How is Your District Preparing for the Greatest Risks of 2022?

This is a unique time for school districts. It is important to recognize the major risks and to adapt and prepare. Brandon Tanous will present “The State of Organizational Risks: Moving Past the Pandemic” at the 2022 TASBO Engage Conference.

Throughout Texas, school districts are facing new and challenging risks as we move to a post-pandemic world. Specifically, a loss of leadership is compounding challenges as superintendents announce their resignations in unprecedented numbers. At the same time, staffing challenges have become so acute that many districts cannot even find enough substitute teachers to staff their classrooms or hold extra-curricular activities.

This is a unique time for school districts. The challenges brought about by the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and the overall political climate are significant. While no one could have predicted this situation several years ago, it is important to recognize the major risks and to adapt and prepare.

School administrators throughout the state are asking: How well has our district prepared for succession planning and staff changes and shortages? How can we prepare for this kind of uncertainty in the future?

The Institute for Internal Auditors (IIA) published its third annual OnRisk report: OnRisk – A Guide to Understanding, Aligning, and Optimizing Risk, which identifies and defines key risks to organizations, as perceived by boards, management, and chief audit executives. It offers a detailed look at the greatest challenges expected in 2022 and how aligning risk management can increase success.

The top risks for 2022 are identified as Cybersecurity, Talent Management, Organizational Governance, Data Privacy, Culture, Economic and Political Volatility, Change in Regulatory Environment, Supplier and Vendor Management, Disruptive Innovation, Social Sustainability, Supply Chain Disruption, and Environmental Sustainability.

From among the top twelve risks, we will examine the following six risks and their potential impact on school districts:

Cybersecurity: The need to pivot to remote learning created new and ongoing IT challenges, and many of the practices adopted for a hybrid environment appear to be here to stay. As districts leverage or repurpose new tools and software to support these new practices, they need to continue to follow policies, procedures, requirements and regulations. Districts should have processes in place to continuously monitor their software and vendors’ for compliance with district requirements for security, privacy, availability and other risks. Heightened awareness should also be on internal or external attacks that could expose sensitive and private information or hold your data hostage. Some of these risks can be solved with training, while others require resources and structural, organization-wide transformation.

Talent management: Attracting and retaining staff at every level is top of mind for school districts, but that’s not the only concern. The work-from-home experiment during the pandemic has had a profound impact on attitudes about work/life balance among various parts of the labor force. Additionally, increases in compensation has increased competition to recruit and retain staff within the districts. With already limited budgets and the rise of hybrid work environments, districts will have to reevaluate their benefits, both monetary and non-monetary, to not only keep their staff but to recruit the best and brightest.

Supplier and vendor management: Outsourcing may reduce your district’s internal workload, but it does not reduce the risk associated with those activities. Increased utilization of vendors requires additional efforts to monitor and manage supplier and vendors expectations and the delivery of goods and services. There should be an individual in the district who ‘owns’ the relationship with the vendor, is responsible for ensuring the meeting of contract deliverables and quality expectations, and reporting deficiencies early to ensure timely correction.

Social sustainability: As school districts respond to changing social and community expectations, District policies, procedures, and thought processes will need to keep pace. This area of risk involves a range of direct and indirect impacts on staff, students, and communities, from topics such as diversity, inclusion, and enhanced community involvement in how we operate and adapt. Districts will need to remain open to change and consider themselves change agents in their community.

Supply chain disruption: In 2022, supply chain disruptions are continuing to affect almost every industry, and school districts are not immune. Some areas of operations that are likely to experience continued disruptions are construction and renovation projects, which could delayed as a result of material and labor shortages. These disruptions may keep schools and classrooms more crowded or affect the health and safety of students and staff. Districts should evaluate leads times and their effects on their delivery to reduce impacts to daily operations and planned initiatives.

Environmental sustainability: School districts have long taught about the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. In today’s world, this risk comes into play when evaluating our carbon footprint and teaching students and staff how to be leaders in our community on the impact of our actions on the environment and climate change.

Of course, the identification and assessment of risk is just one part of the story. Effective risk management requires ongoing evaluation of the appropriateness and effectiveness of risk monitoring and mitigation activities throughout the year and with stakeholders across the district.

Brandon will present “The State of Organizational Risks: Moving Past the Pandemic” at the 2022 TASBO Engage Conference on March 2nd at 11 A.M.

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