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Advancing the discipline of risk management in public education.
In This Issue
Interactive Community Platform
Institute Board Meeting
Fast Answer Network
Training Table Update
Risk Management Value
Continuous Improvement
North Carolina Districts
GAO and School Safety
Employee Boost
Hockey Challenge
Safety: Priority and Value
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Other districts that are direct or associate members now number more than 1,300 .

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December  2009                                                                     Issue 11                      

Risk management is... a vital business process.
Risk Central:  The New Interactive Community and Knowledge Center for School Risk Management

The launch of Risk Central, linked to the Institute's Home Page, has opened up several avenues for school administrators and others, allowing them to create and sustain interest communities to help control the cost of risk for school districts.   The Institute envisions Risk Central as a convenient forum for exchange of information among all the stakeholders in school risk management, while other services remain exclusively for member districts and risk groups.  Easy to use software applications  will improve transfer of  ideas and solutions.  The addition of this no-cost platform means that the Institute can have a wider and deeper impact with fewer barriers. 

The first Featured Contributors on the new platform were two veterans of the school risk management community and the CEO of Target Safety.   They have been followed by a veteran school risk group executive,  a school risk manager who serves in a district with nearly 60,000 students, and the business development director for an online safety training product.   "Thought leaders" are being asked to provide regular articles -- generally about 250 words.  At the same time, the Institute welcomes single submissions of essays and short articles on timely issues and topics deserving attention of school officials.  A short bio and photo are desired.   Please contact the Executive Director to discuss your interest. 
  Compass The News and Events sections of Risk Central expand the amount of coverage possible for stories from all parts of the country.  Events includes a convenient access point to register for online sessions and webinars hosted by the Institute.

Community Resources is an open library that allows any registered member of the community to upload documents and videos from any location. Each contributor assigns search topics and tags that will help others find the resource quickly.  Commentary is highly desired and will help increase the value to others who visit. 

Featured Resources are short online programs and selected materials that highlight the capabilities of the internet to deliver and monitor loss prevention activities and assignments.  Many of the selected contributions will demonstrate the work of Target Safety.  This firm was generous in providing all of the in-kind support needed to create Risk Central.  Suggestions for expanding featured contributions are welcome. The Institute will continue to promote a wide variety of available training alternatives and provide opportunities for collaborative demonstration and development. 

Easy connectivity, collaboration, valuable commentary, news, events and other benefits are now available through Risk Central.  The Institute is grateful to Target Safety for making this possible and appreciates each  contributor and commentator. 

Go to  then click on JOIN NOW to register and and encourage others.  If you need any personal assistance with registration, uploading files or navigation, contact the Executive Director anytime.
Institute Board Sets Course for Growth and Development   
"More school CFOs  across the country should be contacted and invited to join as soon as possible.  The benefit to them and their district will be substantial."
That was a key mCompassessage that the Institute board of directors conveyed to staff at their annual gathering, held in St. Louis November 16-17.      The board also suggested surveying large school districts to find out how risk management is actually handled and and in what manner.

The Executive Director's presentation to the board included highlights of the first 16 months of activity and a detailed look at the four major initiatives that serve as the framework for all  projects and programs.   Central Region Schools Insurance Group (CA) and Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust, the two newest risk group members were welcomed.  Board members embraced their assignments for committees and project oversight, gave their support for the Continuous Improvement Model for School Risk Management and encouraged efforts to develop a professional development program with basic, advanced and "hot topic" components.  They also backed the idea of working with ASBO state affiliates and other associations to offer on-site and live broadcast clinics and workshops.  

The value of Risk Central was discussed and board members took note of the new opportunities for school districts to conveniently find views, ideas and solutions from a wide variety of  contributors and commentators.  Staff  introduced the need for a "dynamo" to cultivate ongoing commitments and possibly a community ombudsman.

Internal administration and finance issues were also handled during the meeting.  The Board agreed to modify the Code of Conduct so that possible conflicts of interest reports could be received without first review by the outside ethics officer.   Ideas for a late spring meeting and the date for the next conference call were also discussed.  

