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Although finance is one of the most challenging areas for school leaders, having knowledge is just the beginning. After nearly ten years as a Superintendent of Schools, I understand grant funding at the local, state, and national levels. Experience goes a long way too but having a Chief Financial Officer or Business Administrator is equally as important.
At times in my district we have had to reduce spending or re-allocate funding, we have never “cut” anything. This is tremendously important when providing necessary programs for students and even more crucial when it comes to retaining qualified staff. The practices we’ve established over the last seven years have sustained staff, provided necessary professional development, and maintained and implemented outstanding programs for students.
I have even been able to implement two very successful self-funding programs in Barnegat. Not only does our Early Learning Center provide for the care of very young children (ages six month of age to six years of age), but this program is completely self-funded. The salaries of all employees, including the Coordinator and all care givers, supplies, and needs are funded by tuition. However this service also provides necessary care for many families in Barnegat and employs many residents as well. It is an affordable day care in Barnegat run by caring individuals at no cost to the district. The location of our facility is unique as well because it allows Barnegat families their first foray into our public schools.
The other self-funding program is our Before and After Care program. This program began because our families had a need for affordable after care. When this program began, nearly five years ago we had approximately 40 students enrolled at one school site (that September). By December of the same year we had close to 100 students. By the end of the school year we opened before and after care centers in all of our elementary schools. We now have over 400 students enrolled in before and after care. That number exceeds the total enrolled population for one of the elementary schools in our district in Barnegat.
Creating self-funding programs is just one way to be skillful at finance. We are also lucky to be the recipients of a large grant from RWJ Barnabas Health. They provided us with a $500,000 grant over five years that includes a full time prevention specialist in one of our schools, the TALK program, the DART Youth Prevention Program and a unique Med Sci Academy at Barnegat High School.
I am very proud of the accomplishments of our district under my leadership. Passing a tax burden on to tax payers is something that school administrators should work to avoid. Although funding for programs is necessary, there are many ways to do so that reduce the strain placed on families and community members who are already struggling or on a fixed income.