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Iowa City parents want school district changes after administrator resignation

BY JORDYN REILAND | JANUARY 30, 2012 7:20 AM

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Local parents said Iowa City School District financial officials need to run the district with a growing student population in mind as district leaders begin searching for a new chief financial officer.

Paul Bobek, the district's former executive director of administrative services, resigned Jan. 10 after working in the position for nearly a decade. The recently opened position will be advertised as early as Friday.

Many district parents said finances weren't managed efficiently under Bobek's tenure given the district's size. The complaints stem from events like an April 2011 incident in which $2.5 million for the next year's budget were mistakenly budgeted twice.

"What we need to do is stop running the district like a small district," said former district parent Maria Conzemius. "It seems like people have to reinvent the wheel if they want to do something. There are a lot of changes to be made, and we need to be careful not to continue the floppy self-servicing practices that have been in place for at least eight years."

The new financial director also needs to begin opening up bidding contracts for district construction projects, she said.

Jim Pedersen, the district's executive director of human resources, said school districts often fall behind in infrastructure growth because of a lack of resources.

"Anytime you are in a growing district, it's always better than the alternative," he said. "It's hard because with school districts, we tend to be one step behind the private sector with diminishing resources."

Superintendent Stephen Murley said he agreed the district's population is growing while the district's infrastructure stays largely the same.

"The district has grown dramatically in population and complexity over the past decade; however, some of the support systems necessary to facilitate this change have not grown in tandem," he wrote in an email.

The School District enrolls roughly 12,000 students, a slight increase from 11,900 during the 2009-10 school year, according to district enrollment reports.

After the financial position is advertised, the interview process will be conducted in April. Pedersen said the district has a goal to hire a candidate no later than July 1, using suggestions from the Synesi report — a district-wide systems audit — to aid the process.

The Synesi report, printed before Bobek's resignation, recommended hiring a budget director to separate work on the district's budget from accounting functions. Yet district parent Julie Van Dyke said the district would be better off hiring one person capable of handling both functions.

"They just need one person, and that would be cost-saving," she said.

Murley said the district is looking for someone who understands the complexity of the financial systems.

"The district needs someone who understands organizational complexity and systems thinking," he wrote in an email. "This person will need to be able to both manage the budget/financial processes necessary for a district of our size."

Van Dyke said the resignation of Bobek and the new hiring is a big growth opportunity for the district.

"This is the biggest chance to turn this stuff around that we've had," she said.


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