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Advance the discipline of risk management and build a risk intelligent public school nation.  

This newsletter is intended to promote exchange of information concerning management of risk in the public school arena.   Risk management is a vital means of sustaining security, stability, confidence and fiscal soundness.   

November 1, 2011               Edition No. 2                    

In This Issue
Leaders and Cornerstones
Risk Control with Wellness
Legislation & Funding
Standard Reponse Protocol
Strategies for Leadership
Federal Liability Monitor
Balanced Scorecard
Risk Points and Guides
Reading Suggestions
Quick Links
Corporate Partners 
To visit partners site, click on name below:

Munich Re 

Arthur J. Gallagher


Genesis Underwriting Mgt.
Company Nurse
Target Safety
Norman Peterson & Assoc.
Selective Insurance
Core Management Resources Group

School Bus Safety Company
Pittman & Company
MicroAssist, Inc.
Bickmore Risk Services
York Risk Services Group
DuPont Training Solutions powered by Coastal


to learn more about the corporate partner
program  please visit and go to Sponsors.    
 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

Seven other school risk groups have joined these founders.


SchoolRisk News 
Join Our Mailing List
 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 2,600.

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.    


 for access to top risk management professionals.
Reports are compiled, distributed and archived to save time and money.
Quick Links

Forward Progress for School Risk Management 

Board of Directors

Mike Florio,  

Dekalb County Schools, Chairman


Dave George,  

San Francisco USD,  

Vice Chairman


Joe Goncalves,  

New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal,  



Mark McKinney,  

Florida School Boards Insurance Trust,  



Denise Drill,  

Minnesota School Boards Insurance Trust


Stephen Finley

Denver Public Schools 


Roy Jacobs,

Pennsylvania School Boards Insurance Trust


Jack Lance,  

Rockdale County Schools


Nick Mirisis,


Wayne Smith,



Kevin Supple,  

Francis Howell Schools  


Christine Lueders

Willis Insurance (ex-officio) 


School Risk Leaders Use Four Cornerstones

Linking several guiding principles in the risk management discipline can create an integrated framework for progress.  In grouping and mapping exercises,  the  whole situation is usually divided into four quadrants.  School risk leaders can lay a foundation for progress on four cornerstones.  


Cornerstone #1 - Culture of Safety

A school district with a culture of safety encourages acknowledgement of error and attributes errors primarily to process/system failures. School leaders in a culture of safety  work to solve process failures and system issues   in a non-biased, non-threatening way. Lessons learned from analysis of errors are shared, and the best known methods are used to mitigate or prevent future errors.    Effective systems and teamwork are used to accomplish the mutual goal of safe, high-quality performance.  When something  doesn't go well,  the question is what, rather than who, is the problem.  The safety of students and employees is paramount.     


These five themes help broadly define what makes a culture of safety: teamwork, student/employee involvement, openness/transparency, systems,  accountability.   


The theme "Built to Last" was used for the recent Annual Conference of the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities. It served as a reminder that several CA school risk groups  have built excellent resources to support a culture of safety among their members.  Leading groups include: Alliance of Schools for Cooperative Insurance Purchasing, Central Region Schools Insurance Group, Contra Costa Schools Insurance Group, North Bay Schools Insurance Authority, Redwood Empire Schools Insurance Group, Schools Excess Liability Fund, Schools Insurance Authority, Schools Insurance Group, Self-Insured Schools of California, Southern California Schools Risk Management JPA.  There are links to all of these organizations in the Helpful Links section of the Institute's Resources  found at


 Ten common characteristics have also been identified for a culture of safety to exist. (click here to download)  


Cornerstones #2 - Continuous Improvement  

A continuous improvement process (CIP) is an ongoing effort to improve all the elements of "best practices" in policy and procedure that make up a total risk management system.    These efforts can seek "incremental" improvement over time or "breakthrough" improvement all at once.  Because of the complexity of school district operations, a model for CIP for almost any size district may have numerous basic elementsFor ease of administration the CIP elements may be grouped into categories and/or sections.   


More than 100 school districts in New Jersey have been using a risk management continuous improvement program created by the NJ School Boards Insurance Group.  The program has 28 elements groups into eight categories. A score is assigned to four levels of achievement in each element. This make is possible for district leaders to track improvement over time. 


Cornerstone #3 - Core Competencies

Core competencies are the result of a specific set of skills and risk management techniques that deliver value to the district. Core competencies can also be traits and abilities that integrate multiple streams of knowledge and professional practice. Communication skill is an essential core competency for risk management. School risk leaders must have a  deep commitment to working across organizational boundaries and improving communication about risk. 


