From the July/August 2018 Net Assets magazine
You’re driving on a perfectly clear and sunny day, and a car ahead of you is drifting in and out of your lane. When you get closer, you see the driver is distracted by their handheld device, perhaps even actively texting someone. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million car crashes each year, and human error overall is by far the leading cause of crashes.
As every business officer knows, distraction can be dangerous in a variety of settings. The risks appear especially profound these days for independent schools, which is why this issue of Net Assets is dedicated to the critical topic of risk management. The bad news is that these threats — physical, financial and operational — are growing. The good news is that most can be mitigated, if not contained, under the vigilant focus of business officers.
The More You Know
No Strangers to Danger: ERM for Every School
Quantifying Risk: Conducting a Risk Audit
A Crisis Is Coming. Is Your Board on Board?
Consider this: Many of the costliest risks to independent schools involve people. In a 2012 study conducted by NBOA, in partnership with United Educators, assaults led to the most expensive claims affecting our schools’ general liability insurance. Allegations of discrimination, followed by wrongful employment practices, led to the most expensive claims affecting educators’ legal liability insurance.
I am struck revisiting these statistics because of the human element. I firmly believe that our schools can avoid many of these risks if we don’t allow ourselves to be distracted or complacent.
Schools cannot hope for the best or wait for a crisis before developing a proactive, comprehensive risk management strategy. Taking action now is essential to ensuring the excellence of your school’s business operations and the safety and well-being of your students, faculty, staff and families.
Q: How can business officers enlist broader support in implementing a comprehensive risk management plan?
A: The business officer alone cannot be responsible for the school’s risk management. A successful process requires the support of the head of school, board of trustees and various stakeholders throughout the school. An important start for the business officer is to outline a transparent and open process with the understanding that its purpose is to mitigate the school’s risk. Risk management is a marathon, not a sprint, but if everyone within the school understands the benefits, garnering their support will be a much easier task. Resources from NBOA and schools’ insurance providers can help provide a framework for this process.
Q: As an independent school parent, what factors give you confidence that independent schools offer a safer learning environment than other options?
A: I think one of the key values of our schools is the intimacy within the learning environment that other types of preK-12 educational institutions may not be able to offer. This helps a school more quickly and easily identify concerns, changes in behavior, or conduct within the community that can be addressed before they jeopardize the safety of others.
Q: You spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a car. What’s your personal rule for phone use while driving?
A: I recently learned that my phone has a setting that identifies when I’m driving. It automatically disables alerts and texts so that I won’t be distracted. This has helped a lot.
I’m particularly proud of this issue of Net Assets. Within these pages, experts and colleagues from around the country provide some of the best advice you’ll find anywhere that speaks directly to many of the most pressing risks our schools face. The threats are sometimes frightening and almost always daunting, given your expanding portfolio of responsibilities and limited time and resources, but your commitment to addressing them must remain resolute.
I strongly encourage you to find the time to peruse these pages and share them with your school’s leadership team. Use this issue as a framework for discussing the threats facing your school and the steps you can take to advance the most basic covenant you face within your school’s learning community: to keep it safe.
You’ve got this!
Quantifying Risk: Conducting a Risk Audit
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