Following the departure of Dr. Reid Prichett at the end of the school year, Dr. Reid Cottingham will assume the revised, school-wide role.
By Dorothy Gjerdrum, ERM Consultant
As part of the School's ongoing efforts to implement Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) practices, Pingry has partnered with Dorothy Gjerdrum, Senior Risk Manager at Gallagher, a leading global risk management and consulting firm. Dorothy has been helping clients to implement ERM since 2003, and helping to create international standards on risk management since 2008.
In her own words, learn from Ms. Gjerdrum about the impact Pingry's unique ERM model has had on a national scale, and the faculty, staff, and administrators on both campuses who are spearheading the School's transformative ERM efforts.
The Pingry School is entering its fourth year of implementing Enterprise Risk Management (ERM), an approach that focuses on risk optimization and holding everyone accountable for managing risk. Over the past 12 to 18 months, the success and unique features of Pingry's ERM program have been noticed and recognized by peer institutions, national associations, and the Education Advisory Board (EAB) as representing the "best practice" for ERM implementation.
One of the unique features of Pingry's ERM program is how the implementation model (based on an international standard called ISO 31000) was customized to suit the school's culture and organizational needs. That customization was the focus of an NBOA (National Business Officers Association) Annual Conference session in January of 2018, presented by Chief Financial and Operating Officer Olaf Weckesser, Associate Director of Operations, Safety & Strategic Initiatives David Fahey, and me, as Pingry's ERM consultant. The presentation focused on why ERM is important to Pingry, details of its unique multi-year implementation plan, and how certain challenges were addressed: engaging already-busy stakeholders (administrators, faculty, staff, and students), the identification and prioritization of key risks, and continual communication and reporting. The presentation was well received by the national audience, but perhaps even more importantly, it reinforced the good work that was being done by the Pingry's ERM Working Group, faculty, and staff.
Following the conference, NBOA featured an article on Pingry's ERM program that was published in the July/August 2018 issue of Net Assets. Soon after that, the Education Advisory Board (EAB) began to study Pingry's approach to ERM for inclusion in its best-practices publication that focused on ERM. The EAB "Institutional Risk Management Playbook" was published in 2019 and it singles out Pingry's approach as a best practice for the K-12 independent school sector. The best practices, tools, and implementation process—including a fun, instructive video featuring the School's beloved canine, Finn!—outlined in the playbook have been presented to independent school leaders across the U.S. Pingry also presented at the Independent Schools Safety & Security Summit at Episcopal Academy in Pennsylvania on June 20.
Based on the success of the NBOA conference presentation and article, Olaf, David and I were asked to repeat the presentation for the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS) Trustees in January of 2019, and for the NJAIS Heads of School conference the following May. Each presentation incorporated updates and highlighted different aspects of the ERM program, in response to the interests of each specific audience. As a result, it has raised the level of awareness and depth of conversation about ERM at the leadership and board level for independent schools in the state.
Olaf is the "champion" of Pingry's ERM program, and the person who has provided the vision and authority for its implementation ever since Pingry—at the urging of the Board of Trustees— identified ERM as a strategic priority and began to build its program in 2016. Olaf is particularly proud of the fact that ERM has been implemented in a bottom-up, inclusive manner, which appropriately reflects the culture and operational structure of the institution.
David is the "hands on," energetic leader of Pingry's ERM program. David noted that the close partnership with Arthur J. Gallagher's ERM consultants has enabled Pingry to build a robust process that enables the School to look beyond the traditional definition of "risk" and expand the process to address strategic business decisions. As to the rollout of ERM at Pingry, David remarks, "Pingry has intentionally integrated faculty and staff at every step along the way, such that the process has been driven from the bottom up. We believe that this will make ERM more valuable and sustainable." Additionally, David expresses that his proudest moments are when he is approached in the hallway or at a dining hall table by a colleague who "would like to 'ERM' an idea" with him. As the concept that everyone is a risk manager (considered a secondary acronym in the industry) is fundamental and central to the process, David loves to see his colleagues considering how to mitigate risk and how to best achieve success when taking thoughtful and intentional risks in their duties and responsibilities.
Pingry's ERM Working Group has overseen the following ERM initiatives:
• An ERM Resource Guide, which outlines the purpose of ERM, its governance and accountabilities, definitions, risk criteria (for consistency and deeper understanding of risks), and steps in the risk management process.
• The creation of a dedicated pingry.org page with ERM news and resources.
• The creation of a Pingry-specific video as an introduction to ERM.
• An online method for faculty and staff to report new risks as well as a risk database to track all risks and initiatives to address them.
• The development of ERM training for new employees as part of the onboarding process.
• A collaborative process with risk owners to provide guidance in addressing risks.
• A process for evaluating opportunities and "risks that are worth taking" in support of Pingry's objectives. Regular updates to faculty and staff, including success stories and updates on activities.
• Regular updates to Pingry's Administrative Team and the Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees.
The 2018-19 members of the ERM Working Group included:
David Fahey '99, Associate Director of Operations, Safety & Strategic Initiatives
Erin Carannante, Assistant Director of Athletics, Athletic Trainer
John Crowley-Delman '97, Director of Experiential Education, History Teacher
Jeff Jewett, Director of Global Education
Cindy McArthur P '29, Director of Summer and Auxiliary Programs
Eva Ostrowsky, School Counselor
Jeff Patten, Lower School Physical Education Teacher
Dale Seabury P '31, Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing
Dave Szelingowski, Middle School Dean of Students
Christine Taylor, English Teacher
Michael Waelz, Director of Facilities
Olaf Weckesser P '25, Chief Financial & Operating Officer
Kate Whitman Annis P '23, '23, '28, '30, Associate Director of Institutional Advancement
It has been a pleasure working with The Pingry School over the last two years to implement ERM practices to make both of its campuses safer and more efficient. I am incredibly impressed by the progress the School has made.