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Advancing the discipline of risk management in public education.
In This Issue
Leaders Update Risk Intel
Integrated Process
Bus Safety and NAPT
Going Far Together
Corporate Partner Thanks
Innovation Steps
NC Planning Group
Things to Like
Level 6 Communication
School RM Best Practices
Article Archives; FY11
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Corporate Partners 


Genesis Underwriting Mgt.


Company Nurse

Target Safety

Norman Peterson & Assoc.

Selective Insurance


Core Management Resources Group

Alternative Service Concepts

School Bus Safety Company

Pittman & Company

MicroAssist, Inc.

 Bickmore Risk Services

York Risk Services Group


DuPont Training Solutions powered by Coastal

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 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

Six other school risk groups have joined these founders.
 School Districts

City of Atlanta, GA
City of Chicago, IL
Clark County, NV

City of Cleveland, OH 

Dekalb County, GA
Fairfax County, VA

 Francis Howell, MO
Fulton County, GA
Miami-Dade, FL
Rockdale County,GA
San Francisco USD, CA

Wake County, NC 

Other districts that are direct or associate members now number more than 2,300.

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

f you are a member of PSRI,
remember to use the Institute's

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Change of Seasons  - Fall  2010                                   Issue 20                

Risk management is... a vital business process that inspires confidence and builds resiliency.
School Risk Management Leaders Update Their Risk Intelligence
During the past sixty days,  in small gatherings and large ones, and from California to Florida, many school risk management leaders updated their risk intelligence and refreshed their contacts.  By taking time to gain new awareness and deeper knowledge, they helped ensure savings and protected against expensive disruption for their organizations.  The September California Association of Joint Powers Authorities (CAJPA) and October conference of Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRIP) seemed to be the bookends for this season of learning.   In between was ASBO International's Centennial Conference and an array of sessions that spanned the full spectrum of school risk management. Most of this conference occurred during a weekend, proving once more that school business officials are willing to go the extra mile in pursuit of high achievement.   One of ASBO's 2010 Eagle Award winners was Tom Wohlleber, who also serves as an advisory member for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards Insurance Plan. 

There were also several annual meetings for members of school risk groups. The elected and appointed trustees of risk groups are special individuals who make sacrifices of their time to govern and promote the common interests of  districts.  Many of these trustees attended CAJPA or AGRIP, in addition to their group meetings.

And, on the final Friday in October, a group of  metro Atlanta school risk managers, representing five of the largest districts in the area, took time to reunite and swap information and seek new insights.  

Risk management leaders realize that a principal component, or potential threat to their success is the quality of the people in the organization.    Reinsurance underwriters who generally bear the least predictable share of loss exposure,  seem to hold favorable views of school district and risk group leaders who pursue professional development from  credible sources.  Conferences and meetings  can be productive for risk management leaders and their service providers.    The activity at recent conferences provided plenty of evidence that school risk leaders are dedicated to improving public education. 

Creating the Integrated Process and Achieving the Optimal Risk Transfer
Integration and Seamless Process
One question that seemed to be on the minds of many who were in recent meetings was "how do we integrate risk management with the school district's strategic direction and plan?"  This naturally leads to the question   "How do we ensure that risk management is an integral part of the planning and day-to-day operations of various functional units? " Embedding risk management into everyday activities is seen as an important task for any kind of organization.  More than ever, school district personnel need effective processes that work seamlessly and conserve valuable time and money.

Transparent Risk Assumption and Optimal Risk Transfer
Conversations with several districts and school risk group leaders showed that they were taking time to wrestle with three fundamental questions:  What are our principal business risks?  Are we taking the right amount of risk?  How do we ensure that the organization is performing according to our plan and within appropriate risk tolerance limits?" Embry Nichols of Willis was a featured presenter at the AGRIP Fall Conference and spoke on Making Effective Risk Transfers & Risk Retention Decisions.  School business officers   and risk group leaders recognize that choices about some risks are critical to their success.   And, capacity to take risk may be more limited now for some districts. 

Bus Safety Week Leads into NAPT Annual Conference

Pupil transportation directors from across the nation were in the spotlight during National Bus Safety Week, October 18-22.  The coverage was generally favorable and most districts used the opportunity to raise awareness about motorists passing stopped school buses and ways to prevent injury in the danger zone. 

A study by the State of Alabama released October 18 concluded that school buses are safe enough without seat belts.  It was reported that seat belts would "save the life of about one child every eight years." The study resulted from the 2006 accident in  Huntsville that resulted in the deaths of four students. That accident apparently prompted federal transportation officials to require new, smaller school buses to be equipped with lap-and-shoulder belts by 2011. Larger buses are to have higher seat backs.   The leader of the three year study, was reported to have said that most deaths occur when children are getting off the bus, crossing roads or crowding around the bus to board it.  Reports indicate  that researchers involved in the study believe it is more cost-effective to spend money making the process of loading students on and off the buses safer.

