Even though I have sat through hours of San Diego County Office of Education board meetings attempting to follow presentations made by our district’s CBO (and our professor) Lora Duzyk, she is not the first CBO to come to mind. My father teaches in a small unified school district in East County San Diego. For the past few years, many of our conversations have involved stories sharing his frustration with his district’s former CBO.
My dad teaches shop classes. When he began his program, it was funded by the Regional Occupation Program (ROP). The CBO shared the annual budget with him. As a result, he was able to purchase the latest, and safest, tools and plan projects for his students by dividing his annual budget by his enrollment. To purchase supplies for his woodshop and metalshop classes, the CBO provided him with a credit card that pulled directly from his ROP budget. He voluntarily used his own truck, trailer, and gas to drive down the hill to purchase large orders. If he needed last-minute supplies, he could run to the local family-owned hardware store to purchase using an account established by the CBO. However, a few years ago, this changed when his small district’s superintendent (who was later fired for sexual harassment and eventually involved in scandals in two other districts) hired a new CBO.
Under this business office’s management, my father and his ROP colleagues were not given annual budget reports. When he inquired about how much money was in his budget for the year, the CBO responded by saying, “How much do you need?’” As a result, he struggled to complete long-term curriculum maps and often had to ration his supplies. He was unable to quickly replace and repair broken tools. Additionally, the purchasing process became very complicated. He often had to beg for funding, even though his shop repeatedly came to a standstill because students were out of basic supplies, such as plywood. When he was given a purchase order, he took it with him to Home Depot to shop; afterward, his superintendent stopped by the store on his way home from work to pay using his district credit card.
A new superintendent was hired, but the ROP program’s frustrations continued. Under the leadership of this superintendent, extra money began to funnel into the high school athletics programs. At school board meetings, the CBO made presentations in which large quantities of money appeared budget lines titled, “Other Expenses.” The school board and superintendent just smiled and praised the CBO for her hard work instead of asking questions about how these funds were spent. My father’s relationship with the CBO did not change, but he began hearing whispers from the business office staff that the ROP “other expenses” had been used to purchase new goal posts for the football field and to resurface a gym wall.
Within the last year, the CBO was fired. Her replacement has established transparency and is building relationships. The ROP program, now called Career Technical Education, receives an annual budget. The teachers in the program decide how the money should be spent and they work together to balance large purchases with smaller recurring expenses. The logistics of how to actually shop for supplies is still being worked out, but my father was recently paid his hourly rate to shop on a Saturday and hears the CBO is attempting to reestablish his account with the local hardware store. As a result of the efforts the new CBO has put into working with teachers, this year the students in my father’s shop class have been able to design and build popular projects including trebuchets, coat racks, and tone boxes.
As a technology leader, I will not need to run to Home Depot in the middle of the week--well, at least until I am fortunate enough to have a makerspace. However, I will need to work with the CBO to support students. According to Townley & Schmieder-Ramirez (2015), “California’s chief business officials are ‘key players’ in the successful management of a school district.” As a technology leader, I will need to work with the CBO so that they will be able to help me plan ahead and implement plans to increase effective technology use in my school.
Townley, A. J. & Schmieder-Ramirez, J. H.,. (2005). School finance: a California perspective. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub. Co.