Candidate for Director
Jennifer Bolton Carls, Ed.D.
Otsego Northern Catskill BOCES
Grand Gorge, New York
Dr. Jennifer Bolton Carls is currently the Deputy Superintendent at Otsego Northern Catskill BOCES. The BOCES serves 19 component schools and offers a large range of management services such as a shared business office, human resource programs, self insured health and dental consortiums, labor relations services and leadership of safety risk management.
Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University at Buffalo. Her master’s degree in Education Administration and her SBA certification coursework were completed at Long Island University. She also attended Dowling College where she accomplished her Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Technology. Her research topic was titled “The relationship among school business administrators’ actual and ideal use of computer technology and school district financial efficiency”. This research led Jennifer to her interest in using new technologies in the workplace.
Jennifer began her career in the banking field in the Human Resource Department at North Fork Bank. After returning to the educational field and after completing her School Business Administration certification, she received an internship at the Cold Spring Harbor School District. Once certified, Jennifer was appointed District Treasurer and worked as the Assistant to the Deputy Superintendent in Cold Spring Harbor Schools. Jennifer went on to serve as Director of Finance for the Erie 2 CC BOCES before her appointment as Assistant Superintendent at ONC BOCES in 2005.
Jennifer is a past president for NYSASBO, having served on the Board of Directors for seven years. She is currently a member of the NYS ASBO Membership Committee, a strand coordinator for the NYSASBO Summer Workshop and a member of the Management Techniques Committee for ASBO International. Jennifer also served on a statewide committee to develop the new School District Business Leader exam and has been asked to present at conferences for ASBO International, NYSASBO and NYS School Boards.
- ASBO International shall continue its work to promote the image of the School Business Official as professional in the area of school leadership.
- ASBO International will be the leader in offering professional development opportunities to assist members in this ever changing environment of school finance.
- ASBO International shall serve all members by working with the state associations to provide a place for members to learn from one another as well as share ideas and information.
- ASBO International shall assist members in their role as advocate on behalf of their school districts and their communities with key legislative bodies, government agencies and other associations.
- As a member of the Board of Directors for ASBO International, I will continue to listen to the inputs of my colleagues, both in New York State and beyond, and to be their voice for ideas or concerns.
Schools today are serving a more diverse student population than ever before. There are increased expectations for educational reform, for raising student test scores, and for preparing students for a world that none of us could have ever imagined. At the same time, resources continue to decline. How best can school business officials help their school systems effectuate these changes?
My home state of New York has adopted a state budget that minimally increased aid to schools while many of the Federal Government educational funding programs that we currently rely on are coming to a close. This follows a significant economic recession that resulted in years of state aid reductions and mid-year aid take backs. As I connect with my colleagues from across the country, I know New York State Schools are not alone. We all have been asked to do more with less and this trend will continue into the foreseeable future.
Recently, I had the opportunity to read an educational economics book, Where Do School Funds Go by Dr. Marguerite Roza. Dr. Roza is a research professor at the University of Washington’s College of Education and a senior scholar at the Center on Reinventing Public Education who has spent over a decade studying educational spending and its link to productivity. The book was recommended by the NYS Commissioner of Education to his leadership team as a way to frame their conversations about how to increase student achievement with less financial support. The premise of Dr. Roza's research is that schools need better data collection and analysis systems in order to best use current resources to produce our most valued educational outcomes. For example, in the schools she studied, Dr. Roza found that many districts are spending more per pupil on electives such as ceramics and cheerleading, than they are on math and science.
In these economic times, school districts across the county must precisely track how their organization spends money, if their investment is resulting in higher student performance and if school leaders are really driving resources to support their primary goals. If we must do more without more funding, we need to evaluate the way in which we spend the monies we do have. More than anyone else, the School Business Official is the person who needs to link the educational arena with the financial statistics in a way that can be understood by fellow administrators, the public and policy setters. I believe this is the time for the School Business Officials to step into this leadership position. Who is better poised to assist schools with the financial facts, which I believe will lead to better decisions about educational programming and ultimately to higher achievement for all students?
The American educational system is continually being compared to those in other countries. Comparisons include student achievement, length of student day, funding, and facilities. Looking at other countries to which we have been compared, is there any one country’s educational system, or bits and pieces from countries that seem to “get it,” that the United States could use as a model for educational reform?