The National Association for Pupil Transportation Annual Summit is in Portland and runs from Saturday, October 30 - Thursday, November 4.  Sessions will address: Accident Investigation, Highway Security Strategy, How to Become a School Bus Champion, Student Loading and Unloading, Results of Alabama's School Bus Seat Belt Pilot Program, Special Needs Transportation, Preventing Distracted Driving, Communicating Safety to Children with Disabilities, Progressive Discipline, Preventing Sexual Harrassment, Addressing Bullying and Harrassment,  and  Putting A Stop to Illegal Passing.
School Risk Managers Find Ways to Go Together

Two school risk managers were sharing their experiences with stolen computers and damaged buses from a recent flood.   Two school pool executives met each other at a conference and discussed their efforts to implement effective return to work programs. 

Across the country, peers often meet and share information. They encourage and challenge each other.  It's been said that "learning by contrast and comparison concentrates the mind wonderfully and gets the conceptual juices flowing." 

The attitude that seems to produce progress in difficult times was mentioned  in a recent annual report  from Owen Vanderbilt Graduate School of Management.  Dean James Bradford wrote, "I am drawn to an African proverb that has of late become a favorite of business and political leaders.  If you want to go fast, it says, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.  It's a sentiment that speaks to us clearly as we move forward, and it is one that we would be wise to heed." 

Instead of letting disappointment and disagreements lead to divergence,  risk managers are finding ways to create consensus and build bridges in their organizations.    Risk groups that create safe spaces for open discussion have been able to grow their community and increase commitment to each other.  They are able to go far by helping their members go together.

 Corporate Partners and Sponsors Recognized for Support of the Institute

With the help and encouragement of almost 30 companies, the Institute continues to offer valuable resources to school districts and school risk groups.   Corporate partners deserve special thanks for making it possible to serve districts that have seen their administrative and training budgets severely reduced. Several companies have provided valuable in-kind assistance  in addition to financial support. 

Sponsor support enables the Institute to provide this newsletter at no charge to more than 1,200 + direct subscribers.   About 2,200 additional school districts are reached through their risk groups. 

Initial financial support for the Institute was provided in the spring and summer of 2008 by Arthur J. Gallagher, Munich RE and  October 2008 will be remembered as the month that additional corporate partners began making commitments to help the Institute launch its website. Holborn, Markel Corporation and JDI Data Corp were among the first to provide assistance.

Dorothy Gjerdrum of Gallagher served on the Institute Board from inception until January 2010.  Jill Eaton of Genesis Underwriting Management was selected in July 2009 as the representative of the Corporate Partner Council to serve on the Institute Board of Directors.   Chris Lueders of Willis Insurance has been a key advisor to the Institute staff on matters related to the Blueprints Initiative. 

AssetWORKS, Arthur J. Gallagher, Company Nurse, Dupont Sustainable Solutions, Genesis, Hour Zero, Munich RE, Norman Peterson & Associates, PublicSchoolWORKS, SafeSchools, Target Safety and Willis have provided introductions and helped raise awareness of the Institute at several conferences. 

Alternative Service Concepts, Bickmore Risk Services, Core Management Services, Medicor, MicroAssist and Pittman & Associates have each made contributions at critical points in the Institute's development.

Target Safety backed the development of Risk Central, the Institute's interactive knowledge center, launched in November 2009.  They continue to provide technical support and resources for the applications and outreach that make the platform a place for community sharing and connection. 

Companies that helped with the Institute's Board of Directors meeting in September included  SchoolDude, Company Nurse, In2Vate, Genesis Underwriting Managers and York Risk Services.

Markel Corporation agreed earlier this month to be the lead sponsor for the Bus Safety Coalition.  School Bus Safety Company is adding their  support.    Selective Insurance is the lead sponsor for the Sexual Misconduct Prevention web portal now on the Institute homepage.  The purpose of these two initiatives and information about related sponsor opportunities will be announced shortly. 

The Institute will continue to fine tune its corporate partner program and sponsor opportunities to better serve the mutual interests of members and companies working together to promote innovation, research and exchange of information.   

Pursuit of Innovation Leads to Elegant Solutions

Elegant solutions originated in the chemistry lab and are needed in risk management. They are the product of innovation, usually produced in small steps by teams of collaborators. Here is what Matthew May, author  of  In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing had to say about innovation:

 "The pursuit of perfection is a discipline of increments, and just plain hard work. It ignores the impractical theoretical distinction between incremental improvement and breakthrough
innovation.   Innovation isn't an either-or proposition forcing a choice between small steps and big leaps. It's how to achieve big leaps through small steps.

Chasing perfection through relentless improvement builds the capability needed to achieve cross-company innovation. There's no downside to growing a strong portfolio of small ideas.

