SchoolRisk News
Advancing Risk Management in Public Education
October 2008 - Vol 1, Issue 3
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November began with a hopeful financial outlook after turmoil and uncertainty in October. Several significant conferences that dealt with school risk issues have taken place since the previous edition of this newsletter. The Council of School Attorneys held its Fall School Law Practice Seminar in Alexandria, VA, October 30-November 1. The program included presentations from leading school attorneys. They discussed employment and special education law and the state-created danger theory in federal civil rights claims. Jack Lance, an Institute board member, moderated a panel on 403 (b) Plan Compliance that included IRS representative Robert Architect and ASBO Int'l 403 (b) Project Committee Chair Mark Pepper, CFO, Westlake City Schools, OH. The Association of Governmental Risk Pools held its fall conference in New Orleans, October 24-27. Approximately 50 of the 300+ attendees were from school-controlled risk groups. More than 1,500 business officials gathered in Denver on November 7-11 for the annual conference of the Association of School Business Officials. The Public School Risk Institute was introduced to the national school business scene at the ASBO Conference. More about this event can be found in the article below.

Wide Net
Chief financial officers, business administrators, and other key members of the school top management team are being called on for risk management leadership everyday. School district policies place a great deal of authority and discretion in the hands of the superintendent and administrators. Fortunately, there is excellent professional development available from organizations like the American Association of School Administrators and the Association of School Business Officials International, along with their state chapters.

The 1,500+ attendees at the November 7- 11, 2008 ASBO International Annual Conference may have wondered if one of the underlying themes of their conference was the expanding range of risk issues. Six of the sixteen pre- conference 1/2-day workshops dealt with topics related to risk management. These included: building stakeholder trust and the role of the privacy officer, crisis preparedness and disaster recovery, anatomy of a financial scandal, emergency management planning and response, latest news on health plans, plus, life after OPEB. These were followed over the next two days with discussion group sessions dealing with: how to avoid common FLSA issues, mitigating sexual harassment liability, an update on the law of special education, risk management and insurance 101, IRS 403(b)/457 regulatory and exam update, ethics, high deductible health plans, wage and hour litigation, a 4th amendment update, environmentally preferable purchasing, bid rigging and fraud, taking control of workers' comp and liability insurance, plus, more case studies in fraud. The final day of the four-day event included presentations on controlling asthma through IAQ, investing during economic uncertainty and avoiding legal detours in school transportation. The risk management 101 session was presented by Kevin Supple, Chair of the ASBO Risk Management Committee, and Ryan Isaacs, Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services. Supple is CFO of the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles, MO, and a Public School Risk Institute board member. Supple and Isaacs introduced a practical working definition of risk management, illustrated the evolution of the risk management function, and explained the different categories of risk facing all school districts. They highlighted the need to understand and communicate risk management as a process involving the entire organization, rather than as a single activity or function limited to a specific operation. In concluding their presentation, they explored some of the common issues that confront business officials trying to choose appropriate risk financing and insurance alternatives and some of the distinctions in terms used by the insurance industry. With all these issues, it seems clear that school business officials may need a firm grasp of the technique of risk mapping. ASBO's risk communication and professional development efforts are making a difference for school districts.
Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services (Gallagher) is one of the top boosters of new risk management initiatives in public education. School districts have long benefited from Gallagher's focus on creating innovative risk-financing solutions. Gallagher serves many of the most successful self-insurance pools controlled by schools and a high percentage of the top 100 U.S. school districts. The company is now ranked as one of the largest insurance brokers in the world. It can trace its service to school districts back to the 1970's.

Gallagher's Executive Director for Public Entity and Scholastic practice is Dorothy Gjerdrum. She works with their local brokers and their clients to deliver national perspectives and resources. She became the champion for the Public School Risk Institute within the Gallagher organization and garnered support from her colleagues, resulting in a $9,000 grant to help with start- up research and development for the Institute. From the outset, Dorothy reflected Gallagher's desire for openness and fresh thinking. Her efforts encouraged suggestions for research and made important introductions that helped propel the Institute forward from concept to reality. Schools will continue to benefit as she balances her service on the Institute board with other far reaching responsibilities, including chairmanship of the International Office of Standards (ISO), which is in the midst of producing new standards for risk management. In addition to having a deep commitment to schools in their operating culture, Gallagher is a strong proponent of collaboration and best practices. Gallagher's support of the Public Risk Management Association is just one of many examples of its work with other representatives of the insurance industry, including competing brokers. The company is a frontrunner in providing internships to college students and in contributing to education initiatives in the local communities where it has offices. At this time, Gallagher counts 250 people in 28 offices across the US that work with public sector and school clients.

In mid-October, the Institute board of directors extended the time for school districts and risk groups to sign up as founding members. Due to economic uncertainties, some district's payments were delayed and others were forced to wait that had indicated they would become founders. The risk groups involved so far represent nearly 1,000 districts. The final tally and list of founding members will be available shortly.

The Institute board also adopted a plan to make it easier for risk groups to enroll some or all of their members jointly and to provide options for risk groups to streamline communication and connect through dedicated websites. Please contact Executive Director Lee Gaby to discuss benefits of membership, membership, enrollment, and contacts for any of the founding members.
Construction of the Institute's new website is well on its way. A mid-December launch is planned. joined Munich RE as a home page sponsor. Additional content has been added to the current temporary site to make it easier for visitors to learn about the Institute. The newly adopted mission-vision- values statements are now accessible, along with short descriptions of services and planned programs.

The new website will give members and subscribers access to a membership directory, topical resources, insights on training opportunities, interest groups, and a unique "fast answer network." If you are interested in becoming one of the Institute's "rapid responders" in an area of special expertise or experience, please contact Executive Director Lee Gaby.
Jeep Engine
Despite economic uncertainties, five additional corporate partners have made financial commitments to help the Institute move forward. Markel Underwriting Managers,, CBIZ, Holborn Corporation, and PublicSchoolWORKS added their names to the list that started with Arthur J. Gallagher and Munich RE. The Institute is very fortunate to have these commitments and looks forward to the contribution these companies can make in their area of interest in school risk management.

The Institute is continuing to seek corporate partners and "thought leaders" in 18 business sectors that supply services and products to school districts. A corporate partner information packet is available. All corporate partners will be listed on the sponsor page of the website. There are many opportunities for sponsoring the Institute's development activity and events.
Hands Together
Would you like to try out the Fast Answer Network? The Institute has "rapid responders" who can provide qualified opinions about many issues. One risk manager from a very large district recently commented about the report he received saying, "This morning I got a chance to take a look at the document and found the shared opinions excellent and a good start to the new institute!! This is exactly what I envisioned from my first discussion with you on the forming of the institute." To try this service, or receive an outline of risk management topics, a list of interest groups that are forming, or discuss your interests, please contact Executive Director Lee Gaby.

Please call or send us a note with your comments and suggestions about this newsletter and any projects you would like to see us undertake. We also want to receive school contact names, contacts with organizations you believe may want to be involved, and material for the new website resources.

Founding member subscriptions and corporate sponsorships are helping the Institute move forward. Your support will ensure that programs are implemented and projects continue. Please encourage potential sponsors. Let us know about any school contacts you feel we should make. The Public School Risk Institute is dedicated to helping all school districts reduce their cost of risk. Please let us know how we can help you.

Thank You.

Lee Gaby, Executive Director
Public School Risk Institute

phone: 706 353-0055
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