Member Spotlight from April 13, 2017
“I never knew that the job I took 21 years ago would launch this fantastic career,” says Jennifer Hermes, assistant superintendent of business services for both Lake Forest School District 67 and Lake Forest Community High School District 115 in Lake Forest, Illinois. She has spent nearly her entire career in school business, starting from a business office clerk position to her current role, which she has been in for nearly 11 years.
“I am in a unique position in that I work for two separate school districts, with staff shared between the two,” Jennifer says. One is a K–8 district that feeds into the high school district, which has more than one elementary feeder so it serves a larger geographical area than just the elementary district. In fact, it was because of her previous experience working in an integrated setting that Jennifer was hired to begin the merging of two separate business offices into one cohesive department to serve two districts.
“In order to improve operational effectiveness, we needed to do a careful examination of all aspects of the business functions of the school district,” Jennifer explains. They began by converting to a common financial software system from two separate systems. Then they worked as a team on each departmental process—payroll, accounts payable, benefits, purchasing, book distribution, online registration, food service debit cards, and others—to determine which process or system would work best in the shared office.
This process continues today. “It is critically important that both districts use the same general process to perform the same task to maximize efficiency, while allowing for the things unique to each district to function correctly,” Jennifer says. “Merging two departments from a personnel and cultural standpoint has been challenging, but working as a team helped the transition tremendously. We did not want anyone to feel that they were not doing things ‘right’; we wanted them to work together on improvement.”
Jennifer likely is able to keep up with everything that goes on within the district because she’s a self-described fitness devotee. “I love the outdoors and traveling,” she says. “I have been able to combine all three with amazing trips to Alaska, Spain, Nicaragua, Panama, Curacao, and many other wonderful places.” Last year, Jennifer backpacked a portion of the Appalachian Trail, sailed in Spain, rock climbed in Utah, hiked in Arizona, and kayaked in St. Lucia!