Ask The Expert: Katie Walmsley (Part 2 of 4)
We recently had the opportunity to speak with school finance expert and Edstruments partner Katie Walmsley about her thoughts on the rapidly evolving landscape of K12 finance. For over 3 years, Katie has served as Chief Financial Officer for KIPP New Orleans Schools (“KNOS”), one of the largest public-school networks in the New Orleans area with 5000 students grades PreK-12. Prior to KNOS, she spent several years in leadership positions at Teach For America in New Orleans. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What in your opinion are best practices for using and monitoring the effectiveness of relief funds?
In our chart of accounts, we have a dimensional area that we use to record which expenses have been submitted on a grant claim. Each grant has a unique four-digit number.
But if you’re in a really dynamic environment, it’s very hard to know what grant you want to tie a purchase to at the exact time of the transaction. In order to keep things organized, so we can see the forest through the trees later, it’s important to tag expenses that will likely need to be claimed – but that’s not something that the purchaser or requisitioner is necessarily going to know. I describe them as being “upstream” of that determination in the transaction’s workflow.
To address this challenge, we decided to create a new sequence of those four-digit numerical codes to each represent a specific purpose, but not necessarily a specific grant. For instance, some codes are for COVID, natural disasters, or school relocations. This way, requisitioners are able to add value earlier in the workflow, making it a lot easier for the finance team to look at expenses later and figure out the most strategic way to spread expenses across multiple restricted grants with overlapping purposes. This upstream workflow change adds value in a dynamic, change-oriented, adaptive fashion.
What’s really cool about Edstruments is that different users can see data in a synthesized fashion, and that reinforces the importance of coding and facilitates these kinds of strategic decisions.
Edstruments exists to equip education leaders with the knowledge and tools to most effectively and equitably serve their students. To learn more about how we can help your school administrators make better financial decisions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the contact form on our main website.