The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 17, 2013

Swanner set to become county school board finance chief

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— Crunching numbers, deciphering financial coding and balancing budgets are not commonly referred to as enjoyable tasks, but Ann Swanner is atypical.

Following her 40-minute interview for the chief school finance officer job on Tuesday, a bright-eyed and energetic Swanner described the job as “fun,” and said she had decided to apply for the position after originally planning to only serve as interim CSFO.

“I like to share (information) with everyone that’s involved with the school system,” said Swanner during her interview. “You have to think outside the box, and you can’t be static.”

The News Courier polled board of education members prior to last night’s special meeting, which took place after deadline Thursday. A majority of the seven-member board indicated they would vote for Swanner as Limestone County Schools’ new finance chief.

She has been interim finance officer since Sept. 1 after former CSFO Jonathan Craft took the same post with Hartselle City Schools.

Swanner, a Tanner resident, is the former finance chief for the Limestone system, serving from 1984 to 1997. Since then she has taught school finance classes at the University of Alabama Superintendents’ Academy, worked for a private accounting firm and consulted for the state Department of Education.

“We’ll make a job offer to one of the three candidates (Thursday), and the chair, (Marty Adams), will negotiate a contract,” said Earl Glaze, vice chairman of the school board. “I think one of the candidates stood out in my mind. I think Mrs. Swanner is by far the most qualified.

“I think she’s done a good job as the interim (CSFO), and she’ll tell  you how she sees it. I think she has done a good job of explaining the budget and with anything else that has come up.”

Board member Anthony Hilliard said he thought the screening committee gave the board a high-quality pool of finalists. The school system whittled 22 applicants down to five before choosing the final three.

“I think everyone was impressed with the candidates,” Hilliard said. “Mrs. Swanner is just the strongest candidate of the three we interviewed, and she has been a CSFO before.”

Board interviewed 3 candidates

The Limestone school board interviewed three candidates Tuesday, including Greene County Schools CSFO Christopher “Shane” Martin and Birmingham City Schools accountant Tieasha Abdur-Rasheed.

The board asked each candidate 10 questions tailored to their backgrounds, management style and school finance experience.

Abdur-Rasheed of Odenville interviewed first and said she believes in “leaving my desk clear every day, even if it means getting done at 7 or 8 (p.m.).”

She said she served as the lead person for the Birmingham system’s federal funds and worked closely with principals.

Abdur-Rasheed, who utilized a PowerPoint presentation during her interview, has eight years of governmental accounting experience and is pursuing her doctoral degree. But she has limited experience as a supervisor, dealing with school bids and financing building projects.

“I am a team player, loyal, ethical, about getting the job done …” said Abdur-Rasheed. “Keeping children first — that’s the main goal. Children are the future, and we’re here to support them.”

The Limestone system, which has an $89.9 million operating budget, is in the midst of a $26.1 million capital plan. The system also recently submitted to the state a long-range capital plan, or five-year wish list, containing $66.6 million in possible school projects.

Martin interviewed second and impressed board members with his straightforward and confident demeanor and experience as a state auditor.

“My goal is to help the system and not necessarily my personal agenda,” Martin said. “I’ve only been CSFO for two years, but I have seen quite a bit.”

At least one board member said Martin could be considered as a candidate when Swanner’s contract ends, since she is pursuing her master’s degree and plans to teach college classes within the next five years.