Your portfolio will remain secret sauce, because routine ground singles don't catch the eye of scholars, competitors, or the media like home runs do. Dealing in smaller currency lets you experiment more, get results quicker, and learn faster.

Without fretting over risk. The more ideas you have, the more patterns and possibilities emerge. Which gives you more opportunities to combine and multiply ideas into bigger ones.

To read more about Elegant Solutions click here.  or go to  
North Carolina Group Chooses Conference Date and Program Format
A group of school risk leaders in North Carolina have selected Greensboro as the site for  a day-long learning event based on the theme, ROI in Risk Management: Ways that  North Carolina Districts Can Protect Money, Student Performance and Productivity Now.   Superintendents, top level administrators, business officers and other risk leaders are the intended audience for the program.   The event is scheduled for January 14, 2011. It will feature presenters from several organizations and perspectives. 
Things to Like
Take Care of Your Classroom Air - Pamphlet produced by North East ISD Department of Environmental Health.  This district was a featured presenter during ASBO.
Safety & Health Calendar -
Produced by Denver Public Schools with sponsor support from Midwest Employers Casualty Company and Tristar Risk Managemet.   A creative way to reach both employees and students with health and safety information integrated with student art and key dates/reminders.  (School Psychology Awareness Week, November 8-12)
Compliance & Regulation Schedule - Full-color Flip chart created by Schools Insurance Authority Prevention Services. Provides What, Where, Who, Training guides and documentation requirements on subjects from Asbestos to Wheelchair Lifts.
Hidden Costs of Workers' Compensation Claims - October article by Scott Clarke, Miami-Dade Schools risk manager, posted in Risk Central, the interactive knowledge center.  [Clarke has been selected to move up to the position of president  of the Risk & Insurance Management Society next spring.]

For more information about these and other useful resources, contact the Executive Director.  Please send us your ideas and suggestions of helpful tools and resources that we can highlight in future editions.
Level 6 Communication Works When Concern is High and Trust is Low
The ASBO International Centennial Conference featured a presentation about by Potomac Communication Group with these highlights:
  • "There's a wrong way and a right way to talk about risk. Ultimately, it's about establishing and maintaining trust and credibility."
  • "Facts do not equal emotions. One negative has the power of three negatives." 
  • Caring and empathy are the dominant factor in credibility, non-verbal messages are most important.
  • Score 50 points for caring, 15-20 for openness. 
  • There are 11 risk communication traps.
  • There is a risk communication gender gap.
  • The CAN method produces a Level 6 response to hostile question:   CAN = Caring and Empathy, Answering the Question, Next Steps.
For additional information about the 11 communication traps, Level 6 communication  and  Potomac Group, please contact the Executive Director.
Update on Continuous Improvement Model Project:  School Risk Management Best Practices
October 19 Presentation During AGRIP Conference

A full room of people representing school risk group staff and trustees, brokers, reinsurers and other risk management service providers turned out for a 45-minute session held at the Fal l Conference of the Association of Governmental Risk  Pools. (AGRIP)  Some of the highlights included:

  • Mark McKinney of Florida School Boards Insurance Trust opened the session and gave a short history and overview of the project and people involved.
  • Catherine Bennett, CPCU, Cost Control Concepts described the work that has taken place since the first task forces were mobilized in early June.  She recognized the individuals and groups that have taken part on task forces and the steering group.
  • Lee Gaby discussed some of the project benefits and possible uses for the assessment instrument and scorecard. He described other models, including one being used by the New Jersey School Boards Association Insurance Group. He thanked the sponsors and everyone who has been willing to share ideas and information. 
  • The presentation stressed the fact that the project is intended to develop an open access tool for managing risk that represents a consensus from a nationwide community of school risk management professionals. Everyone was encouraged to participate on a task force, with a new round of task forces starting in November.
  • Packets of information were distributed. These contain the draft  material from the task forces and other related documents.
Corporate Partner Support Recognized
The Institute is especially grateful for the companies that are expressing support for the Continuous Improvement Model for School Risk Management, a project that has a $60,000 18-month budget.   Bickmore Risk Services, CBIZ, Company Nurse, Hour Zero, Munich RE, Safe Schools, SchoolDude and Target Safety were recognized as leading sponsors at the project presentation during the Fall Conference of AGRIP.

To receive an information packet, find out about task force opportunities or obtain additional information about the project, please contact the Executive Director.
 Finding  Newsletters and Other Links
To look back and check past issues of this newsletter, go to the homepage of the Public School Risk Institute, open Resources, then Helpful Links and scroll down to School Risk News, or simply click here and scroll down to School Risk News.
Using Helpful Links at www.schoolrisk org is an easy way to find excellent resources about a wide range of subjects.   If you need assistance, please call or  use the Contact Us feature to send a request.
Public School Risk Institute
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