The dog days of summer are here, which means it is almost time to head back to school. CLM Fellow Clint Goodison gives us his progress report from the Edmonds School District, located north of Seattle, Wash.
Q. Did risk management find you, or did you find it?
A. I worked for several insurers over a 20-year span as a claims professional and manager, both at an office level in which staff reported to me and at a national level in which office managers reported to me. After two mergers that resulted in layoffs, I interviewed with and was hired by the Edmonds School District in April 2001.
Q. What is your approach to risk management?
A. When I began in the position nearly 15 years ago, my approach was to visit all 30-plus schools and get a visual understanding and appreciation of the various property and liability exposures. I consulted with our risk pool’s risk management and claims staff, and I joined the Washington Association of School Business Officials’ (WASBO) risk management committee, for which I have served as co-chair and chair and remain an active member. I attend seminars and workshops sponsored by the CPCU Society, WASBO, CLM, and local law firms.
Q. What do you worry about most during the summers off?
A. Although the district is in summer recess, we in the administrative office work year-round. We are currently in full swing with many summer projects ranging from roof repairs to construction of new buildings.
In the past, we had an elementary school building sustain substantial fire damage caused by fireworks set off on the Fourth of July. It was a race against time to get the repairs done in time to open for the first day of school—we made it, but it was close. So those types of concerns are always on my mind.
Q. Do you employ enterprise risk management strategies?
A. The short answer—if there is one—is that we have to identify, consider, and analyze the risks and downsides before and after losses occur. It is important to consider how losses might affect the district financially, strategically, and operationally, and how they might affect the district’s public image and reputation. The standard strategies of risk management for identified exposures and risks have included and will always include: (1) avoidance when the exposure is unnecessary and/or too great; (2) minimization or modification of an exposure (e.g., alter behavior with training or alter the physical risk with equipment upgrades like safety guards); (3) compromises and substitutions with safer processes, procedures, and activities (e.g., allow low ropes courses vs. high ropes courses); (4) transfer risks contractually and/or with use of insurance; (5) informed acceptance of risk when necessary; and (6) monitor and revise policies, procedures and practices as warranted.
Q. Describe some of the risks you manage.
A. As you might imagine, the risks I face mostly involve managing losses to existing and new buildings and their contents; vehicles and buses; and liability losses for injuries to students and other third parties. Staff injuries that are covered under workers’ compensation are handled by a TPA reporting to human resources as an employee benefit.
Q. Have you ever taken a risk and turned it into an opportunity?
A. The risk of loss is an opportunity to avoid a loss. While it may not be possible to completely remove the potential negative influences of human behavior, it is possible to minimize such influences with enhanced knowledge and proper training. That holds true for knowledge-workers as well as for those who work with physical tools. Through preloss analysis and post-loss experience, we try to promote safety for students and staff. As a district, we have put into place policies and procedures to avoid or drastically minimize exposure to foods by children with food allergies. We have taken over the builders risk exposure by implementing our own master builders risk program, in which the district procures the standardized coverages at a more-than-competitive rate.
Q. What kinds of claims do you typically encounter?
A. The most common types of losses encountered involve the types of risks discussed. Over the years, we’ve had losses caused by fire, fireworks, vandalism, and frozen pipes, which can be very challenging operationally, time consuming, and expensive. We have our own bus fleet of 140 buses, along with cars and vans and work trucks, all of which expose the district to potential first- and third-party claims.
Q. How many claims professionals work with you? How are claims broken out?
A. Other than seeking recovery for self-insured losses, all claims are submitted to our pool. Although the pool’s claims professionals report to the pool’s claims director, they do consult with me, as I am the primary contact between the district and our pool.