Budgeting a Good Meal

By Chief Business and Operations Officer, Mark Evans

Tomorrow is the mysterious, unknown guest. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Each holiday at my mother-in-law’s table an extra place setting is prepared. It is a tradition she carries from her childhood in Europe. I have yet to see someone arrive and take the empty seat at the table, but there is always room, and there is enough food to accommodate one more. She makes an amazing roast duck that harkens back to her European roots and a homemade cranberry relish reflective of the recipes she learned upon landing in New England. It’s a delicious meal and satiating, not gluttonous and expansive with loads of leftovers, but there would be enough for one more.

So why is the business guy going on about roast duck, cranberry relish, and an additional table setting? It’s just good planning. Right now I am working on the menu for all of our students in 2017-2018. I want it to be delicious. I want it to satiate everyone. And, I want to make sure we have enough in the event some mysterious, unknown guest arrives.
Operating a school district requires addressing the immediate needs of current students, families and staff. We must also sustain our schools so current as well as future students can rely on a nourishing experience. Lastly, we need to be prepared for any surprises. Our budget must serve all of these elements. As May arrives and we finalize our budget for the upcoming years, we make sure dollars are there to address immediate needs, we look ahead to assure we can provide continuity and reliability for our programs, and we set up plans for the mysterious unknowns that may arise.

The instruction that is prepared for our students is the visual product of education, but putting that on the table requires a lot of preparation. Of course there is the work of all the teachers and school staff in creating those lessons and experiences. There are also multiple components that support the instruction such as technology for classrooms, preparing food for students, keeping the lights, maintaining the pool, and so many other tasks required to deliver a rich educational experience. La Cañada does this well.
Across time La Cañada has been known for its excellent educational program. This relates directly to a phrase I have heard often in the district – “At La Cañada our success is intentional.” The intentionality demands planning, anticipation, and organization. This choreography creates a sustainable program that serves up an outstanding education year after year. The community and staff are always looking at what we do well, making sure we can continue doing it and even better, and being prudent so our programs are not derailed when something unexpected happens.

School budgets are hard. There are many priorities and pulls at the purse strings. What makes this district such a success is that the objectives are clear, and the budget functions just like that holiday meal. We prepare the most appetizing menu we can. We make sure there is minimal waste. We want to be able to have another spectacular meal in our next budget, and we want to be sure that some mysterious unknown will not derail all the efforts of our community to create a reliable, robust, and hearty, educational experience.