The business of school districts can be complex and confusing and ever-changing.

The Executive Director Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials broke it down into the instructional side and the business side. And, really.everything is about instruction.

Just as the business of schools is more than managing money, the business of the school business manager is  more than managing money.

The Association of School Business Officials International includes on its list of standards: organization and administration, public policy and intergovernmental relations, legal issues, financial resource management, human resource management, facility management, property acquisition and management, information management, and ancillary services including risk management, transportation and food service.

WASBO Executive Director Woody Wiedenhoeft points out it’s all fiscal responsibility and having students be able to learn well.

Who can learn when their stomach is growling? When  classrooms or other children are making them sick? When  they don’t have a way to get to school or the adaptive technology they need?

Some in the community have suggested that the school district needs a CFO. Wiedenhoeft said the private sector “CFO” is synonymous with “business manager” in the school district.

Also, he said the words “business manager” and “director of operations” can have the same meaning and really both are assistant superintendents.

Since it is the school board that presumes the responsibilities of the school district, Wiedenhoeft said the school board should choose the title. Incidentally, in 1978, his title was director of operations.

Whatever title is chosen, he said most districts the size of Milton’s have someone in that role and someone with an 08 school business administrator license from the Department of Public Instruction.

Wiedenhoeft said business managers generally pay for themselves and help develop best practices for their district. When you develop best practices, you become more effective with your money, he said, saying this is where a lot of savings can be realized.

In some respects, the school business management almost seems simple. When making a management decision, the question to ask is “Does this help improve instruction?”

If the answer is no, then it seems questions should be raised even if the proposed allocation is $5,000 or $10,000.

Who will help the board and superintendent make these business decisions?

Wiedenhoeft said the community should set standards. What kind of person are they looking for to lead the business services? And from there, criteria should be established.

We looked at the WASBO website and found criteria for the best of the best. We looked at criteria for awards offered by WASBO and found:

• Leadership in the Schools – The candidate has demonstrated efforts to significantly improve district operations, save district resources, and/or enhance student learning.

• Continuing Professional Development – Evidence of continuing efforts to learn and grow as a professional has been demonstrated.

• Active Participation in the Profession – Membership in professional associations, service on committees, and related activities.

• Active Participation in the Community – Evidence of meaningful involvement in the community.

Wiedenhoeft told us certified business managers are in high demand and short supply and represent one of the largest school administrator shortages in Wisconsin.

We asked Wiedenhoeft if WASBO had a recruiting service, the association does not. We suggested WASBO start one.

The School District of Milton needs a business manager. We need someone with the knowledge and experience who can help us with face the many challenges ahead.

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