The best known model of risk management core competencies was developed by the Risk & Insurance Management Society.  It groups 41 core competencies into five categories:  Conceptual skills, Technical skills, Interpersonal skills, Personal skills and Business skills.  For school districts, an important additional category of core competencies is School Policy & Law.      



Cornerstone #4 - Cost of Risk

Cost of risk is a term that districts can use to convey the broader impact that uncertainty has on their activities, instructional and operational. The cost of risk implies that there is direct expense as well as an indirect or as some say, a hidden expense. Taking into consideration the indirect /hidden expense can improve decision-making in every aspect of  the educational enterprise.   


School risk leaders are starting conversations about cost of risk and introducing methods to calculate a district wide "total cost of risk." (TCOR) This is a measure of the overall costs associated with the district risk management function, including all insurance premiums, risk control and financing costs, administrative costs, and any self-retained losses incurred, relative to overall district revenues, total headcount, and or asset base. Over time, TCOR provides a yardstick to assess how a district's risk-related costs are changing relative to the overall growth rate of the district's budget. These are some of the advantages that districts have found:    

  • Calculating the total cost of risk can help to highlight inconsistencies in their approach to risk management.

  • The process can also identify areas where the cost of managing a particular risk may be excessive relative to risks elsewhere, potentially leading to reallocation of some elements of the risk management budget.

  • By highlighting inefficiencies in the risk management process, TCOR can also generate direct cost savings.

  • The true value of safety and risk control activity is better understood when all indirect costs of accidents are understood. 
A session that focused on calculating TCOR  was held during the recent ASBO International Annual Conference in Seattle.      


Upcoming editions of this newsletter will offer additional insights about these four cornerstones. Examples of district and risk group comments and suggestions are invited.       


Risk Control Solution: Promoting Wellness

Districts Promote Wellness, Track Walking Miles and Share Lessons on Healthy Lifestyle and Medical Savings   

"School Employee Wellness:  A Guide for Protecting The Assets of Our Nation's Schools" is an important resource published by the  Directors of Health Promotion and Education.(State government leaders)   


DHPE also created a website to promote and support school employee wellness.   Marion County Schools, FL, Franklin City Schools, OH, and Lee's Summit Schools, MO are recognized as Gold Award Winners for 2010-2011 by DHPE.   Six other districts are shown as Silver and Bronze winners.   


The Foreword to the DHPE guide states that few school systems have the kind of programs in place that are found in the most progressive businesses and organizations.  Click here to access the guide and website.


Making the Case for Wellness

Earlier this year, the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation published a report titled, "Building A Stronger Evidence Base for Employee Wellness Programs. "  NIHCM brought together nearly 40 experts in wellness and research methods to discuss ways to strengthen the evidence base for employee wellness programs.  These three points standout in the executive summary of the NIHCM report:

  • "adoption of employee workplace wellness programs has taken off in the U.S. in recent years, and several of the wellness and prevention provisions included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act heightened attention to - and expectations for - worksite wellness programs."
  • "A growing body of research indicates that these programs can change employees' behavior, improve their biometric risk profile and work productivity, reduce use of and spending for health care services, and achieve a positive return on investment. "
  • "Some observers remain skeptical, however, about the evidence on program effectiveness, citing weak study designs, poor data, a lack of transparency about methods, and possible vested interests of those producing the research."

The NICHM report also stated, "And while there has also been considerable progress in understanding the "best practices" to maximize program effectiveness, more work remains to be done on this front. "


Sixteen Point Employee Wellness Program Model Outlined

The NICHM report pointed to a general consensus about effective wellness programs, suggesting that such programs include 16 features considers as either essential or highly desirable.   Click here for the full outline.  


Mileage Tracking Support    

Many districts find that keeping track of employee walking mileage is easier said  than done.   A Florida district engaged a company to help implement an effective tracking solution and boost participation.  Santa Rosa County Schools chose Virgin Healthy Miles (VHM) to help with the wellness program it adopted in 2009 for its 28 schools.  Employees receive a personal pedometer and special incentives.   Health kiosks were set up by VHM to enable employees to check biometrics conveniently.  Karen Retherford, Human Resources Services Manager for the district, and offered this advice:  "Develop a strategic plan well in advance of program implementation. Clearly communicate with all employees so they understand the program and how it works and the benefits of the program for both employees and the school district. The time spent up front educating employees with contribute to your program's success."    


