Dist. 97 'reviews' work of finance, personnel departments

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By TERRY DEAN

A review of District 97's Human Resources and Finance Departments is expected to begin before the end of the 2005 school year and will take about three months to complete, said Superintendent Constance Collins.

Collins called for the review shortly after the start of the fall 2005 semester. Collins replaced Dr. John Fagan, who retired last summer after 17 years as District 97 superintendent. The change in leadership prompted the review, according to Collins, who said that a review of two administrative departments such as this had not occurred previously to her knowledge.

"We've had major changes to our leadership in the last two to three years," said Collins. "A lot of our dollars are tied in these two departments and this is an opportunity to look at policies and procedures and see where we can improve."

The district has hired Nashville-based accounting firm Crowe Chizek and Company to handle the review. The district is paying $37,000 for its services. The District 97 school board voted a month ago to hire the firm.

The review is expected to take about three months, said Collins, which was slightly revised after the accounting firm's first meeting with Collins, board members and administrators. The firm initially estimated the review would take a little over a month, said Collins.

The review will include interviews with human resource and business staff and identifying job responsibilities, description of jobs and the major function of both departments.

Collins said the response from staff and administrators has been positive.

"We want to encourage them to work with us and share with us what they do," she said. "They should not view this as threatening to them. We see this as a way to get advice to how we conduct business and how we can do business better."

Within the last two years, all six of the district's top administrative posts have seen changes in personnel. The district has also hired a firm to help develop its strategic plan (see accompanying story).

Gary Lonquist, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, would not speculate on the nature of the review before it has started, he said. The human resources department, consisting of two administrators and one office clerk, reports directly to finance and operations, consisting of Lonquist and three clerks.

"I think it will be a very useful tool," he said. "It will allow us to look at how we do our business and to see how we can become more efficient and productive."

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