Robinson says boards need to protect 18-year investment

May, 2006

Tennessee Risk Management Trust board member Dawn Robinson is proud of the Trust’s history of supporting school boards and enthusiastic about the organization’s future.

A member of the TNEMT board of trustees since 1998, Robinson said she has come to appreciate the advantages of Trust membership over private insurance for school boards.

“The strength of the trust is the long-term membership of its members,” Robinson said. “A board of education might have a bad year, and its insurance costs are borne by somebody who’s having a good year. Everyone has good years and bad years. We all are there to help each other. None of us has a crystal ball to predict when bad time will come.”

She said it is more important than ever for Trust members to stay together in the face of increased competition.

“The Trust is as strong as it has ever been,” she said. “We’ve had some growing pains, but the Trust is its members, not any individuals. So the members need to stick together and protect what we’ve built up over the past 18 years.”

She said the transition to an elected board of trustees is important because it gives members a say in governance. She noted that the change was made upon the advice of former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyle Reid.

Robinson said she has been in a unique position to observe the recent growth and changes in the Trust. She said although the Trust board has gone back and forth on the issue of including non-school board members, experience has now shown that the county governments and utilities actually cost the Trust less in terms of claims than the school boards, and their participation has benefited the Trust by spreading the risk over a larger number of groups.

“We try to keep prices down,” she said. “We provide the best product at the best price, and everybody wins.”

“The trustees take their job very seriously” she said. “Over the years they have done a lot of things to encourage risk management”.

Robinson said Trust membership brings many benefits.

“We try to educate members about safety. We do not want people to get hurt. We care about the people who work in our schools, and we want to teach the best practices for safety.”

She pointed out that keeping school employees and students safe also helps hold down the costs for the Trust.

“It’s great that we have a surplus, but the overall goal is the safety of students and workers,” she said.

Robinson said the student accident insurance program is “one of the finest things the trust provides” because students play sports and inevitably there are going to be some accidents and injuries.

This energetic woman balances a full load of family, church and community activities with a business management practice and is in her 11th year of service on the Cleveland City School Board. A former teacher, she has presided over PTOs and Band Boosters and receive numerous awards including the C. Hal Henard Distinguished Service Award as Tennessee School Board Member of the Year. Besides serving on the TNRMT board of trustees, Robinson is president elect of the TSBA.

“I believe in the missions of both organizations,” she said. “I know that both want to act in the best way to assist school boards and make them the best they can be. I’m honored to serve on both, and I will give them my best till it’s time to move on.”

“The important thing to me is service to the community,” Robinson said. “I got started because I was a teacher in the Memphis City Schools while my husband was in medical school. I worked my way through college at the boys club in Knoxville. Later when I had children of my own, I was the school volunteer that was always at the school helping wherever I was needed.

“From the perspective of my being a teacher, I understood the importance of the parent in the classroom. Whether it was Band Boosters or a neighborhood clean-up, I focused on public schools. After all those years of volunteering, I was encouraged to become a member of the school board.”

She said former Tennessee School Boards Association president Lois Taylor of Cleveland was her “hero” and encouraged her to get involved in boardsmanship. “Lois is such a classy lady who exemplified how to give the best service to benefit the students in our community and also the state of Tennessee.”

“You get to meet so many nice people when you volunteer,” she said. “There are so many wonderful, dedicated people who give of their time freely to make a difference.”