Fast Answer Network Ready for Use

Would  you like to know how  leading school risk managers have responded to a problem you're facing?  Try 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, you can  enter your request right from the Institute website or contact the Executive Director.

Training Table Update

Members of the Institute can find reliable information needed for evaluation and implementation of effective training programs for riskCompass control and safety.  Below are some notes on new courses, events, and vendors of interest: 
  • Community Matters was featured in a presentation given by Barrow County Schools to attendees at the GA School Board/GA School Supt Annual Conference, December 4.  Safe School Ambassadors is a curriculum that the Santa Rosa, CA based nonprofit has developed  over the past ten years.  To learn more about what this program can offer at Community Matters or call 707 823-6159.
  • Ethics Ed continued to make the case for a focused approach to keeping students safe from sexual abuse by school employees.   Their online course titled "Preventing Educator Sexual Misconduct and Abuse in Schools" is available for preview and is an effective, low cost intervention tool.  Chuck Origer is the primary contact in Austin, TX for the course. Visit Ethics Edor call 512 794-8440. 
  • School Bus Safety Company continues to pick up support for  the Driver Training Course, the first  recommended product of the  NAPT.  Ted Finlayson-Schueler,  the founder and former Executive Director of the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute, has written a letter of recommendation for the course.  Visit School Bus Safety Company or call  800 728-2827 to speak to Jeff Cassell about the course.
We welcome new safety related training program announcements and will publish bulletins similar to these above as space permits. 
Former School Business Official Reflects on Value of Risk Management
Things I Wish I Had Known  

By Michael Hay

As a recovering school business manager, I wish I had known about the risk management process and how to apply it to the school business environment.  Going back to the time that I was a school business official (mid-80's), I recall that there wasn't a risk management profession as we now know it.  I also remember that many of my job responsibilities involved risk management as we now recognize it as enterprise risk management!

Knowing how to identify potential losses before they occurred would have saved me and others a lot of time and effort and would have provided a proactive means to protect my district from unplanned financial  losses.  Knowing how to use patterns of frequency and severity (risk mapping) to determine risk mitigation strategies would also have been of great assistance.  Of course, understanding  risk financing options would have been an invaluable tool for planning and budgeting.

As I recall, I engaged in elements of the risk management process as a matter of survival.  I did so instinctively and, unfortunately, sometimes ineffectively.   If I had better understood how to identify, analyze, control, finance and administer risks in my district I would have added more value and been a better business manager. 

[Editor's Note: Mr. Hay is currently the Director of Risk Management Programs for the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research, Austin.  In addition to his experience as a public school business officer, Mike served with the Texas State Office of Risk Management.]

 Putting Together the Whole Puzzle with the Continuous Improvement Model  

Several school risk managers and risk group executives have created scorecards and assessment tools to help track  progress of employee safety programs and other initiatives. The Institute is working on  the development process and funding plan to  finish a continuous improvement model for school risk management. The model will include guidelines ["best practices"] based on consensus of experienced professionals.   It will provide a roadmap for risk management program development.   In simple terms, the model is a pattern for building a system and guiding the actions of school district leaders.  The model provides guidance to reduce development costs, save time and raise the level of critical thinking about risk priorities and responses.  It will make process benchmarking possible on a more advanced basis.Puzzle

The current version of the model includes fourteen primary categories and more than 100 sub-elements.    The design includes a simple scoring system that can be used by the district to track progress over time. The scoring system can also be used for comparison with a peer or peer group.   The system uses color-coding to help illustrate four levels of achievement and labels to suggest position along a continuum. Careful interpretation of scores is needed since comparisons between categories in the model can be misleading.    This scoring system is likely to change as users gain experience and introduce additional concepts, categories, techniques, best practices and metrics.   For anyone trying to be effective in managing the complex risks of a school district, the continuous improvement model will show how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. 

For more information, including a copy of the current version of the model and supporting documentation, please contact the Executive Director.  

