Member Spotlight from January 4, 2018
Brittany Dortch had done the corporate thing. After six years as an external auditor with a major corporation, she was feeling the itch to move on. “I wanted to work for an organization that had a mission that was about people, that was service oriented,” Dortch explains.
When she learned that Portsmouth Public Schools in Portsmouth, Virginia, was in need of a new director of accounting, she applied for the position and was hired. After just 18 months working in the education sector—and right in the middle of budget season—Dortch was thrust into the role of interim chief financial officer when the CFO announced his retirement. No pressure.
Reviewing the current processes and forming new ones in the midst of preparing the budget presentation was difficult, but she was up to the task. After six months in the interim role, Dortch was offered a permanent role as CFO of Portsmouth Public Schools in September 2016.
The 14,600-student district has 13 elementary schools, three preschool centers, three middle schools, three high schools, and an alternative education school. The system has a comprehensive dual enrollment program with a local community college and a STEM-focused partnership program with a local nonprofit, Starbase, in which all third and fourth grade students participate.
Before working in the school system, Dortch had audited a school division, but found that the facets of school business are more complex than the “average citizen” may expect. She credits ASBO International with helping her get up to speed on all things school business in the short amount of time that she has been in the field.
“ASBO serves as a great resource…Our division participates in the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting program. The comments you get back from reviewers help enhance what you’re doing and what you’re presenting to the public,” she says.
Dortch has found particular value in meeting other school business officials and considers ASBO International’s Annual Meeting & Expo a key resource in helping her with decision making and leadership. “The annual meeting touches on everything that affects public education.”
Her best advice to those new to the field? “Get a handle on how the public school system is funded,” Dortch advises. “Make sure you understand school division needs. It may take having those conversations with front line people to make sure you know what’s going on. Definitely take advantage of resources available. And don’t be afraid to bring new ideas and processes. If you know it will enhance a school division, it will be worth it to bring innovation to public education.”