A member-owned, nonprofit trust that provides coverage and risk management services to Vermont’s school districts, VSBIT’s Tim Vincent plays a vital role in ensuring (and insuring) that his schools are protected. Find out how the CLM Fellow evaluates an endlessly interesting mix of challenges and risks.
Q. Give us a glimpse into your career path.
A. My insurance career started in claims where I first handled short- and long-term disability files. I furthered my claims experience by adjudicating social security disability, workers’ compensation, and property and casualty claims. Prior to coming to VSBIT, I worked in Vermont’s Risk Management Division. I came to VSBIT in 2004, and have since progressed to my current position.
Q. What is your day-to-day life like?
A. My role is to oversee the daily operations of the risk pool, which encompasses our claims department and risk management staff. Much of the day is spent answering member questions about proposed activities and providing them guidance as to best practices for keeping their schools safe.
Q. How many claims professionals work with you?
A. There are four claims professionals in our office. All of them have their workers’ compensation licenses, while two of them have their property and casualty licenses, as well.
Q. How do you evaluate risk?
A. The question that I always ask our members is “Do the risks associated with the proposed activity outweigh the educational benefits for the students, staff, and school community?” If the answer is “yes,” then we do not recommend the activity; if the answer is “no,” then we discuss best practices and safeguards that can make that activity as safe as possible. An example of each would be as follows: School plays and performances want to utilize equipment like “flying apparatus” for productions of “Peter Pan” or “Mary Poppins.” They contract with outside firms that require a hold-harmless agreement, which puts the entire responsibility of the event on the school. The risk of catastrophic injury is great, so we do not recommend the activity. On the other hand, field trips to foreign countries also pose a great deal of liability, but given the educational benefits and life experiences gained, we choose to provide schools with resources and best practices as to how to make these trips a reality while also making them as safe as possible.
Q. What is your biggest exposure?
A. VSBIT is a multiline risk pool, so we provide coverage for all property and casualty lines as well as workers’ compensation. That means our biggest exposure is people! Approximately 75 percent of our claims are workers’ compensation-related, with the most frequent being slips, trips, and falls followed closely by student-related incidents. On the property and casualty side, we most commonly have water damage claims for property and wrongful termination for casualty.
Q. Are there any risks that keep you up at night?
A. Similar to everywhere else in the country, school security has become a major concern. We provide security audits to members that address both procedural and physical components of security while also offering grants to incorporate our recommendations from those visits into a reality. Vermont recommends an all-hazards approach to school emergency preparedness. The Vermont School Crisis Guide is a blueprint for schools to use in planning for student safety if an event occurs. VSBIT has a representative on the team for the crisis group, and we work closely with the Vermont school safety liaison.
Q. Can you share any interesting or unique risk-related experiences?
A. We actually put together a quiz for members that included calls made to our office about proposed activities. The goal was to see if they could determine if the calls were real or made up. A couple of the true calls, believe it or not, included an eighth-grade class proposing a field trip to a gun range to shoot off a multitude of weapons, and an auto tech and English class wanting to do a joint project in which they would write a daily diary of their activities restoring two vehicles, with the culmination of the project being two administrators drag racing down the street in front of the school.
Q. Do you think the world is becoming more or less risky?
A. Neither. I believe the nature of risks and how they are presented to us is always changing, but I think that the overall presence of risk remains the same.