After five years of working in nonprofit accounting, Michelle Wearmouth entered the school business profession in 1995 in a small central Iowa district. “I mistakenly thought it would be nice to have summers off since I was working for a school, but I learned quickly that the SBO works year-round—full-time and then some!” she says. Since 1998, Michelle has served as business manager for Dallas Center-Grimes Community School District in Dallas Center, Iowa.
During her tenure, the district has grown from serving approximately 1,800 students to about 3,000 in six schools, with a seventh school expected to open this August. The district lies in Polk and Dallas Counties, the latter of which is the fifth fastest-growing county in the United States, having grown 27% since 2010.
Michelle notes that when she first began working for the district, it was in poor financial condition. In addition, there was strife between the communities, as well as a lack of communication and transparency.
“I worked hard to present a plan to correct the district’s financial position over the course of five years,” Michelle says. “The district has been financially successful since the completion of that plan and continues to maintain a strong commitment to building community trust through transparency and strong financial planning.”
By communicating to the entire district and presenting clear and concise financial data, the district and community worked toward a common goal of building a state-of-the-art high school facility. Michelle’s efforts paid off when a bond referendum held in 1999 passed—followed by five others in subsequent years.
Michelle encourages her peers, especially those new to the field, to be strong advocates for public education. “In order to build support in our communities and in legislation, we must tell the stories of the great things happening daily in our public schools,” she says.
Not only does she advocate for public schools, Michelle is a devoted supporter of her native state of Iowa, where she lives on a small farm. “While I can certainly balance debits and credits, I can also manage small livestock and have served as the poultry superintendent in my county,” she says. “I love the Iowa State Fair and haven’t missed one in my entire lifetime!