Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Braking and entering: A new CFO's transition into a K-12 urban school district
by Trautenberg, David Herbert, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2016, 360; 10125796
Abstract (Summary)

In this autoethnography, I examine the challenges I faced as a private-to-public-sector novice CFO entering a resource-constrained 41-thousand-student K-12 urban school district in Colorado. This study chronicles how I deliberately slowed down my interactions within a complex adaptive system (CAS) through ethnographic interviewing to identify the relationships, processes, and tools; and create the conditions necessary to align and optimize resources at the district level to improve student outcomes. There is scant research on how a new K-12 education CFO transitions from a traditional budget-manager approach toward one that promotes inquiry and cost-effectiveness.

Unlike CFOs in the private sector, oftentimes I was estranged from strategic and capital-allocation decisions, particularly around instruction. I lacked the time, skilled staff, and resources to perform fundamental cost-benefit analyses.

I had come to work in a school system after obtaining an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and working in Wall Street for 20 years. Having no experience working in the public sector more generally or education more specifically, I came with a particular mindset and approach not altogether suited for this environment. Consequently, my transition to this new milieu was quite chaotic. I intentionally embraced entry planning as a way to make sense of a CAS that oftentimes defied comprehensive analysis.

I learned, slowly, that successful entry required intellectual rigor and emotional sensitivity. I repeatedly found that interventions based on adaptive change that fundamentally shifts how works gets done increased employees’ anxiety. I assumed the roles of researcher, learner, and knower in evolving an induction approach that recognized entry never stopped because the CAS never rested.

I explore entry through three case studies. The first of these pertains to my participation in Teachers’ Master Agreement Negotiations; the second centers on my engagement with Nutrition Services, a low-status but high-value allocator of resources; and the third analyzes how I merged the roles of CFO and educator to increase my district’s understanding of municipal-bond finance in preparation for a general-obligation bond offering.

Keywords: CFO entry; entry planning; complex adaptive systems; teachers’ negotiations; nutrition services; school finance

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lytle, James H.
Commitee: Ingersoll, Richard M., Jellig, Gerard M.
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Educational and Organizational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 77/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Education finance, Educational leadership, School administration
Keywords: Chief Financial Officer entry, Complex adaptive systems, Entry planning, Nutrition services, School finance, Teachers' negotiations
Publication Number: 10125796
ISBN: 9781339838540