The Pinnacle Awards celebrate the work of outstanding individuals whose original solutions maximize resources and enhance student achievement.

Congratulations to the 2021 Pinnacle Award recipients—innovators in school business management!

Pinnacle of Excellence Award Recipient

Patty D. Camery, CPA, SFO
Executive Director of Finance
Frederick County Public Schools
Winchester, Virginia

Seeking a way to combat misinformation and help staff, parents, and community leaders better understand the school division’s budget process in an entertaining and engaging way, the division created a program called The Budget Game.

The annual initiative is presented as part of the school division’s community engagement program, FCPS 101, as well as at the local Chamber of Commerce's Community Leadership Program. Participants, including parents, nonparents, district staff members, and local business and community leaders, are divided into teams and, after learning about the division’s budgeting process, are tasked with determining how they, as superintendent, would allocate funds in the areas of instructional staffing, salary, technology, facilities, transportation, and professional development. During their decision-making process, they must consider needs, consequences if they choose not to fund an area, and options.

The Budget Game has strengthened community engagement and advocacy for the school system.

Pinnacle of Achievement Award Recipients

Jesus J. Amezcua, PhD, CPA
Assistant Superintendent for Business Services
Harris County Department of Education
Houston, Texas

When one of HCDE’s schools, which serves special needs students from several districts, reached the end of its lifespan, Amezcua, the superintendent, and board recognized the need for a new, larger school to accommodate the growing number of students in need of special services. The school, which opened in August 2020, serves students ages 5–22. Features include a low student-to-instructor ratio, sensory rooms, a domestic living lab, and an innovative, inclusive playground.

The program was financed by negotiated lease revenue bonds through the district's Public Facilities Corporation. Amezcua's department was able to secure a bank-qualified bond at a low rate and use a combination of one-time fund balance money and new debt to pay for the $11 million school.

Mark DeBoer, CPA, CA, CSBO, SFO
Director of Finance
Lethbridge School Division
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

Through a three-phase project, the Lethbridge School Division created financial and performance measure dashboards—information management tools—that combine data in various financial software, surveys, and other areas to inform division personnel and the public. One dashboard provides real-time financial reporting that the community can access from the division’s website. An internal reporting dashboard combines multiple data sources to provide schools with an enhanced, central source of information about such areas as finance, purchasing, and human resources. A third dashboard, also available to the public, focuses on performance measures and provides data about student achievement, financial ratios/comparisons, demographics, survey results, and more.

The new and innovative approach provides enhanced information to schools and departments. It allows the schools to effectively monitor financial information and support decision making that is in the best interests of students.

The initiative has further increased financial transparency to the division’s reporting and maximizes performance measures.

Greg Hunt
Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations
LaPorte Community School Corporation
LaPorte, Indiana

After a facilities assessment identified necessary updates and projected the need for additional space to accommodate new programming, the LaPorte district determined that even with extensive renovations, the older of the two middle schools would not be adequate or provide an equitable learning experience for students.

Unable to find an appropriate new site that did not require redistricting, district leaders decided to consolidate the two middle schools on the newer school's campus. They renovated the existing building and built an addition that provided enough space to accommodate all the middle school students. Fifth graders were moved from the crowded elementary schools to the new middle school campus, freeing up space to add PreK classes. The older middle school building now houses central administration, special education offices, a special education preschool, and alternative education.

The building project allowed the district to maximize existing space, prevent redistricting, and solve inequities for students while making efficient use of budget dollars.

Pinnacle Project Summaries