There is much we can learn from educational systems around the world. We must be open to observing and learning from best practices and find the means to incorporate these best practices into our system. As we have found throughout history, much can be gained from the study of others and adopting these reforms to fit our values and culture. While there is not one country’s educational system I would look to as the model, we could learn from studying student success from around the globe.
I believe we must look to countries, such as China and India, which have recently gained respect in terms of educational successes. During President Obama’s 2010 speech regarding the continued funding of education in the United States, he was quoted as saying we are in an “educational arms race” with these two countries. Each of these countries has invested large portions of their respective budgets to improve education of their youth. In addition, they are also investing in graduate and post graduate education in the form of scholarships for their most able students. Many educational leaders from across our country are making visits to study their educational systems. They are discovering that along with financial investments, students and their families are making more investments of time. Children in these countries spend less time socializing, playing sports, or working part-time, and more time in school or receiving tutoring. More research must be done on the long term effects of the differences in educational standards; yet, the dilemma we face is how long should we ponder these issues in America while student success is rising worldwide?
I would also look to our northern neighbors and review the ability of our partners in Canada to produce high scores in reading, math and science. According to the most recent PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment, statistics shows that Canada ranks third out of 65 countries in the world in terms of performance by 15 year olds in the areas of numeracy, literacy and science last year. How is Canada producing such results?
Lastly, I would like to see additional studies of countries that
consider the care of the whole child. We should study Scandinavian
countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland, which usually score in the
top of the rankings in terms of humanitarian issues. They offer
low cost healthcare, rank lower in poverty rates, offer nutritional
assistance and paid child rearing policies. I have seen firsthand
the effect these areas of a child’s life can have on their
educational success. If America is going to continue to be a world
leader, we must be prepared to adapt, invest, and nurture our most
prized resource – our children.
The school business official typically wears a number of “hats,” having to be a generalist in educational support rather than a specialist in budget, as most would think. While budget and financial management are the main functions of the SBO, many SBOs spend a majority of their time dealing with a variety of other issues. Given the wide range of knowledge and expertise the SBO must have, how best can ASBO International prepare its members for the SBO “world of work?”
In ASBO International’s document,
Who We Are and What We Believe, a path has already been
created to lead our members in their preparation for the new world of
School Business Officials. ASBO’s goals have been
outlined to include enhancing the professionalism of our members, to
improve the school districts in which they work, assist members with the
ever changing environment, provide members with a place to exchange
information and ideas, and to assist members in their legislative
In order to achieve these goals, I believe ASBO International must provide our members with the best professional development opportunities. This includes timely and relevant topics, well prepared and researched instructors, and mediums that make the instruction available and usable by all members, be it in person at the annual conference, or through distance learning such as webinars and online courses. Certainly, the topics would include technical skills, such as, best practices in school district budgeting, the importance of a good cashflow tracking system, and steps for a successful capital project.
Beyond these types of technical skills, the School Business Official of today needs to ensure they have some of the softer 21st century skill sets. The association must also provide professional development in the areas of digital literacy, effective communication and innovative “out of the box” thinking. The leaders of tomorrow will also be required to understand and work with many different cultures, have the ability to deal effectively with change and work both independently and as part of a team. To master these skills sets, one must be aware of the shifting world of work and be willing to evolve. ASBO International can help members step out of their comfort zones to maintain success in the field.
Members also need a place to learn from their
colleagues. It’s easy to forget that you are not alone,
while serving in the capacity of the schools district’s business
leader. Many SBOs are often the only administrator within the
school district with expertise in business and operational
management. ASBO International can be the place that
supports members’ need to share ideas, information, and resources
and to collaborate on their work. When I lead a round table
discussion at an ASBO International conference, I learned that some of
the issues I face in rural New York may have already been addressed in
other places like Colorado or Alaska. The state funding
issues that I am dealing with in New York are similar to those that
other members in New Jersey and California have already dealt
with. As I travel and connect with colleagues, I am excited about
their willingness to share their wisdom. ASBO International can
continue to help prepare our members for the ever changing world of work
by providing them a space to connect, share, learn and