Mountain View Whisman district spends $95k for coaching new budget officer

Interim CBO to provide mentoring, manage construction projects through next June

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.

Rebecca Westover
Westover's starting salary will be $200,000, and she begins her new role on July 1.

"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."

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65 people like this
Posted by Where is the Board oversight?
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 18, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Westover gets hired without the appropriate skills for the job. She might very well wind up being a great hire, but I do not understand why she should receive a full $200,000 contract while learning on the job and paying a consultant $95,000 to do the work. Cushy job to get paid a full salary without required job skills!

Jones gets hired a full year before Vargas opens to help get the school up and running and then quits the Summer beforehand. Cushy job to get paid for a full year without much to do!

Are we getting our money's worth out of these hires? I don't think so.

Where is the Board oversight?

31 people like this
Posted by RoxieK
a resident of Slater
on Jun 18, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Are you nuts!?!? I would expect someone coming into a position at $200,000 to be QUALIFIED for the position and not require a year of hand holding. Teachers (you know, those folks who actually teach the children) aren't paid even half of this woman's salary and they certainly aren't coddled for an entire year. Get real people. This is NOT how school district fund's should be spent.

39 people like this
Posted by Sorry, but no
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jun 18, 2019 at 2:38 pm

To not seek out someone with a financial background (preferably in schools) is seem irresponsible, especially for a high level position of this magnitude. Astonishing that they would go this route.

One can downplay the importance of a financial background, but those with proven financial skills and experience not only have a seasoned skillset, but are adroit at intuitively knowing what to check or double-check...or sensing when something seems awry. The experience also leads to a better grasp of potential ways of handling various situations.
Experience is even more critical in a position where there isn't a next level of review (Dr. Rudolph? Board members?) with financial expertise that can serve as a 2nd set of eyes.

Just amazing. But hey, what can go wrong?

39 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 18, 2019 at 3:16 pm

And remind me again how “it’s all about the kids”?

Lots of money being spent at the very top, about as far from the classroom as you can get

MVWSD, the place to go for a $200,000/year trainee position

41 people like this
Posted by so fed up
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 18, 2019 at 3:25 pm

Can we all remember this the next them this district ask us to pass another bond "for the children"? I've been in this district for 13 years and am so fed up with them treating us as if we're an ATM.

27 people like this
Posted by Edith
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2019 at 3:41 pm

She's making $5K/year less than the previous experienced CBO Robert Clark did in his last year.

3 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 18, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

In case you folks have not noticed recently, we have very low local unemployment. If you hire someone from out of the area, there are certainly housing issues. As noted, Dr. Goldman had no background in school finance. His predecessor stayed for seven years after working in non-profit finance for nine years.

In Palo Alto they have paid dearly for the "best, experienced people" and had errors in labor contracts, and in property taxes. In Palo Alto! Who'd a thunk it..=)

31 people like this
Posted by Birds of a Feather
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2019 at 5:21 pm

"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."

Just mind boggling. Ms. Blakley please just stop talking. Take a cue from Mr. Gutierrez and Ms. Wheeler. Best to just not say anything at all. You have no idea how she will do so you approved $95K to have her coached and trained. If Clark could barely handle the job, what makes you think she can? Maybe the person you should be wondering if he can handle the job or question whether knows what he's doing is Superintendent Rudolph! He's been making blunder after blunder.

Like I said before, Westover and Ghysels are perfect fits for each other given their similar values, but neither are qualified for these jobs.

And the Voice's marching out with quotes from Goldman, to somehow soften all this is really beyond the pale.

38 people like this
Posted by Strange
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 18, 2019 at 5:21 pm

A friend of mine spent a career in these positions at a sequence of Bay-Area public school districts ("assistant superintendent for business services"); his job entailed managing budgets (not unlike a comptroller), managing supplier contracts, auditing, etc.

His background: MBA degree and Certified Public Accountant license. Which seem more in line with the needed skill set than a "doctorate in education" (a type of degree long somewhat notorious in US mainstream universities -- e.g., some schools would award doctorates in "physics education" to people without even an undergraduate-major's-level knowledge of actual physics). Even if I _had_ ever heard previously, even once, of the University of La Verne (formerly a religious-denominational school, which only started awarding doctorates in 1979 according to Wikipedia) -- but precisely because I know little about that school, it's not my real complaint. Rather, that first-class work at a high-leverage, business- and accounting-intensive job would seem to call more for business and accounting training than education, public relations (?!), and and economics minor (I have that myself, it bears little connection to practical business and accountancy)

2 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 18, 2019 at 6:18 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

As a Community, we saddled Goldman with Nelson. Rudolph was hired in part because he could take it. The Board hires the Supt, they don't "employ" other district staff, the Supt does. With all the carping on these boards, we ought have a half dozen candidates for every board election. You are all welcome to run next year...

