Member Spotlight from February 1, 2018
While only in the early years of her career, Ashley Zielinski is hungry to become an expert in the school business field. A graduate of Monmouth University, Zielinski earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a CPA, an MBA, and school business administrator certificate—all while working full time.
Zielinski was always intrigued by school operations, and at the advice of her MBA mentor, researched financial leadership roles in school districts. “I learned of the school business administrator role and I obtained my Certificate of Eligibility through the State of New Jersey,” she explains. “I began applying to jobs and found a home as an assistant business administrator with the Hillsborough Township School District.” She started in November 2016.
Hillsborough serves 7,300 students and nine schools in Somerset County, New Jersey. It is a high-performing district that has been a pioneer in the 1:1 technology initiative across all grade levels. The district also has operated under strict state and federal operational guidelines that require fiscal excellence.
Zielinski’s focus for her first year on the job was to learn as much as she could about school operations. “I had never worked in a school district before so I had to learn all about food service, transportation, building maintenance, curriculum, governmental accounting, and so much more,” Zielinski recalls.
“I am happy to have been through a full year of operations with the school district, but I have so much more to learn,” Zielinski says. “The more experience I gain, the more questions I have, as I want to develop a deep knowledge in all aspects of school operations.”
Zielinski credits both ASBO International and Hillsborough’s school business administrator, Aiman Mahmoud, as being key resources in her on-the-job education. “As part of my School Business Administrator Certification program, I attended NJASBO classes in all areas of school operations, which provided me with the baseline knowledge I needed. In addition, my business administrator has been the best resource for me. He provides me with the guidance and support I need to be successful in my role. He gives me the opportunity to problem solve on my own and offers suggestions, while also providing me with the guidance to make the right decision,” Zielinski says.
Zielinski’s advice to other early-career school business officials is to dig into available resources. “I found a lot of great resources through my business administrator, co-workers, my mentor, and others. Our monthly county meetings provide us with reminders of due dates and resources for how to complete upcoming tasks. In addition, I would advise school business officials to find a school district that they feel at home in. When you are happy in your role, going to work never feels like a job but instead like an opportunity to grow and learn. I am extremely lucky to have found that with the Hillsborough Township School District.”