Waconia receives prestigious finance award

The Waconia Public Schools Business Office recently received a prestigious award. The office includes, from left: Todd Swanson – Director of Finance and Operations,  Amy Hafemann – Accounting Specialist, Lisa Goede – Payroll Specialist, Cindy Lenz – MARSS/STARS Specialist, Ann Bohanon – Accounting Clerk, and Darlene Siegle – Administrative Assistant. Patriot photo by Todd Moen

The Waconia Public Schools Business Office recently received a prestigious award. The office includes, from left: Todd Swanson – Director of Finance and Operations, Amy Hafemann – Accounting Specialist, Lisa Goede – Payroll Specialist, Cindy Lenz – MARSS/STARS Specialist, Ann Bohanon – Accounting Clerk, and Darlene Siegle – Administrative Assistant. Patriot photo by Todd Moen

The world of finance reporting doesn’t always get its time in the spotlight but for a few moments during the Waconia School Board’s meeting on Aug. 13, it took center stage.
Superintendent Dr. Nancy Rajanen recognized the district’s Business Office for having recently received the Certificate of Excellence Award from the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). The award, which confirms the school business office’s commitment to financial accountability and transparency, was based on the district’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011.
The ASBO is a professional association of more than 5,000 members that provides programs and services to promote the highest standards of school business management practices, professional growth, and the effective use of educational resources.
Todd Swanson, the Director of Finance and Operations, was pleased that his team received the award, which is sponsored by VALIC, a long-term investment company.
“The award is an affirmation and confirmation that what we’re doing is the right thing to do,” said Swanson, whose team includes Amy Hafemann – Accounting Specialist, Lisa Goede – Payroll Specialist, Cindy Lenz – MARSS/STARS Specialist, Ann Bohanon – Accounting Clerk, and Darlene Siegle – Administrative Assistant.
“School district Business Offices are not in a situation where they receive many positive comments so it’s nice for us to receive this,” he added. “We worked well as a team to get this award and it’s a pat on the back to everyone in the department.”
Swanson said he wasn’t sure if the district would receive the award because this was the first time Waconia had applied for it.
“So to get it the first year we applied is a big deal,” he said, noting that in 2010, only 20 out of 337 school districts in Minnesota received the award. “We’re pretty proud.”
As noted in material provided by the ASBO, recognition through the program can help strengthen a district’s presentation for bond issuance statements and promotes a high level of financial reporting. Swanson said the district would pursue the award again next year.
Also during the meeting, the board learned about how the district will be working to implement federally mandated changes to its school lunch program this year.
Chef Marshall O’Brien LLC (CMO) has been hired by the district to provide new recipes to enhance flavor, augment vegetable and fruit variety and increase nutrients, all while complying with USDA and budgetary guidelines. CMO will assist in the training of school staff to implement healthy eating through several approaches, including the utilization of more scratch cooking in district kitchens and changing portion sizes without affecting the quality or nutrition values of the meals.
O’Brien spoke to the board about the program and noted that school lunch programs have morphed into mass feeding programs instead of nutrition programs.
He said the goal is not only to make the school lunches healthier but to also help students fundamentally change their views on healthy eating and nutrition, changes that will hopefully follow them home. One way to aid this is by providing scaled down recipes of favorite meals served at school so parents can try making those meals at home.
The district is paying CMO $15,000 for a one-year contract for the work.
In other matters:
• Waconia football fans may have noticed that the bleachers can get somewhat crowded during Wildcat football games. To help alleviate this, the district will be setting up a temporary set of bleachers for visiting fans located behind the visitor’s bench. The rented bleachers will seat approximately 500 to 600 fans and will be installed in time for Waconia’s second home game this season.
• A quick look at enrollment numbers shows that even with closed enrollment at the elementary schools, the district has gained approximately 180 students since last October.
Officials said every single building is currently over capacity, with the middle and high school numbers still growing with some slowing at the elementary schools. The freshman class has more than 300 students and growth has occurred faster than expected in grades one and five, as well. The district will likely have more than 3,600 students this fall.
• Progress was reported on the district’s 2012 summer capital projects, most being substantially completed. The projects include sidewalk and curb replacement on the east side of Southview, seal coating of parking lots at various facilities, athletic field improvements, and the replacement of the gym floor covering at the high school.
Projects still being worked on include the installation of netting around the walking track at Clearwater (estimated completion date: Sept. 10), carpeting replacement in high school office areas (ECD: Winter Break), and resurfacing the track at Bayview (ECD: sometime in the next week or so).
The Southview PTO beautification project on the north and west side of the school was also noted. This project includes the creation of gathering areas and the placement of a large boulder near the main entrance. Officials offered their thanks to all involved with making this project a reality.
• The school board’s next meeting will be held at Waconia City Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10.

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