Title IX Ruling
Institute Board Actions
Web Resource Additions
Annual Reports
Quick Links
SchoolRisk News
Join Our Mailing List
Corporate Partners 
Munich RE
Arthur J. Gallagher
JDI Data Corp.
Markel Underwriting Mgt.
Genesis Underwriting Mgt.
to learn more about our sponsors and links to their webpages or to find information about the corporate partner
please go to 
 School Risk Groups
Florida School Boards Insurance Trust
Minnesota School Boards Insurance Trust
New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal
Schools of Ohio Risk Sharing Authority
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Insurance Trust
 School Districts

City of Atlanta 
City of Chicago  
Clark County 
City of Cleveland 
Dekalb County 
Fairfax County 
Francis Howell  
Fulton County 
Rockdale County 
San Francisco USD
Wake County 

Other districts that are direct or associate members now number more than 350 and the total number represented by school risk groups is nearly 1,000.

To find out how to join, click here!

School leaders who are members can search the directory and find districts with similar risk management interests

If you are a member of PSRI,
remember to use the Institute's
 Fast Answer Service
  for access to top risk management professionals. Reports are compiled, distributed and archived to save time and money.

February 2009                                                            Issue 4

Risk management is... a vital business process.
New EPA Chief Plans to Check "Toxic Schools" Reports
Student and Faculty Health Risks
The new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, told Congress at her nomination hearing that she would investigate reports by USA Today that used EPA data to rank schools that the newspaper believes "have the highest levels of dangerous toxic chemicals, most of which have never been tested for their effects on children." 
EPA has considerable influence in schools and provides services that are intended to help maintain healthy learning environments.  It's too early to tell if this latest attention on public schools is going in the right direction or merely adding to the confusion that school administrators must try to sort out.
Business officials and risk managers may not hear much about "toxic schools" until they undertake a new construction project.  The possibility of EPA investigation has gained the attention of child health advocacy groups and will likely remain a concern for school health officials dealing with asthma.  
The Institute would like to hear from readers about actions school leaders can take to address concerns about air and water quality, as well as industrial pollution affecting school children and buildings.    

Further comments on this subject will be posted on the Institute's website.
 Adhocracy Boosts Risk Management
Best Practices
Recently, a group of university risk managers worked together over several months to produce a white paper titled, "Measuring the Total Cost of Risk."    It was published in November 2008 by the University Risk Management & Insurance Association.  Like their counterparts in higher education, public school district business officers and risk managers often find it difficult to explain the concept of "cost of risk" to non-financial administrators and other school officials. 

According to Robert Waters, author of In Search of Excellence and The Renewal Factor:

"Ad hoc organizational forms are the most powerful tools we have for effecting change.   The clout of even the most effective chief executive pales in comparison - if adhocracy is well run.  Ad-hoc teams cut across conventional lines and boundaries.  The well run team mounts a frontal assault on everyone's pet nemesis - lack of communication.  Because adhocracy can so easily run off the track, it needs monitoring.   Implementation is tough work."
From Adhocracy, the Power to Change, 1990.

The power of two or more school risk managers working together makes solving common problems much easier. If they combine their efforts, it's like double-teaming a 350 lb. defensive tackle.  Together, they go forward and open a pathway to the goal. 

Business officials often work together over long distances.  There are many opportunities for collaboration between risk managers and risk groups. The best risk managers look for ways to help others around them and shake the Internet for all its worth. 

Sometimes, it takes an independent third party to bring busy managers together.  The Public School Risk Institute is able to foster and assist collaborative projects among school districts and school risk groups.  The savings can often be immediate.  The long term payoff can be even greater. Waterman offers  advice and encouragement for the project participants, "Make it seem crucial. Give it dignity. Hang in there." 

Learning and sharing through effective adhocracy is an important key to advancing risk management in public education.     
 Institute Expands Risk Group Directory
Risk Group Developments  
The Institute maintains a directory of school risk groups - entities created and controlled by local school districts to manage risk. So far, the names and webpage links for 83 groups have been recorded. 
Not all states have a school risk group.  Some states have multiple groups.  In California, 32 groups have been identified so far.  Some of these have been operating for 30 years. 
In many cases, a public self-insurance pool exists with several types of participating entities.  Unless the pool is controlled by school districts, the Institute does not recognize this as a school risk group. 
Pennsylvania school districts have a risk group unlike any other in the nation.  It is actually a fully licensed insurance company that they control.   In New York, public schools have a statewide risk group that uses the insurance reciprocal plan of operation for property and liability risks.  School districts in NY can join risk groups for workers' compensation that operate through a board of cooperative education services, BOCES.    California school districts formed risk groups to conduct activities as  joint powers authorities, JPAs. 
School risk groups serve different needs and develop risk financing programs that are very beneficial, even to districts that choose to limit their participation. Districts that do not qualify for membership may  benefit indirectly from the standards that risk groups develop and the influence they usually have in the marketplace.
In some cases, groups compete with each other for members.  The Institute tries to help all groups find common ground and work together on agendas that will boost safety and cost containment  for all school districts.  
The California Association of Joint Powers Authorities (CAJPA) and the Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRIP) represent many  school risk groups.  These associations are important avenues for education of risk group trustees, administrators, service providers and promotion of the use of interlocal agreements to manage risk.  They link together a diverse community of self-insurance pools created by local governments and other types of public entities. 
Links to school risk groups are now included in the Helpful Links section of the Institute website.
 DeGracia and Brady Help Lead CA Association of JPAs
Spotlight on Risk Management Leaders  Compass
It's not easy finding the time to help promote risk management and bring others together with common concerns.   However, two members of the school risk management community are making a difference in the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, one of the largest associations that provides educational opportunities for risk groups in the public sector.   CAJPA membership includes 32 California school risk groups and nearly twice as many local government groups.  
Jan DeGracia has just completed a term as the president of CAJPA, and will continue service to the members as Treasurer.   Jan is the Executive Director of the North Bay Schools Insurance Authority, Fairfield, CA.  Martin Brady has been elected to serve as the Vice President of CAJPA.  He has guided the Schools Insurance Authority as Executive Director for the past 20 years.  SIA is based in Sacramento, CA.

