By Deanna Mayer, CPA, CFO, MSBO Board President, Director of Finance and Human Resources, Eastern Upper Peninsula ISD
Following is an excerpt of comments given by MSBO President Dena Mayer at MSBO’s Annual Business Meeting held virtually in April 2021.
The MSBO Annual Conference was not the annual conference we are all familiar with – where we get to see each other in person, learn together, network with fellow colleagues across the state, and visit with our vendors at the traditional exhibit hall and evening venues.
I am super thankful we were able to have this annual conference and we have been able to “see” each other and find some time to virtually network. I want to give a special shout out to the MSBO staff for the countless and tireless hours they have dedicated to making sure we had an annual conference, presenters who shared their information, our sponsors and exhibitors for their support.
While I was born a “troll”, I am now a Yooper! I have lived in the UP since I was 10 years old and graduated from the same high school as my father-in-law, my husband and his siblings, and the school my kids currently attend and will graduate from.
EUPISD is located in the oldest city in Michigan, Sault Ste. Marie, which was founded in 1668 by French missionaries. Sault Ste Marie, aka the Soo, is also the third oldest city in the entire United States. If you visit the Soo, you will find a lot of historical buildings and homes. Over the years, a lot of money has been spent to restore these buildings and homes to their original and natural beauty. The Soo is also the home of The Tower of History, The Soo Locks, and I cannot forget to mention it is the home of the International 500 snowmobile race – a mile long snowmobile track that sleds go around 500 times in a day, which draws thousands of spectators to line the banks of the track to watch this 7+ hour race. This race has had a “Mayer” in it every year since inception, – minus this past year, which was the 53rd year, because it was “black flagged due to COVID.”
The EUPISD is an unusual district. Our ISD covers over 4,000 square miles. Yes, 4,000 square miles! That is a lot of miles and transportation is one of the biggest chunks of our budgets. We have 6,400 students between our 13 public school districts and 5 public school academies. We have 3 schools on islands – including a one-room schoolhouse (they have 5 students this year).
Our schools are rural and include both in-formula and out-of-formula districts. Our region has a long history of collaborating and working together – we have to, it is the only way for districts to survive and provide top quality education for our kids. It is important for all rural schools to have a voice and there are many rural school districts across Michigan, not just the UP. It is that collaborating spirit that I will bring to MSBO as Board president.
As the 84th board president of MSBO, I become the 3rd president from the UP. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. We do not always know at the time, and sometimes, we never know the reasons things happen, but I keep my faith and trust everything happens for a reason!
I am a mom of three beautiful children, and I laugh when I think back to all the times my kids have said to me over the years, “Mom, I don’t like school. Can you please home school me? After three months of home schooling at the end of last school year and six weeks of it this past fall – my kids are now praying that we please stay in school and for the pandemic to go away!
John C. Maxwell, writes in Leadership 101, “do a job you love so much, that you would do it for free, but do that job so well, that you get paid for it.” That statement has resonated with me for a long time.
I think each of us has had many struggles over the years as School Business Officials, but none like we’ve had in this past year. However, we have all risen to the top and have performed the duties expected of us and we have done them well. We have been flexible, worked from home, worked in the office, worked in worrying situations, especially early on when we didn’t really understand COVID. We’ve helped get food delivered to our students, made masks, copy packets of student worksheets, helped roll out technology to students, and Internet to students without it at home.
As we continue to plan for this next fiscal year and continue to work on our budgets and consider student, staffing, facility, transportation, and all the other needs in our budgets, we must remember what we are here for – to provide for the best education for our students. Will we remain face to face? Will we be virtual? Will we have hybrid instruction? Are student scores declining? How do we provide confidence to our parents that our schools are safe for their precious ones?
I think this past year has taught us to embrace the present and be thankful for each day because in the blink of an eye, our world, as we know it, can change. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” As we look forward to this next year, let’s continue to be thankful for each day, be happy with the present, and focus on what we can do to provide for our students in our buildings.
We have struggled in many areas this past year, but also found new ways of doing things. So, what will our new normal be? Who knows, but together, as Michigan School Business Officials, we have a role in what that will be in our schools. Let’s embrace that role, and together, we will come out of this pandemic in a better place.