Skip To Content

4 Key Takeaways from Conference 2024


Amber Montelongo is a proud Ysleta ISD graduate who worked in the insurance industry before joining the Del Valle ISD human resources team. Her interactions with Fund workers’ compensation claims adjusters have been mostly via phone or email. That changed in April, when Montelongo joined hundreds of her peers from across Texas for the TASB Risk Management Fund Conference 2024. 

The three-day event at Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Round Rock provided plenty of opportunities to learn, network, and celebrate the Fund's 50-year anniversary.

"Getting the chance to meet not only our TASB claims team but also school staff in similar positions as me was a breath of fresh air,” said Montelongo. “It was wonderful to meet face-to-face, discuss the challenges we face in our districts, and get information on how to solve and implement change."

Watch for takeaways from conference educational sessions coming soon. In the meantime, here are four themes that emerged during the event.

Some Solutions Lie Down Roads Less Traveled

Chet Garner of The Daytripper, an award-winning Texas travel show, delivered the conference keynote.

Keynote speaker Chet Garner’s journey from attorney-turned-travel show-host taught him three truths:

  1. Roads get paved when they're frequently traveled.
  2. There's more than one way to tackle a problem.
  3. Nobody succeeds solely on their own ability and effort.

In 1974, Texas schools were sent down an unpaved path when a new law required public entities to provide workers' compensation coverage to their employees. The traditional insurance market showed little interest in helping schools comply, so TASB tackled the problem by creating the TASB Risk Management Fund.

In that same spirit of innovation, the Fund has adapted and evolved to remain financially strong and relevant to its members for the past 50 years. Members' collective commitment to managing risk and succeeding together will empower the Fund to serve Texas public education long into the future.

The Risk Landscape is Evolving

In January, Austin ISD rolled out three new electric school buses, taking the first step toward converting its 550-plus fleet by 2035. The district was one of 19 in Texas that shared in a $1 billion grant through the EPA's Clean School Bus Program.

TASB Risk Solutions Consultant Ryan Boyce and Willis ISD Leave Specialist Mary Daniels

As a regionally based TASB Risk Solutions Consultant, Ryan Boyce collaborates with Willis ISD Leave Specialist Mary Daniels to control losses and their associated costs.

Electric vehicles (EVs) promote cleaner air as well as trim districts' fuel and maintenance costs. But they also introduce new risks that districts need to account for. The lithium-ion batteries that power EVs sometimes overheat and spark fires. Green buses also handle differently than their diesel counterparts, underscoring the importance of driver training. 

And then there's the price tag.

A new electric bus costs more than double the price of a diesel bus, and that's not the whole picture. 

"Whenever we look at emerging technologies, it is important to consider ALL the associated costs. I was surprised to learn about battery-charging infrastructure and electricity expenses," said Prosper ISD Transportation Director Teri Mapengo. "Those are expenses that vendors and electrical service providers don't always discuss but are important insurance coverage and budgetary considerations."

EVs are just one example of tech-powered tools covered during the "Future-Proofing Your Risk Management Program" session. Like EVs, those tools bring risks you have to account for:

  • If you use drones to inspect roofs, film football games, or conduct pre-construction assessments, the drone operator must follow federal regulations.
  • Internet of Things applications could expose students' sensitive data.
  • Wind turbines are vulnerable to costly equipment breakdowns. In fact, one Fund member received a $200,000 repair bill when a wind turbine fell over.

Property Coverage Costs are On Everyone's Radar

Katy ISD Risk Manager Lance Nauman

Katy ISD Risk Manager Lance Nauman cited historically high property coverage rates as a driving concern during the member risk manager panel discussion.

Some risks are evolving not because they are new but because they are increasingly severe. Multiple conference sessions dug into extreme weather, supply chain issues, inflation, and other forces driving property coverage rates to historic highs. 

Katy ISD Risk Manager Lance Nauman shared insight for getting the broadest coverage at the best possible price when testing the market.

"Underwriters have a stack of renewals vying for their attention, so you have to tell your story and promote yourself," said Nauman. "Show them everything you're doing to prevent losses and make your organization a good risk partner."

Nauman is talking about measures such as choosing climate-appropriate roofs, sticking to a preventive maintenance plan, and addressing minor issues before they balloon into major repairs. Remember to maintain thorough, accurate records of your activities and share them with coverage providers.

Property coverage costs are especially challenging for fast-growing districts like East Central ISD. Shannon Burns is a district alum who heads the risk management team. She knows more facilities translate to even higher costs come renewal time. That's why administration is committed to controlling what it can control.

"We don't want surprises, so we review our renewal every year with Adrian Pena (TASB Risk Management Services marketing consultant) and update our CFO. We also meet with our superintendent and maintenance leadership, stressing the importance of spending a little more on the front end to protect ourselves on the back end. For example, hail guards can help prevent damage to high-dollar assets such as HVAC systems."

We're in this Together

Shrinking budgets are forcing many schools to make tough decisions. Risk management is often among the first line items that school finance professionals trim when funding gets tight. If you're working hard to navigate the evolving risk landscape, participants on our school-based law enforcement (SBLE) panel have a message for you.

Mariachi group performance

A mariachi group that included Austin ISD Akins High School students entertained the crowd during the Fund's 50-year anniversary celebration. 

“We're all in this together,” said Troy Burke, director of safety and security at Royse City ISD. “More than 20 districts have spent a day with me and talked through how we're addressing school security requirements. If I can share information that helps you, I absolutely will."

Like Burke, Jacksonville ISD Chief of Police Bill Avera estimates he fields 10 calls a week from peers who value his law enforcement experience. Supporting them may not be in his job description, but it's in his DNA.

"It's just how everyone on this panel is wired," said Avera. "It's reassuring to talk to other Fund members and share ideas and perspectives. That's what’s going to make schools safer. "

And that's what's going to keep the Fund strong and relevant long into the future. After all, roads only get paved when they're frequently traveled, there's more than one way to tackle a problem, and nobody succeeds solely on their own ability and effort.

Panelists Share Challenges at TASB Risk Management Fund Conference

TEA Cybersecurity Fund Available for Smaller Districts

Behavior Management Can Mitigate Risk, Improve the Bottom Line

David Wylie
David Wylie
Content Developer

David Wylie serves as content developer on the risk solutions team. He brings more than 20 years' experience writing educational content that helps employers protect against workplace accidents, property damage, cybercrime, and other losses.