Brian Allen started his school business career in 1994 as a budget analyst for Worcester (Mass.) Vocational Schools while completing graduate school. When the business manager resigned, Allen was asked to “keep things going” while the superintendent sought a replacement. About three weeks into the temporary assignment, Allen was asked to stay on full time as the business manager.
Worcester Vocational Schools was relatively small at the time, with about 1,000 students and 150 faculty members. Consequently, Allen had to learn all aspects of school business. “Two years later, the vocational school system was placed on warning status by the accreditation board due to aging facilities,” Allen says. To qualify for higher state building reimbursement, the city decided to merge the vocational school district under the much larger public school district.
“Due to fortunate timing during the time of the merger of the districts, the assistant business manager for the Worcester Public Schools retired, and I applied and was ‘promoted’ into that position,” Allen says. Four years later, in 2002, Allen was promoted again to business manager. “Since then, the position has been given greater responsibility and changed titles a few times, and today I am the district’s chief financial and operations officer, responsible for all budget and finance, facilities, student transportation, school nutrition, information technology, and environmental management.”
The Worcester Public School system is the third-largest school district in Massachusetts, with 25,300 students. The 44-school district includes 33 pre-K–6 schools, two 6–8 middle schools, two 7–8 middle schools, two 7–12 schools, five 9–12 schools, including a vocational-technical high school, and alternative programs. Allen’s responsibilities include managing a $388 million budget and overseeing more than 600 employees in the Finance and Operations Division.
Allen’s accomplishments in Worcester have brought him much-deserved recognition. He received ASBO’s Distinguished Eagle Award in 2013 as well Massachusetts ASBO’s President’s Award in 2017. Under his leadership, Worcester Public Schools is a four-time recipient of ASBO’s Meritorious Budget Award; the district also received Massachusetts ASBO’s Operational and Cost Efficiency Award in 2016.
Allen challenges his professional growth each year in new areas. “The frequent School Business Affairs, School Business Leader, and Accents Online allow for brief updates and best practices in our field, and notably attending the Annual Meeting and Expo provide me, in just four short days away from the office, with insightful professional education from colleagues or content experts, inspiration and motivation from keynote speakers, existing and new vendor connections to meet district needs; quality time to learn from colleagues around the world, and participation in award recognition programs of shared best practices and achievement all under one roof,” says Allen.
His roots run deep in Worcester. In fact, he is a proud graduate of Worcester Public Schools. “The current superintendent was a teacher at my alma mater high school while I attended,” Allen shares. “Although unspoken, I’m pretty sure the superintendent now requires me to mention that I am a graduate of Worcester’s South High School every time I make public presentations to parent, community, and business groups,” Allen says with a wink.