After nearly 33 years in school business, Karla Soto, chief financial officer for Tucson Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona, still credits her first superintendent (and mentor) for instilling in her a work ethic that focuses on being a good resource for customers.
Karla spent 12 years with the Santa Cruz County (AZ) Superintendent’s office, first as a deputy and later chief deputy, where she reviewed school budgets and other financial elements and worked with improving technology. As a result, Santa Cruz was one of Arizona’s first districts to connect all schools to a mainframe computer system. During her tenure there, Karla obtained her degree in business management, thanks in large part to classes offered through Arizona ASBO.
When a school business manager from another district encouraged her to apply for a position at Nogales (AZ) Unified School District, she did so and was hired as business manager. While she was at Nogales, the district reorganized, and Karla became the finance director, assuming more responsibilities. After 18 years there, she decided it was time for a new challenge. Three years ago, she moved into her current position in Tucson.
Moving from a 6,200-student district to one with 48,000 involved a learning curve and a change in approach to her job. Karla admits that it was a tough adjustment to switch from a hands-on manager to one who delegates responsibilities. “That’s how I’ve grown,” she says. “I’ve learned how to give people the necessary tools and resources to do their job.”
Karla knows firsthand that in school business, regardless of how well you prepare yourself for any given situation, the learning never stops. She encourages those who are new to the field to network as much as possible. “Do your research,” she says, “but remember that there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.”
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