More Than Dollars and Cents

What drives the development and use of resources in a school? How are decisions made about resource allocation that can impact student outcomes? What is the connection between money and student outcomes? How can there be substantial waste and substantial unmet needs at the same time? (Grubb & Tredway, 2010)

UVEI Principal Interns deepened their knowledge on these questions with the help of Vermont Superintendent Brent Kay at one of our interns’ monthly seminar days. What they learned is that financial management and resource allocation is more than dollars and cents.

To know what it wants to achieve (the outcomes), an organization must know its purpose (the mission and vision). And it must rigorously monitor progress toward achieving its desired outcomes (the accountability). Dr. Kay would say that mission and vision must drive the development and use of resources in our schools. During that seminar day, he was able to help UVEI interns gain a sense of how a budget supports, rather than drives, the work of the school.

By looking at the budgets from their own schools as more than basic accounting, interns focused on some of the indicators of continuous improvement linked to mission and vision work by trying to identify these indicators in their school’s budgets and asking the following questions:

  • Do we set high goals in our school?

  • Do we analyze student data to understand student performance and achievement gaps?

  • Are decisions about curriculum and instruction based on research?

  • Do we invest in teacher training that moves teacher practice?

  • Do we have systems in place to support struggling learners?

  • Is time seen as a resource?

  • Is the school a community of learners focused on inquiry and continuous improvement?

  • How does our budget support each of these indicators? (Rennie Center, 2012)

In going beyond dollar and cents, UVEI Principal Interns are encouraged to see beyond discrete units of knowledge, but instead, use their learning as levers for impacting teachers’ instruction in the classroom and developing their teachers’ capacity.

Commentary by Nan Parsons

Nan Parsons, MEd, CAGS and doctoral candidate, is UVEI’s Associate Director for School Leadership and a member of the program faculty.  Also read Nan's commentary about growth mindset in Getting Smart.