In this useful breakout session that included advice from the Taunton and Hampden-Wilbraham Regional districts, some key themes included:
* Maintaining overall fiscal stability: Think carefully about cash flow management; structure for planning vs. reacting; methodically review every fiscal process and evaluate it; develop a Business Office manual that documents each job and work to maximize the efficiency of each task; build a good partnership with the city/town; inventory all software management tools to ensure working smarter - not harder; and build a reserve (rainy-day account) for contingencies.
* Revenue generation: Athletic/student activity/parking fees; create a development office that can identify revenue opportunities and work to obtain them; explore and apply green rebates; ensure clear policies around facility rental to provide fairness to the community but maximize potential revenue.
* Planning: Develop and maintain a good understanding of capital needs (including facilities, technology, etc.); remember that education priorities must lead the discussion around implementing cost restructuring that supports them; don't be afraid to take on the difficult conversations (like school restructuring) that lead to educational improvements for all students; when deemed feasible, bring special education services in-house.
* Strategic, vision-driven, high leverage investments: student safety and well-being; teacher leadership, salaries, and professional development; in-district special ed. staffing; technology.
The evidence of implementation success? Closing the achievement gap, lowering drop-out rates while increasing graduation rates, and expanding the arts as a content area that positively affects all other content areas.
Take-away: look in every nook and cranny for ways to be efficient and effective in order to point every available resource toward improving student success!
Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.