School finance experts moving on
TOWNSHEND -- Wanted: Someone to develop and help manage a combined $20 million in school budgets for what is, geographically, Vermont's second-largest supervisory union.
That's just one portion of the job description for Windham Central Supervisory Union's chief financial officer -- a slot that administrators are looking to fill because veteran CFO Frank Rucker is moving on.
Rucker isn't going far: He's heading to Brattleboro to take the top financial job in Windham Southeast Supervisory Union. But officials at Townshend-based Windham Central are expressing concern about finding a replacement in relatively short order.
"We are in a search process ... we'll see what we get," Windham Central Superintendent Steven John said. "We're certainly trying to obtain the services of someone approaching Frank's capacities."
Rucker and the man he is replacing as of July 1, Windham Southeast Business Administrator Jim Kane, don't earn many headlines.
But if you're a resident of any school district in central or southeastern Windham County, they've played a major role in shaping your local education budget for decades. Combined, they have more than 60 years of experience.
"The two of those guys, they're the finest administrators I've known over the course of my 40 years in education," Windham Southeast Superintendent Ron Stahley said.
Now, both men are on the move as Kane is retiring after 35 years on the job. Kane's body of work was recognized at several Town Meetings earlier this month, and he earned a round of applause in Vernon.
"He's been an institution. His knowledge of the system, and his budget work, is amazing," Stahley said of Kane. "He's just a great resource not only for principals, but also the school boards."
Rucker also praised Kane.
"I know that Jim Kane's been very highly regarded, and he's built very good systems and solid systems," he said.
Rucker has a similar level of experience. He's been employed by Windham Central since 1988, managing business and financial matters under various job titles and employment arrangements, including his most-recent post as CFO since 2007.
Rucker is a near-constant presence as schools develop and then communicate their budget plans to the public: For instance, he has been deeply involved in Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School's budget talks both prior to and following voters' Feb. 5 rejection of the school's fiscal year 2015 spending plan.
Addressing the Leland & Gray board Tuesday night, John said Rucker "not only provides brilliant analysis mathematically and financially, but also presents things and explains things to the public in a way that's quite commendable."
John added that "all the boards that we serve certainly are dependent on that expertise and experience."
Given the complexity of Vermont's educational-funding system, which collects and then redistributes local school-tax revenues, Rucker noted that serving as a sort of interpreter and explainer "is, I think, a critical part of the role."
Stahley is familiar with Rucker's expertise, having worked with him previously at Windham Central.
"I think we're very fortunate that Frank was interested in pursuing this opportunity," Stahley said.
Rucker said he is excited about the chance to serve Windham Southeast.
"It's a much bigger system (in terms of enrollment), so it will be challenging from that point of view," he said. "But it's also a really well-established system in terms of community support and the comprehensive programs that they have."
Rucker added that, "I would hope there will be a fair amount of collaboration in the future with the same system I'm in now."
John expressed a similar sentiment at the Leland & Gray meeting. But he also said it is unclear how many qualified candidates will apply for a job that, according to an online job description, also includes supervision of the supervisory union's accounting operations as well as assistance with "development and completion of facility improvements" such as school construction and renovation.
John said he will have a better idea of how the candidate search is going by late April.
"We'll know where we stand," John said. "Then, if I have to reopen (the search) or change the job description or something, we'll deal with that."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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