The idea of shared services is nothing new. Although it is the “buzz” word nowdays, due to state budget woes, a handful of forward thinking Superintendents did just that July 1, 1980 over 30 years ago. Fully insured insurance programs were draining school districts dry. Tuolumne County Superintendents formed a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to self insure…pooling their risk and the expense of insurance programs for their schools.
Since that time other counties joined in to make the Tuolumne JPA more solid and sound financially. Today the JPA insures 19 school districts in Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, and Tuolumne counties. Today we insure districts for their property and liability programs, Haz Mat and Asbestos services, as well as workers compensation.
In addition, we perform annual safety audits at all of our schools in the four counties. The schools are rated based on the number of safety items they repair each year. Monetary safety awards are given at board meetings to the top five school districts for their efforts. We have also implemented annual safety grants for the schools to assist them in making their schools a safer place for students, employees and the public.
Training is a huge component of what we do. Philosophically, trained employees are injured less and schools experience fewer lawsuits if they implement good hiring practices. The JPA believes in investing in our employees upfront and conducts several trainings each year for employment practices, OSHA regulations, Special Education, school safety & evacuation plans, and maintenance/operations best practices.
The JPA began a Return to Work program approximately 12 years ago. We realized that an injured worker remains connected to their school and their co-workers if they are able to work, even after they are injured and during their recovery period. We bring the employee back with work restrictions knowing that they still have a lot to offer and want to stay connected to their school. This program assists the district in keeping workers compensation costs down by limited indemnity payments they would have made for injured workers to stay at home.
In addition, three years ago we implemented pre-employment physicals for high risk jobs such as maintenance workers, custodians and bus drivers. In that time we have had 22 non capable test results as well as several “no shows”. As the average workers compensation injury equates to at least $12,000 in expense, potentially school districts avoided at least $ 264,000.00 in injuries for a testing expense of $ 3,300.00 – a great investment in public education.
In closing, the Tuolumne JPA is proud to say that they have been serving public education for the last 30 years. I, Joe Silva as President, and Diana Rappaport as Executive Director, are dedicated to doing just that for many years to come. Our hope is to save districts money in insurance premiums so more money can make it to the classroom for the kids.