Fiscal Responsibility and Educational Leadership
As the electoral campaign for the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools heats up, tough questions and critical analysis are expected. As decisions are made, it is crucial to remember the role of the superintendent as the countywide education leader. To be effective in this role, she must bring districts and independent schools together to share best practices, provide appropriate training for teachers and administrators, and ensure that every child is served to reach his or her full potential and has a clear understanding of various pathways to college and career.
The county superintendent must also ensure that Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) leads by fiscal example. By law, the county superintendent must monitor the budgets and accuracy of district financial reports. Given this role, it is critical that ACOE serves as a paragon of budget management for all Alameda County school districts. Today, the office takes pride in accomplishing these goals.
During my time as superintendent, I have maintained a high quality business administration staff to monitor district budgets and prevent or correct problems as needed. Our approach is proactive and collaborative and has resulted in district budgets that are healthier than ever despite years of state budget cuts to education. Over the years, I’ve appointed six fiscal advisers to assist struggling districts. Today, each of those districts is in sound fiscal health thanks to effective intervention.
As a model of fiscal responsibility, ACOE has consistently maintained sound budget plans with strong ending balances. We take pride in our ability to build and maintain adequate reserves that allow us to plan for the unknown and to invest in the expansion of service and facilities. Our current reserves of nearly $25 million were built up over time and enable us to cover our current obligations (approximately $6 million) as well as any future liabilities while we continue to serve our students and client districts. There are not many agencies that can say the same during times of increasing pension costs and unpredictable funding from the state. The issue of an irrevocable trust has been raised and is certainly an option that can be brought to the Alameda County Board of Education to consider.
The ACOE supports full public transparency. Anyone interested in learning more about our programs and services may do so by visiting our website, www.acoe.org. You may also review our budget by clicking the link to the Approved Budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014. We gladly respond to any questions to help clarify information identified in admittedly complex, nonetheless compliant budget documents.
Sheila Jordan is the Superintendent of Schools for Alameda County.