31 people like this
Posted by Wait what?!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2019 at 9:18 pm

Yet there is not enough money for a dedicated librarian for every elementary?!

1 person likes this
Posted by suggested correction for the paper
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jun 18, 2019 at 11:22 pm

Robert Clark was hired by MVWSD's interim superintendent not its current superintendent: Web Link

25 people like this
Posted by This makes no sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 19, 2019 at 8:52 am

School positions are still being cut. Actual positions that interact with the students. Parents look closely at your child's school and lodge your complaints! We have children at Graham and they have reassigned an assistant principal with no plans to hire a replacement. The District has cut support services, librarian hours, and electives. And we heard from the school that there will be more than 900 students on campus next year. 900 students, with less manpower for the office, principals, library and teachers. How can this be?

But the District has all the support they need. This really makes no sense and we cannot believe how the board just continues to go along with it. Shame on them.

Like this comment
Posted by ST parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 19, 2019 at 6:16 pm

@Wait what?!

"Yet there is not enough money for a dedicated librarian for every elementary?!"

The PRIOR CBO's budget (which was compiled to fit Board requirements) did not include a full-time Librarian for the new Vargas school, HOWEVER, the budget did tell the Board what a new Librarian would cost and POINTEDLY left it up to the Board to decide if they wanted the District to find a way to pay for this. Rudolph repeatedly tossed the question directly into the laps of the Board at every opportunity.

The Board discussed the question and based on the data from the budget, the Board chose to authorize the new position for a Vargas Librarian.

Now, just to put this in perspective, Stevenson Elementary was WITHOUT a District-paid Librarian for a few years, but one of our parents stepped into the empty seat and did the work until she was eventually hired as a full-time Librarian for Stevenson.

Also, the district did have a pretty good plan on how to cover the need at Vargas by rotating days from the other librarians of the district. Vargas was NEVER going to go without a fully functional library.

16 people like this
Posted by Wait what?!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2019 at 6:38 pm

@ST parent
I was referring to the latest round of budget cuts where they plan to cut back the hours of community facilitators, librarians, teachers aides etc.

29 people like this
Posted by Board Oversight?
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 24, 2019 at 11:12 am

So Westover, with no experience at being a CBO, gets paid $200,000 the same amount Rudolph was paid his first year as Superintendent?

And we pay a consultant another $95,000 to hold her hand?

What is the Board thinking?

18 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2019 at 5:31 pm

I read this today in the hard copy of the newspaper I got out of a box at the car wash. I was really shaking my head. Folks - taxpayers - government at almost all levels is out of control and on a mad spending spree. We can’t really afford this nonsense. Government most definitely is not managed in a businesslike manner (occasionally, we have politicians who inflict less damage), but really this is just too much.
School districts seem to be particularly poorly managed, bureaucratic, and too numerous in California. There may be a rotating cast of administrators at times.
Today, a grand jury found Oakland school district to have problems, mismanagement, crazed spending on an ongoing basis. This was on Noon KTVU Channel 2 News. The response? - shrug. Somehow, we taxpayers must indicate we’ve reached a limit on state of CA laws, rules, guidelines, bureaucracy that drive of public school costs in inane ways AND local officials must be hired who have reasonable credentials and skills to fulfill the administration of these duties. This woman is receiving luxury pay.

21 people like this
Posted by Let it Snow
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 27, 2019 at 2:57 pm

The board have been snowed by the superintendent and the Chief Human Relations Officer. When I heard about Oakland, it sounded much like MVWSD. Money wasted on consultants and administration, hiring by cronyism. Since the board is obviously out of its depth, it's time for concerned citizens (not just parents) to contact the Santa Clara County Office of Education.

7 people like this
Posted by another community member
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2019 at 10:42 pm

another community member is a registered user.

While MVWSD's new CBO will be paid $200,000 her first year on the job (with another $95,000 on coaching), MVWSD's outgoing CBO with 11 years of expereince will be paid $170,000 in his new district in Marin.
Web Link
Oakland Unified's seaoned interm is being paid $176,000.
Web Link

Voters need to pay attention to their school board.

4 people like this
Posted by another community member
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2019 at 6:16 pm

another community member is a registered user.

Correction: Oakland is paying $176,000 for a half year contract for a seasoned interim to manage their $500 million budget.
Web Link

The other links are correct, the former CBO's new Marin contract $170,000, and MVWSD's new CBO will be paid $200,000 her first year on the job (with another $95,000 on coaching) to manage MVWSD's $50 million budget.
Web Link

Related news, governor preparing for a recession by filling state reserves
Web Link

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