North Carolina School Risk Management Academy Under Discussion
Eleven North Carolina school districts took part in a conference call in early November to share ideas about creating a special interest group of the Institute.  Leading the way were representatives of Wake, Durham and Charlotte-Mecklenberg school districts.  Plans are being made to convene a larger group in January and create a working agenda to make new resources and information available. 
CompassFederal Scrutiny:  GAO Reports Contain Valuable Information for Risk Managers

In the past six months, the General Accounting Office of the US Government has issued two  separate reports regarding  school safety. The reports include valuable, independent information for  risk group safety advisers and risk managers who may be responsible for district wide consultation. Visit the GAO website for the featured reports.  

In its report titled,  "Seclusions and Restraints,"  GAO examined cases and allegations about injuries to disabled students and stated, "We were able to obtain data showing that thousands of public and private school students were restrained or secluded during the last academic year. This data does not show the inappropriate use of restraints and seclusions, but rather the number of times the techniques were used during an academic year."  The GAO report  documents a disparity among various state laws and regulations that may apply. The report states,   "For example, nineteen states have no laws or regulations related to the use of seclusions or restraints in schools. Overall, we found no federal regulations related to seclusions and restraints in public and private schools and widely divergent laws at the state level."  The report also concluded that, "Although we could not determine whether allegations of death and abuse were widespread, we did discover hundreds of such allegations at public and private schools across the nation between the years 1990 and 2009. Almost all of the allegations we identified involved children with disabilities." 

More information is available on this subject from the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders and the Council for Administrators or Special Education. 

In the report issued in August titled, "Changes to Federal Agencies' Procedures Could Reduce Risk of School Children Consuming Recalled  Food," GAO stated, "Despite its efforts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which oversees federal school meals programs, did not always ensure that states and schools received timely and complete notification about suspect food products provided to schools through the federal commodity program.    FNS provided instructions for disposal and reimbursement of recalled products to states who, in turn, provided instructions to schools but, nonetheless, some schools experienced problems. Some schools reported to GAO problems in finding landfills that would accept large quantities of recalled products. Some schools also reported that reimbursement instructions were not clear, reimbursement was delayed for months, and that all of their expenses related to the recalls were not reimbursed. Although both USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and the FDA procedures direct them to conduct recall quality checks, neither included thousands of schools that had received recalled USDA-commodities products for the beef and peanut recalls because they thought FNS conducted these checks."
Simple Idea Turned into Great Boost for Employees

Schools Insurance Authority, Sacramento, has developed an "interactive, Compassfun-filled program to inspire employees to appreciate the commonly unnoticed and overlooked aspects of their job and life."  It was inspired by Ilan Shamir and his poem,"A Thousand Things Went Right Today."

SIA's website says, "The program provides a unique opportunity to step into the shoes of a child and see what is in front of us, not what is missing. Do you have "moments of wonder" and appreciate the miracles of life as a child does? When is the last time you cut open an apple (horizontally instead of vertically) and marveled at the beauty of the shape made by the seeds in the core? We create our life and our world with our words. This simple expression of saying what went right can facilitate our own ability to create our life and our worksite as one of gratefulness and appreciation."   

SIA's program can be used intermittently or for an extended period of time and is easy to put into place. It encourages participation and allows each person to express themselves. Files and directions are included. You can learn more by calling SIA and asking for Lisa Konarski or Michele Mariscal at (916)364-1281. 

H.S. Boys May Not Check Women's Hockey Team
Changing Rules to Reduce Risk

The Minnesota Star Tribune reported on December 5 that the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team was scheduled to play the Hopkins High School boys' varsity team  at the school's hockey facility.    The game was to be the first in a three-game series the U.S. women's team will play against Minnesota boys' high school teams as they prepare for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver in February.   The report says the games will be played according to women's rules, meaning no checking will be allowed.

Safety is Our #1 Priority and An Enduring Valu
There are countless efforts being made across the country to make school safety both a top priority and an enduring value.   The Public School Risk Institute salutes everyone who is engaged in school safety, health and wellness.    
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. We hope you find the Institute's 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 Ext. 701