Beginning his professional career in 2010, Lucas Ratliff spent four years auditing school districts and other forms of local government when he realized that working in a school district would be the best way to combine his passion for education and finance. He has since worked for three school districts, and beginning in January took on the role of assistant treasurer with Upper Arlington City Schools in Columbus, Ohio. This growing district serves just over 6,000 students and is annually ranked among the top districts in the state.
Two years ago, Lucas was awarded an Emerging School Business Leaders Scholarship to attend the ASBO International Annual Meeting & Expo in Texas. “This was the first time I had the opportunity to participate in school business on a national level,” he says. “I was fortunate to take part in some great professional development opportunities and got to network with professionals from across the country.”
Lucas has appreciated learning from colleagues who have walked in his shoes. He especially believes in face-to-face professional development opportunities and recalls picking up several ideas obtained at the Annual Meeting & Expo in Denver in September and implementing them in his district.
“I had the opportunity to see a presentation on the unique ways a district overcame facilities issues,” Lucas says. “They had a fire at their board office and lost nearly all of their records. This presentation brought digitization of records to the forefront for us, and we've recently contracted with a vendor to start having our records maintained electronically.”
Lucas says that the biggest challenge his office faces is educating the community on how school finance works. “There are so many myths and misinformation about property values and taxes,” he says. Through in-person meetings, mailings, and social media platforms, the district recently made significant communication efforts regarding a $230 million bond issue combined with an operating levy that will bring in $6.3 million annually. Earlier this month, they were pleased that the levy passed by a margin of 55% to 45%.
“Be prepared for change,” Lucas says. “If you are unwilling to accept change and new challenges, then school business is not the field for you. I have always told myself if you're not adapting to change to move forward, then you're moving backwards.”
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