In this episode, host Carole Dorn-Bell speaks with Jenni Logan, named the 2016 Outstanding Treasurer/CFO of the Year by the Ohio Association of School Business Officials’ Foundation for School Business Management. Logan, who is treasurer of Lakota Local Schools near Cincinnati, talks about a Financial Communication Plan, lessons learned from losing ballot initiatives and the value of a listening tour.
Dorn-Bell and Logan first discuss the benefits of having a prospectus document, which weaves together and combines the narratives of what’s happening academically, facility-wise, operationally and fiscally.
“Because those are all so interrelated,” Dorn-Bell says. “It’s this fabulous document.”
Many school districts struggle with financial communication, so it’s important to have materials conveying all relevant details.
“We communicate quite a bit about what’s going on instructionally inside the walls of the school district,” Logan says. “But the financial piece, we don’t do as often.”
In its own improvement process, Lakota Local Schools started with a communications audit.
Logan says she and the district first wanted to understand what they were communicating and, second, how they were doing it.
The bottom line: All stakeholders are interested in return on investment.
It’s essential to convey that concept, but not with an overwhelming “data dump” or overly complex documents.
Instead, documents should be easy to read and have graphs and charts to help tell the financial story.
A favorite chart of Logan and Dorn-Bell shows how the Lakota tax rate compares to neighboring districts.
“We never want anyone to feel like we are not being transparent,” Logan says. “We want to present it in a way that is understandable.”
Financial communication is especially important in levy proposals.
Lakota dealt with a string of defeats before Logan’s communications audit and listening tour.
“We said, ‘here’s what we’re asking for and here’s exactly how we’re going to spend it,’” she says. “And it passed.”