Craft said “it was not about the money” when he decided to leave a system with 13 schools, slightly more than 9,000 students and an $80.3 million operating budget for the current fiscal year.
Hartselle, which has six schools and 3,050 students, has an approximately $24.3 million operating budget, according to Hartselle interim CSFO Lisa McMurray.
“I have made a lot of lifelong friends during the last 11 years. All of the ladies in the accounting department and local school bookkeepers are an exceptional group of people to work with, and the (CSFO) job would not be possible without them,” said Craft, who plans to commute from Athens to Hartselle. “I am looking forward to a new challenge, and meeting and working with new people.”
Karen Tucker, director of information technology and public relations for the Limestone system, said Craft’s sense of humor and penchant for storytelling would be missed, along with his knowledge about school guidelines.
“The central office is losing an extremely intelligent and loyal employee, but I admire him for having the courage to explore his options,” Tucker said. “I felt comfortable going to him for advice on difficult decisions because he was prepared to guide me on how to follow federal, state and local guidelines. I am confident this move will benefit him personally and professionally … Hartselle is very lucky, and I will miss him.”
Filling the vacancy
For the next several weeks, the Limestone system will be paying Craft and interim CSFO Ann Swanner, while also searching for a new finance chief during the time of year when new school budget preparations are underway and required to be submitted to the state by Sept 20.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved Swanner for an interim contract capped at $23,000. She served as Limestone CSFO for 13 years and officially began work Thursday at $75 per hour. During the board’s work session on Aug. 13, Sisk told board members the salary for a new finance chief could range from $80,000 to $99,000.
The central office is in the process of updating the job description from a classified position with a salary schedule to contract-based. Sisk said a CSFO under contract must be released in order to accept a job from another a system.
During the work session, Sisk, 47, asked the board to select a finance chief with experience since he is starting his second year as superintendent.
Board members said they are looking for someone with both expertise and the ability to adapt to the school system, which is undergoing a digital technology initiative and a $26.1 million capital plan.
“I’m hoping we can find someone with qualifications that’s been a chief financial officer for a while, someone who will be a good fit since we do have a relatively young superintendent,” Russell said.
“We’re just looking for a person that can fill the shoes that Jonathan is vacating. We have had a lot of success with him, but he is moving on,” Shoulder said. "I think the search will take longer than 45 days, but I don’t know necessarily that we will be paying the new (CSFO) more than the current pay.”