Using the Power of Social Gaming  

A June article in the Wall Street Journal noted that VHM is among several companies using "social gaming" to improve employee health.  WSJ reported that "While individuals may not be sufficiently motivated to solve weight and other health problems for their own sake, they may be willing to do so for a team, especially one that is competing for cash, prizes and bragging rights."  


Virgin Airlines is the parent company of VHM and appears to be the first airline to use its advantage in tracking flying miles to keeping up with walking miles. The VHM website states that "Together, we've taken 500 billion steps."    


Districts Start to Share Lessons and Data

The DHPE website mentioned above features wellness program highlights for each of its awards winners for the past two years.  The Institute has also compiled contact information about wellness program pacesetting districts and school risk groups.  An initial list includes  districts from about 20 different states and two risk groups, one from the east coast and one on the west coast.     


Special presentations about district wellness programs were included in the two most recent ASBO International Annual Conferences and appear to be attracting attention at state level ASBO events.   The wellness program of Weber Schools, UT, was featured at ASBO Seattle and South Central Kansas Education Center was featured at ASBO Orlando, 2010.  North East ISD TX was also featured in Orlando and at the 2011 Texas ASBO Annual Conference.   


Santa Rosa HR Director Retherford reported that "in the first year alone, the number of employees who improved from a low active/inactive state to active/very active nearly doubled, from 37% to 60%."   The district's other wellness achievements were documented in a newspaper article earlier this year.  


Manatee County Schools FL provides an in-depth look at its successful wellness program through an independent report posted on its website.   


Additional Information

Please contact the Institute's Executive Director for further information and wellness program contacts.


In future editions, we will try to provide outlines of risk control solution s available for districts and school risk groups, along with featured courseware and programs on subjects identified in our ongoing environmental scan.    


Legislation & Funding

New Jersey Schools Begin First Year Under New Bullying Prevention Mandate

The new law, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, might be the toughest legislation against bullying in the US,  mandating that all NJ public schools adopt comprehensive anti-bullying policies, increase staff training and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.  Some of the key provisions among 18 pages of "required components" are: each school must designate an anti-bullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an anti-bullying coordinator; the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site; educators who fail to comply could lose their licenses.


In early September, the State Attorney General's Office released revised regulations spelling out how school officials and law enforcement should work together and coordinate their respective investigations in light of the new law.  A major news source in New Jersey reported that "some school officials are concerned that too many rules and an overwhelming amount of reports will eventually lead to under-reporting by teachers and administrators."  One superintendent was quoted as saying. "Initially, people are overreacting, but I think that as time goes by they might underreact."


Safety Inspections Were At  Risk in Recent Government Shutdown

The Minnesota School Boards Association stepped in with a petition on behalf of its members when fire, electrical and construction inspections were suspended during the state government shutdown in Minnesota this past July.  The shutdown was the longest in the state's history and its third shutdown in the past decade.  School leaders' actions prevented disruption for about  30 school districts that faced uncertainty  since some inspections had become the duty of the Minnesota  Dept of Labor & Industry.    The MSBA petition, filed about five weeks before schools were scheduled to open,  led to a  Special Master's intervention and helped in restoring funding for the inspections. 

Districts and Risk Groups Lead with The Standard Response Protocol

Critical Ingredient for Safe School Developed in Colorado

The "I Love U Guys" Foundation developed the Standard Response Protocol (SRP), a classroom response to any school incident.  Since May of 2009 John-Michael Keyes and Ellen Stoddard-Keyes have presented the protocol at dozens of events, conferences and venues. This has resulted in adoption by districts, departments and agencies in several states.  


The "I Love U Guys" Foundation was created to restore and protect the joy of youth through educational programs and positive actions in collaboration with families, schools, communities, organizations and government entities.  On September 27th, 2006 a gunman entered Platte Canyon High School, held seven girls hostage and ultimately shot and killed Emily Keyes. During the time she was held hostage, Emily sent her parents text messages... "I love you guys" and "I love u guys. k?" Emily's kindness, spirit, fierce joy, and the dignity and grace that followed this tragic event define the core of The "I Love U Guys" Foundation.


The Foundation website includes the following tribute from a risk group executive who was a long-time champion for Colorado schools:  "The Keyes [Ellen and John-Michael] provide a passionate presentation on Standard Response Protocol which every school, law enforcement, fire, EMS and other related partners, including community members should consider as part of future coordinated planning efforts." Cheryle Mangels, former Executive Director, Colorado School Districts Self-Insurance Pool.


