The Olentangy Local School District (OLSD) is in search of a new treasurer following the resignation of Emily Hatfield, who is set to leave the district next month after accepting the university budget and resource planning administrator position at Otterbein University.
OLSD announced Hatfield’s departure on Aug. 22 and formally accepted her resignation during its most recent board meeting on Aug. 25. She will remain with the district through Sept. 23 in order to fulfill her contractual obligation and also to finish work related to proposal requests for insurance coverages in the district.
Hatfield began with the district in 2009 as a payroll accountant and served as the assistant treasurer from 2014-16. When Brian Kern left OLSD to take the treasurer position with Dublin City Schools, Hatfield was asked to fill the role on an interim basis before ultimately taking over the role permanently.
During Hatfield’s time in the district, OLSD has routinely set the standard for record keeping and financial forecasting, including receiving the Auditor of State Award with Distinction for the fiscal years 2012-21 and the Government Finance Officers Association’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for each fiscal year she’s been with OLSD.
While there has been no shortage of accomplishments for both Hatfield and the district over the past 13 years, she told The Gazette the success of the 2020 school levy campaign stands out as, perhaps, her proudest achievement. “That was a pretty big package in terms of having permanent improvement, operating and bond package for several new buildings and projects across the district,” she said.
Hatfield added that working through the pandemic was also an experience that stands out as she reflects on her tenure.
“It shook most economic areas to the core, and we were able to help sustain and maintain our operations without significant cuts or decreases,” she said. “We did have some changes or decreases in state funding, and we had some delays in funding coming from the levy campaign, but we were able to sustain operations and move forward effectively without having to lay off staff or anything of that nature. That was really exciting for us.”
Hatfield has also been one of the district’s biggest advocates in the fight for fair school funding, a fight that has included her advocating at the Ohio Statehouse.
“Emily has been an asset to Olentangy Schools,” Superintendent Mark Raiff said in a release announcing the resignation. “She has played a critical role in our advocacy efforts for fair state funding and maintaining the low per-pupil expenses Olentangy is known for.”
At Otterbein, Hatfield will work with the vice president of business affairs to handle the university budgeting process, which includes working with leaders of the various departments to discuss their needs and analyzing enrollment and revenues to build the budget forecast.
Hatfield said of the new role and how it relates to her time as treasurer, “It’s the really fun part of the job, in my opinion. I love to do that forecasting and forward thinking with strategic planning. What’s different is there aren’t board of education meetings, there aren’t as many community engagements, there aren’t as many engagements with the county auditor and things of that nature. So, to sum it up, it’s less time-intensive than working as the chief financial officer for a public school district.”
As the second of her two children prepares to graduate from Olentangy Orange High School next spring and head off to college, Hatfield said having children in college sparked her interest in pursuing the jump to higher education. That she was able to see both of them graduate in the district also made the decision to leave OLSD easier, Hatfield said.
“First and foremost, I’m a parent, and I tend to want to be involved where my kids are involved and understand the processes they are going through and how their education applies,” she said. “I think moving into that industry with my financial skills really helps me to feel more connected to them.”
Hatfield said she is grateful to have been able to experience the growth and development of so many students, including her own children, as they’ve made the journey through their academic careers.
“This district is where my kids grew up. Both of my children are Olentangy lifers, and I have a niece and a nephew who are also in the district. And then just watching our community neighbors grow through the district has been so meaningful over these 13 years, and expanding that to the 22,000-plus students that are with us. It’s just an amazing experience to be a part of that education process for them. It’s very endearing to be blessed with that process.”
The OLSD Board of Education met in an executive session Thursday, in part, to discuss the process for filling the position. Board President Kevin O’Brien said filling the role with the best possible candidate in school finance is “a high priority for the Board” in order to maintain the district’s standard of fiscal responsibility and transparency.
Hatfield’s advice for whoever ultimately succeeds her in the role centers on being willing to lean on the resources in place in the district, including its fiscal staff.
“We have some really great experience within the treasurer’s department to reflect on different components of what we work with, such as audits, federal grants, just to name a few areas,” she said. “Our assistant treasurers really have a good grasp and experience in those areas and can help make sure that I’m following all rules and regulations and am thinking about it from all perspectives when we move forward with action items.
“And also don’t be afraid to make relationships with our leadership team and people in the community. I have found that, by and large, people are very supportive and want the district to succeed as much as we do as individuals. It’s ok to reach out, ask questions, and try to get the pulse on general economics and things in that arena. Folks really engage in that.”
She went on to say, “It wasn’t an easy decision to switch and go into higher education because of the relationships and support that I’ve had here, but I know that the district is in good hands and that success will continue.”