Sask Rivers board discusses management and assessment of risks

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald New board chair Darlene Rowden chaired her first meeting for the Saskatchewan Rivers board of education on Monday. Nov. 28.

After close to two years, trustees of the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division got their first look at the division’s new risk management criteria.

Enterprise Risk Management is a system for a large organization to identify, manage and report on significant risks. Education director Robert Bratvold outlined the system in a report for the board.

“You think about those big, large scale 30,000 foot perspective things that might prevent the board from reaching its goals in its Strategic Plan,” Bratvold said. “You take a look at those large, big scale sorts of things and you analyze how likely is that risk to happen, and if it did happen what would be the impact. Then, once you have got that sorted out, then you figure what is our appetite for risk and how much can we tolerate.”

The report is generated through exercises by Senior Administration. Risks to the school division are identified and ranked by individual members of the Senior Administration team for both the likelihood and the impact of the risk. These are then discussed and processed into a risk matrix.

An example of a catastrophic risk is something that impacts revenue by more than $1 million. Meanwhile, an insignificant risk, the lowest level, would impact revenue by less than $50,000.

“We are not living in a perfect world so there are always all kinds of risks you just have to live with,” Bratvold said. “We have to decide what do we live with and accept as just a risk … and what risks do we say, ‘that’s significant’ and ‘do we need to take some specific actions.’ Then, how do you determine the impact of those actions.”

Brtavold said that the division has been growing in understanding and experience with risk management for nearly two years. These plans and mitigation reports were shared for the first time at the most recent meeting. Bratvold informed the Board that this is important work, but also a learning process for the Senior Administration Team.

“This is the first formal report to the board around the top risks facing our system and the actions that we are taking to minimize those and prevent those,” he explained.

The presentation started at large scale and broke down into smaller scale understanding of the risks that the division faces.

“There is a risk that power will go out in the winter in a school, pipes will freeze and the school will flood, so when you think about that, that might be something that prevents the board from reaching its strategic objectives. Probably that is something that you want to prepare for and prevent in a management kind of way,” he explained.

Sometimes the risks exist and are taken care of through the way the system operates.

“That risk of pipes freezing wouldn’t make that top broad list. It is something that we just manage according to regular operations. We have checks on schools and we monitor the condition of pipes and all of that kind of stuff. It is not analyzed as a high-level risk it just manages as a regular operational process.”

The Board is committed to risk monitoring and mitigation for lower-level risks and reporting and mitigation for higher-level risks.

Bratvold said the conversation was an interesting one for the board.

“I think most people aren’t interested in the depth, but I think it’s really important for the public to know that our school division is carefully monitoring and looking after those high-level risks,” he explained. “Not all organizations do and they can in trouble for that. It’s good for the public to know and be assured that our board is looking after those risks carefully.”