The Chief Business Officer is a district-hired official who manages the district’s financial resources (Townley & Schmieder-Ramirez, 2015, p. 48). The CBO is so important to large school districts in assisting with financial matters pertaining to enrollment increases that “this need typically takes precedence over hiring a staff member to manage personnel or instruction” (p. 48). It’s alarming reality that because California public education is such big business, priority is placed on financial matters. It does make sense, however, because in order to successfully implement operational costs of teachers, curricular materials, facilities, as well as technology, a district needs to have its financial matters in order. And due to the complexities of our state’s educational financial system—the LCFF, LCAP goals, restricted and unrestricted spending, ADA, as well as bond measures (such as the recent facilities bond initiative)--it is wise to seek out the assistance of a professional CBO (“Ballotpedia,” 2015).
According to Townley and Schmieder-Ramirez, the CBO’s role has shifted dramatically, “from that of a bookkeeper to the increasingly complex and technical responsibility of accounting for the many programs offered by a school district” (p. 49). Such tasks that most business officers must complete include “strategic planning; financial planning and budgeting; information technology; collective bargaining; fiscal accounting, reports and auditing; payroll; purchasing and warehousing; insurance and risk management; facilities management; and providing fiscal information to the board of education” (p. 49). Large districts, such as LBUSD, have very complex tasks broken down into many subcategories, for which the CBO is responsible.
To briefly elaborate on each of the aforementioned tasks that a good CBO role should fulfill, I’ll begin by discussing the very important task of strategic planning. Strategic planning can get very messy for the CBO. Because of all the “what if” scenarios that may unfold after a plan has been drafted, a CBO and/or superintendent could be stuck having to rearrange monies to meet certain needs (p. 50). Financial planning and budgeting allows the CBO to make sure all LCAP goals are being met with the appropriated funds determined by the LCFF (p. 51). The CBO’s role also entails being digitally literate, as extensive data needs to be analyzed, prepared and presented to stakeholders (p. 51). Collective bargaining is a major responsibility in today’s educational system, as “the vast majority of California school district employees are members of a labor union” (p. 51). A good CBO regularly reports the condition of the district’s finances to the superintendent and school board (p. 51). Because approximately 80% of a district’s budget is allocated to payroll of employees, the CBO must have sound procedures in this area (p. 52). And let’s not forget the benefits of those employees! A good risk management and insurance system, also the responsibility of the CBO, “reduces injuries and losses” [for the district] (p. 52). The CBO is responsible for overseeing facility maintenance, construction and use, and this might include frequent visits to various school sites within the district (p. 53). Cost-effective transportation systems for students is another issue that requires delegated oversight from the CBO and/or superintendent (p. 53). If transportation wasn’t a large enough issue for the CBO to handle, food service probably would be. Both transportation and food service are “highly regulated by state and federal legislation” (p. 53). Lastly, but not least of all ,the CBO must oversee purchasing and warehousing (p. 52).
To reiterate, successful CBOs “are responsible for developing and managing the technical details of the budget, monitoring fiscal activities, and advising the school board and superintendent on the district’s fiscal health” (“Keeping California School Districts Fiscally Healthy, 2007). The CBO can be an excellent resource to technology leaders in any district because of the last task of the CBO mentioned in the paragraph above: purchasing. As stated by Townley and Schmieder-Ramirez, “…the purchasing staff needs to go beyond legal requirements to provide instructional supplies for classrooms in adequate quantities and in timely fashion” (p. 52). Technology leaders can and should plead their case for the types of instructional supplies that are relevant in the ever-evolving world we, and our students, live in today. In order to satisfy the inequities that currently exist across various districts throughout California, it would seem easy for technology leaders and CBOs to brainstorm purchase orders for appropriate technologies, as well as quantities of those devices for the sake of educating our students. Effective inquiry-based learning is often accompanied by appropriate technology for the use of collaborating, documenting, and sharing learning that has occurred.
My ultimate goal while in this cohort is to really learn and abide by the correct protocol for proposing technology-based expenditures for the betterment of our students. I believe that technology awareness and implementation is spreading exponentially, which adds to the support of the case I have argued. In addition to the spending on the physical needs of improved and appropriate technology, technology leaders should also advocate for regular, efficient and effective professional development for school staff so that consistent teaching can take place in the classrooms. This is a dream of mine, and I hope to accomplish it in the near future.
Townley, A & Schmieder-Ramirez, J. (2015). School Finance: A California Perspective (10th ed.). Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
California Public Education Facilities Bond Initiative. (2015). Ballotpedia. Retrieved June 11, 2015, fromhttp://ballotpedia.org/California_Public_Education_Facilities_Bond_Initiative_(2016)
Keeping California School Districts Fiscally Healthy [PDF document]. (April, 2007). Retrieved June 11, 2015, from http://edsource.org/wp-content/publications/Districtfiscalhealth.pdf