A new superintendent has joined the ranks of leaders at Lodi Unified School District. Former chief business officer Tim Hern has been upgraded to associate superintendent, along with retaining the CBO tag.
Hern says this is not a promotion, but a change in titles and responsibility. He is now second-in-command of a district that has seen significant changes in priorities since Hern was hired as CBO two years ago, and oversees every department outside of educational services.
That includes facilities, maintenance and operations, technology, transportation, food services, risk management, payroll and purchasing. Hern will oversee all these departments, not just their budgets.
"My responsibility is to make sure the business operations are working to support the school side. It's not an unusual arrangement," said Hern. His salary will remain at $151,878.
Several other local school districts, including Lincoln, Manteca and Tracy unified school districts, all have one associate superintendent to manage the business side of running their schools.
Former assistant superintendent Art Hand retired from the district in December, kicking off a round of reorganization among Lodi Unified administrators.
The business side is now sorted into two senior director positions, with three tiers of directors beneath them. No one lost a job in the process, and no one's pay was cut. A new job even opened up in the food services department to manage nutrition requirements, develop menus and train new cooks.
Hern said his focus in this new position is on refreshing technology in the school district and handling ongoing budget questions.
Fiscally, the state is creating more questions than answers, said Hern.
As a result of Proposition 30 and other measures, there will be a very slight increase in education financing from the state. But there is still a long road ahead before the district returns to 2007-08 levels, said Hern.
"It's as though we stopped the leak in the dam, and one small stream is starting to trickle back in," he said.
One achievement Hern noted was that the turmoil of yearly layoffs ended during his first year as CBO.
"Teachers being notified of possibly losing their jobs is not any kind of working environment you want to be in. It put stability into the district," he said.
The needs of the district have changed since Hern came on board. New schools are no longer being built every summer. The focus now is on maintenance and keeping up the buildings that are already there.
"All the stuff you do to keep up your house needs to be done to keep up the buildings," he said.
Currently, Hern's team is in the process of developing 20- to 25-year maintenance plans for each school site. He has no plans for immediate retirement, but said he wanted to make sure district plans were in a state that he would be comfortable leaving to a successor.
His big focus is technology. Hern said the district does not have the bandwidth to support enough computers at once throughout the district. For example, when all teachers must enter report card or benchmark testing results on the same day, the system often crashes.
"Day-to-day standard use is fine, but on a high-demand, peak day, there is just not enough room," said Hern. "We need to find the resources to rebuild our technology."
The district also needs more and newer classroom computers to comply with the California Common Core Standards required by the 2013-14 school year, he said.
But Hern maintains these are exactly the kinds of problems he enjoys solving.
"What I've fallen into is my best possible contribution to doing what I can for education," he said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.