The Standard Response Protocol and related information is available at (click here) 

Strategies and Tools for Leadership

Executive Strategies for Risk Managers in Turbulent Times

 "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.  By this, he [Colin Powell] means that a leader's enthusiasm, hopefulness, and confidence multiply as they radiate outward through the organization. Leaders who view the world positively and confidently tend to infuse their people  with same attitude. Powell understands and subscribes to the power of optimism.  That's why after coming up with three optimism-risk maxims, he put them under the glass on his desk. If his spirits sag, he takes a quick look at the following:  "It ain't as bad as you think; It will look better in the morning.  It can be done. Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers."  - Oren Harari, The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, 2002.


"Do not wait for ideal circumstances, they will never come; nor for the best opportunities."  - Janet Erskine Stuart


Federal Liability Monitor

The Institute continues to monitor emerging federal court liability in the areas of  Exceptional Education, Occupational Safety & Health, Nutrition, Product Safety, Pupil Transportation, Environmental Protection.  Periodic special editions and supplements to this newsletter will be available to members and subscribers.  

Continuous Improvement Model/Balanced Scorecard Project Update 

Project Manager Steven Webber has now prepared a master document that pulls together the work of all task forces and individual contributors for the project.  About 20 new volunteers have agreed to assist in the final stage of writing and editing the assessment statements in 30 elements of the model.  When Phase 2 is completed in early November, the model will have 14 sections and about 100 elements.  Reviewers, testers and pilot users are now being recruited.  The Institute is grateful to Munich Re for lead sponsorship of the project.   


For more information please contact the Executive Director.       


Risk Points and Guide Posts  from Risk Central 

Comments here are drawn from Featured Contributions in Risk Central.  This is a sample of available content. 


Hazing in Athletics

Dr.Herb Appenzeller comments on ten risk management practices recommended to prevent bullying/hazing in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.  He calls attention to the Federal jury verdict against New Hudson Area Schools, MI.  (A judge later overturned the jury verdict.)  Appenzeller publishes,  From The Gym To The Jury, Sports Law and Risk Management and for nearly 40 years has worked as a professor and administrator at Guilford College, NC.   


Workers' Comp Costs:   

Michele Mariscal, writes that: "The workplace brings a variety of experiences and opportunities to learn more about who we are, and who we are not. In this time of increased stress and demands on our time it is more important than ever to reflect each others' attributes so that we can meet each other in the strength of who we are, and assist in solving problems as a coherent team."  Mariscal,  Prevention Specialist, Schools Insurance Authority focuses on mind/body wellness for 34 school districts throughout Northern California, providing training in stress management, work culture change, employee morale, health and injury prevention. 

Glenn Backus
advises school districts to demand caseload levels that allow adjusters to  actively serve injured workers. He urges districts to insist that adjusters "develop an intimate knowledge of your workforce, work environment, jobs that are performed, return-to-work program, etc."  He also suggests that districts conduct surveys of claims quality service with employees who have returned to work.  Backus serves as senior vice president and director of sales and marketing in Alternative Service Concepts. 

Risk Central was introduced in November 2009  to demonstrate a Web 2.0 platform.   This "Interactive Knowledge Center" offers an open forum for the school risk management community.  Access is open to anyone who registers. There is no charge.    Click here to go directly to Risk Central or look for the launch icon on the Institute's homepage.    

Reading Suggestions
Institute Book Notes
ASBO International's bookstore contains many excellent publications.   During the recent ASBO Annual Conference the Institute purchased a copy of Ethics for School Business Officials by William T. Hartman and Jacqueline A. Stefkovich, 2005.  Critical situations, questions for discussions and cases are presented along with an integrated approach to solving an ethical dilemma  that incorporates five different  perspectives - justice, care, power, community and the profession.  Rowan & Littlefield Education is ASBO's publishing partner.  

Jim Satterfield, CEO of Firestorm, provided a copy of the book he co-authored with Harry Rhulen titled, Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America.  It contains practical information with a simple goal: "to help you and your family prepare for a disaster."  Copies available at

Special thanks to Dr. Luanne Purcell and the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE),  who gave the Institute a set of its popular handbooks for dealing with Legal Disputes, Section 504 Myths & Realities and Restraints and Seclusions.  Each handbook includes 21 Questions & Answers written by experts in the field of special education.   Copies can be obtained from the Institute or directly by contacting CASE at 
This quote from an anonymous source was submitted by one of the Friends of the Institute:   "The progress of the world never runs in a straight course."
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
Phone  (706) 715-3381 Ext. 701