By: Thomas L. Armstrong, CPA, CFO, MSBO Board President, Director of Business and Operations, Fulton Schools
Astute readers may remember my December 2019 column based on the Jimmy Buffet song, “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” It was a look back at the game changing evolution of school business over my nearly 25-year career.
No sooner had that column been published when late winter 2020 said, “hold my beer.” If you had told me that within just a few weeks of that retrospective I would be working from home, having multiple Zoom meetings, and have cancelled the 2020 MSBO Annual Conference, I would not have believed you.
Things happen fast in a global pandemic and we are all making decisions with far less information than we would like. Here is the thing, our districts still expect us to make decisions. Our districts are looking to us for guidance on so many things. Do we continue to pay staff while school is closed? Do we lay off staff so that they can collect unemployment? How does a potential lay off affect employee benefits? Will we receive our full 2019-20 state aid, given that we are under a 4 week mandatory closure? Will we get Federal reimbursement for our food service staff’s heroic efforts to keep feeding our students? Which employees are and are not essential? Food service staff are essential, payroll staff are essential too. What about accounts payable, custodians, the superintendent?
That is by no means an exhaustive list. My point is, the staff, students, parents and taxpayers of our districts are expecting us to at least provide guidance, if not to make the ultimate decisions. And here is what I think, with the help of MSBO and each other, we are more than up to the task! No one in our districts is as well equipped to interpret the MDE COVID-19 memos, the School Nutrition Bulletins, the e-blasts from attorneys and other third parties. All we need to do is to be the professionals that we are. Together, we will all get through this.
Thank you all, so much, for everything that you do for your school districts and for public education in general. I look forward to seeing you when such gatherings are allowed again.