Many more school officials have distinguished themselves in risk management leadership roles beyond their district.  The Public School Risk Institute will maintain a directory of individuals who are helping advance risk management in public education. 
Please help us identify individuals who are serving in leadership roles in any state or national organization that promote risk management in public education.
Institute Seeks National Steering Committee Volunteers 
Institute Developments
The Public School Risk Institute is forming a national steering committee to coordinate the efforts of several technical task forces that will work together on projects of common interest.   Already,  task force is being formed to research and publish a guide to insurance requirements for vendors doing business with school districts.  Many other projects have been proposed to the Institute. Timelines and announcements will be posted on the website, with updates provided in future newsletters. 
Please contact the Executive Director to volunteer or receive additional information about the project steering committee and Institute plans.   
IL ASBO Updating School Insurance Handbook 
 ASBO Risk Management Corner
The Illinois Association of School Business Officials is working on a handbook to help its members better understand insurance and risk management. 
If you are interested in learning more about this project, please contact the Executive Director.
The risk management committee of the Association of School Business Officials International recently met. One of the items they discussed was the S.A.F.E.T.Y. Act of 2002.   In this case, safety stands for Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies.   School business officials should remember that school district liability for a terrorist act may be limited when products and services are obtained from vendors certified by the Department of Homeland Security. 
  For more information about the SAFETY Act:
The Institute is beginning to contact ASBO state affiliates to learn more about risk management educational initiatives and ways to provide additional resources.
 Supreme Court May Open Door for New Civil Rights Claims
Legal Lines                          Compass
The Institute included a news item on the webpage about the January 21,2009 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving a female elementary school  student who sought to assert civil rights claims under U.S.C 42 section 1983.  Lower courts had ruled that such claims were precluded by the remedies provided under Title IX.    The impact of this ruling has not been fully determined, however, business officials and school risk managers should consult their board attorneys to find out whether the court's ruling in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee will translate into new  loss exposure for sexual harassment claims and other matters involving gender equity. 
The Institute posts news items regularly on the website homepage and may offer guidance to find additional insights and resources for new legal and legislative developments that create loss exposures for school districts.  
Board Adds Corporate Partners and Risk Group Councils
Institute Board Digest
The nine member Institute board approved a resolution that creates two new councils - one for broker/reinsurance company corporate partners and one for risk groups. Each council will include representatives of any subscribing organization.  These councils will provide input to the board and staff and help shape the work plan and agenda of the Institute.  The councils will be asked by the board to nominate candidates to fill two new board positions that will be added, bringing the total board positions to eleven.  The current  members of the board will use a lottery to determine staggered terms of office beginning July 1, 2009.

The Institute board of directors took a glance back over the first six months of activity and seem to heave  a collective sigh of relief.  The new website project was finished only eight days behind schedule.  All of the work was accomplished because of the commitment of founding members and nine very faithful corporate partners. 
The Public School Risk Institute is currently financed by member dues from individual school districts and risk groups that enroll their members as associates, along with subscriber fees from companies that provide services and products to public schools.  As the Institute expands its capabilities, there will be fees generated from  registration for webinars, plus sales of documents and other materials used for risk management.   Opportunities for savings through joint purchasing may also be considered.   The Institute board plans to  convene its next semi-annual planning session in Chicago in late April. 
To find out more about the Institute policies, budget or operating plan or to place an issue  before the Institute board, please contact the Executive Director.
Institute Website Organizes Topical References

Institute Resources
Sometimes the task of keeping up with all the issues facing school districts seems overwhelming.  Developing the resources that business officers and risk managers need is a continuos process. 
The Institute has organized its topical references into 44 main sections.  It has set up numerous sub-sections in many of the main sections and will continue to look for ways to make references easily accessible and relevant.  A key word search function is one useful tool that is available.  

The Executive Director can guide you in research planning and  research associates will be able to save time and expense of drawing together documents from credible sources.

The Institute can support and strengthen the research and reference building capabilities of risk groups and accelerate the distribution of critical information to school administrators, business officers and risk managers.

Members of the Institute have unlimited access to the resources of the website with logon privileges that can be shared district wide. 
Mesquite ISD Publishes Risk Management Annual Report       
Risk Communication                                         
In Texas, James Huckaby is known among school district risk managers as an effective networker and champion for school risk management.   His many years as Mesquite ISD's risk manager and service to the Public Risk Management Association has provided encouragement and guidance to those seeking to implement best practices.  The Institute was fortunate to receive a copy of the most recent ,Annual Risk Management Report prepared by Mr. Huckaby for his district.   The report contains many ideas for communicating the value of risk management and illustrates how Mesquite ISD uses data in making decisions to reduce costs and save lives.   A copy of this report is available on request and has been posted in the  Topical References section of the website. 
The Institute would like to receive a copy of your Annual Report or other forms of risk communication to faculty, staff board and general public.   
 "The longest way is a shortcut. "
We hope you find the newly updated website useful.  Please visit regularly and let us know how we can support your efforts to advance risk management.  Your input and feedback is greatly desired and appreciated.

Lee Gaby, Executive Director 
Public School Risk Institute
NEW Phone  (706) 715-3381