School Business Affairs March 2019

40 MARCH 2019 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS W hen Rodney Cook took his first position as accountant at a school district in eastern Utah, he was sure it was a temporary phase in his business career. He quickly came to appreciate the vari- ety inherent in the work of a school business professional. Thirty-seven years later, he is the board- appointed business administrator for Box Elder School District in the northwest corner of the state, a position he has held for five years. Cook says, “I love feeling like I’m part of such a great endeavor. I’m always revitalized when I go out into the schools and see the kids.” With a budget of $110 million and an enrollment of 11,700 students, Box Elder ranks 13th in enrollment and fourth largest in land area in Utah, with 25 schools located in an area spanning over 5,700 square miles. Most of the population is concentrated in two cities, but there are school sites 120 and 160 miles from the district office, including Grouse Creek Elementary, which currently has an enrollment of five students. Cook has enjoyed being able to wear many hats, cov- ering purchasing, payroll, accounting, accounts payable, school lunches, risk management, and more. He orga- nized and implemented a formal purchasing process and wrote a procedural manual for his first district. Cook says his greatest challenge has been taking his nose out of the books and learning how laws are made and adapted, and how to communicate with policy makers. In the state with the lowest per-pupil spending rate in the nation, Cook prides his district on being efficient. As Utah has grown more diverse like the rest of the nation, the financial challenges that go along with dif- fering needs among students are becoming apparent. Cook’s current objective is to show legislators how the changes in the district’s population challenge their ability to do less with more. He does commend the state for maintaining the remote, small schools that are a part of Utah’s culture. When preparing the district budget, Cook follows ASBO International’s Meritorious Budget Award model budgets. A recent president of Utah ASBO, Cook says ASBO International and its affiliates foster a philoso- phy of cooperation. He attends the Annual Conference & Expo when he can and always finds something valu- able in the presentations. Cook encourages newer colleagues to interact with other business administrators through ASBO. “This network is one of the most valuable things we get, where I’ve learned how to manage issues. As a general rule, this stuff isn’t taught in business classes. It’s a specialized field. Let the people who have gone before you help you.” Spotlight on Rodney Cook We at ASBO International are grateful to our Strategic Partners for helping us do what we do, and for helping school business officials do what they do. Each Strategic Partner sponsors a valuable ASBO International program, ensuring our members have access to timely information, career-enhancing education, and professional recognition.