The Pinnacle Awards celebrate the work of outstanding individuals whose original solutions maximize resources and enhance student achievement.
Congratulations to the 2019 Pinnacle Award recipients—innovators in school business management!
Pinnacle of Excellence Award Recipient
Executive Administrator, Budget
Jefferson County Public Schools
Budgeting by Prioritization and Outcome
In October 2016, Jefferson County Public Schools, with the guidance of John Collopy, launched a new budgeting model to differentiate budget components and track those identified as investments.
Each district investment is tied to an owner who is required to define success metrics (expected return on investment) and investment cycle to meet the goals of the investment. Each investment is reviewed at the end of its cycle based on alignment with district priorities and the possibility the expected return on investment will be achieved.
The district is tracking more than 150 investment items totaling in excess of $127 million through an online investment tracking system developed internally. During the past three years, the district has reviewed 45 end of cycle items. As the result of the review, 29 EOC investment items totaling almost $32 million were re-cycled for continuous improvement and 16 EOC items were discontinued with the $6 million savings reinvested.
Pinnacle of Achievement Award Recipients
Director of Business Services
Waupaca School District
Creating a Coffee Café for Our High School
Not only did the School District of Waupaca want to improve every student’s ability to learn, educators also wanted to connect students to diverse groups of their own peers to broaden their cultural and social acceptance of others.
With the support of Carl Hayek, a group of students, staff members and community members created an in-house coffee café in the high school where students can study, use their learning devices, and purchase nutritious menu options throughout the school day.
The café, located in the high school commons lunch area and near the Performing Arts Center, is opened to community patrons at high school events with all proceeds going to the food service department, thus also benefiting the food services program.
The overall goal is to reduce student absenteeism, have a positive impact on student achievement, and create a social environment that promotes union rather than division.
Michele Trongaard, CPA, RTSBA, SFO
Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations
Wylie Independent School District
Is There a Rainbow After the Storm?
In spring 2016, hailstorms in the Wylie Independent School District community damaged 80% of the homes and all but two of the 25 buildings in the school district. The aftermath of the storms stretched every available resource to put the students back in the classroom as quickly as possible.
Over the next months, with the guidance of Michele Trongaard, the district focused on determining the most efficient and cost-effective means to replace damaged assets while ensuring students were still able to learn with minimal disruption.
Priority was always given to the students in the classroom, and that priority led to initiatives such as sustainability programs as well as initiatives that would make a positive impact for students in the future.
By prioritizing, the district saved approximately $12 million from the $55 million insurance claim and redirected those funds for educating the students.
John Wilson, CPA
Chief School Finance Officer
Baldwin County Public Schools
Bay Minette, Alabama
Creative Financial Methods for Addressing Overcrowded Schools
Many school systems must raise taxes and pledge those proceeds toward a 20- or 30-year capital bond in order to fund construction projects. The Baldwin County school system—one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state—didn’t have the luxury of either of those two options for addressing significant overcrowding concerns.
The solution, spearheaded by John Wilson, was a four-year $60 million “pay as you go” construction financing plan utilizing local banks, low interest rates, and an aggressive draw-down funding schedule.
The first step involved going through the budget line by line, cutting expenses and creating savings that wouldn’t impact the classroom. As a result, $15 million was identified for annual capital construction needs. The second step required the district to partner with the county commission so the district could retain the commission’s backing of the capital plan and the existing sales tax could be extended to stabilize funding for this program.
Finally, the district created a financing structure that required no additional taxes and outlined a four-year timeframe to borrow and repay all outstanding debt.