Kevin Kolb, CPA, CFO, MSBO Board Member, Associate Superintendent of Finance, Gratiot-Isabella RESD
After working in school business and public accounting for over 36 years now, I have to say that the best advice I’ve ever received happened while working a summer job in the health care industry during college. My mentor in this job asked if I had ever read any of Peter Drucker’s books. There is this concept of “Management by Wandering (walking) Around” where you walk around and talk to people in the organization. You need to do this. You will learn a great deal.
Working in school business, I’ve found that it is all too easy to sit in the office and work on FID, the audit report, etc. with very limited and only school business related contact with others in the district. But if you push yourself to find opportunities to get out of the office and talk to others in the district it can be very rewarding. When you need to talk to someone, don’t call them on the phone. Visit them in person and talk to a person or two along the way.
Once I had a custodian tell me that if they had a few simple tools, they could mount a pencil sharpener on the wall and do other small repairs while cleaning. Custodians always know what is happening in a building, what repairs are needed, and have a few ideas on how to save money. These people almost always live in the community and are strong supporters of education. You should never miss an opportunity to talk to a custodian.
Talk to the people in food service. You will find that they have a love/hate relationship with combi-ovens. They love them when they work and hate them when they break which they will do often especially if you don’t have properly conditioned water feeding them. On one of my visits they told me the cafeteria was very loud so we installed acoustical panels. Before you leave, remember to ask what equipment needs to be replaced. In a number of my districts, I routinely ate in the cafeteria with staff and students. This is a great opportunity for longer discussions.
When you enter a school building, always talk to a secretary. They will tell you everything you need to know about that building. Never rush those conversations. Talk to building administrators on a regular rotating basis. Teachers and paraprofessionals will give you great insight as to what is happening not only in the classroom but also what students are dealing with in their home lives. Teachers should not have to spend money out of their own pocket for school supplies (but most do). Ride a bus for the morning run – are the students quiet because they are tired or because Arlene drives very fast! Talk to the grounds people – are we paying sewer charges on the water used by the irrigation system? Everyone you talk to can help you do your job better. Start wandering today!