The Mountain View Whisman school board voted 5-0 Thursday to appoint Stevenson Elementary School Principal Rebecca Westover as the district's new chief business officer, while at the same time paying $95,000 to keep its interim business officer for another year.
Westover's promotion to the district office was one of several major staffing changes announced earlier this month, with her role at the Stevenson being filled by Ryan Santiago, currently assistant principal at Graham Middle School. The administrative shuffle was prompted by staffing turnover late in the school year.
"Thank you so much for the opportunity," Westover said at the June 13 school board meeting. "I'm very much looking forward to staying in our district and taking on this new position."
Unlike past hires, where there is a clean transition from one chief business officer to another, the district will continue to rely on Interim Chief Business Officer Ron Wheelehan during Westover's first year on the job. Sliding through on the consent calendar with no discussion, the school board also voted 5-0 to retain Wheelehan as an independent contract through until June 2020 for a cost not to exceed $95,000.
The contract states Wheelehan will be paid $30,000 for coaching and mentoring Westover, along with $20,000 for budget analysis, $10,000 for managing construction programs and $15,000 for assisting the district's maintenance, operation and transportation department -- all major components of the business officer's job description.
Rudolph said the assistance from Wheelehan and training courses through the California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO) will help Westover prepare for the new job. Westover recently received a doctorate in education at the University of La Verne, and holds a bachelor's degree in public relations with a minor in economics.
Rudolph said the district will also connect her with other budget officers in neighboring school districts for assistance in the transition.
In late April, the school board voted to terminate its contract with CBO Robert Clark, who had been away on leave since February. Shortly after, the district began accepting job applications for a replacement, with the requirements on the job listing that include experience in administration, education or business. Work experience in a district office and credentials in administrative services were "preferred" but not required.
Other districts seek qualifications that are rooted more closely in budget management and fiscal services. Palo Alto Unified, for example, required experience in school district business operation, knowledge of fiscal operations and capital construction functions and an ability to "assemble, analyze, and make appropriate recommendations for fiscal and budget actions." Sunnyvale School District's chief financial officer job requires a bachelor's degree in business, economics, accounting, finance or a related field and "five years of significant knowledge and direct experience with California school finance accounting."
Clark, the district's previous chief business officer, had experience as the business officer at Alameda Unified and before that an assistant superintendent of business in Burlingame. School board members lauded Clark's ability to present the budget in a clear and concise way, and credited him for putting an increasingly complicated construction budget into focus as trustees weighed whether to open a new school.
Though the contract for Westover generated little discussion, board member Laura Blakely said she believes the new hire is a good choice.
"I'm confident that Dr. Westover is going to do a wonderful job," Blakely said. "I know she has a lot to learn but I'm confident she's going to ace it."
District spokeswoman Shelly Hausman told the Voice in an email that the $95,000 contract with Wheelehan is a good use of funds that ensures a "smooth transition" in leadership. Along with coaching, the district will be relying on his expertise to wrap up capital spending using Measure G funds and make recommendations on how to more efficiently spending district funding on stipends, child nutrition and transportation.
"Considering the specialized nature of district CBO work and the accuracy required, we think this investment is wise," she said.
Budget management may require a different set of skills than those of a principal, but it's still a fairly frequent stepping stone. Mike Mathiesen, who works the equivalent job of assistant superintendent of business services at the Mountain View Los Altos High School District, was an assistant principal and social studies teacher at Mountain View High School. Craig Goldman, the former superintendent of Mountain View Whisman, became chief business officer after serving as principal at Huff Elementary School.
Goldman told the Voice in an email that principals are actually pretty well positioned for the job. They get plenty of experience managing budgets and facilities, and have a "keen sense" for what resources are needed to support students, teachers and staff.
"While CBOs need to be comfortable with the numbers for strategic purposes, districts have accountants to provide technical checks and balances," Goldman said. "Of course, nobody comes to his or her first CBO position fully ready for the challenges of the job, but there are plenty of training opportunities."