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When it comes to the educating kids, much of the focus is rightfully on the relationship between the student and teacher. However, as anyone who knows anything about how a school district operates, there are a lot of people “behind the scenes” who are just as responsible for that student’s education.
One of those people was John Wolfe, the chief financial officer for the Los Alamos Public School System. Wolfe, who has been LAPS’ chief financial officer for seven years, will be moving on to oversee the state’s entire public education budget, which includes all the public and charter schools in the state.
July 11 is his last day.
Wolfe has been involved in finance his entire career, even when he was in the military.
“I’ve always been a numbers guy. I know it’s not for everybody, but I’ve always liked the figures, I like working with them, making them work” he said. “I liked coming up with the solution to the problem. If you don’t have the money for the program, you probably aren’t going to be able to do that program with the quality or to the level you would like to.”
He said that what he’s going to miss most about working in LAPS is the people and his fellow co-workers.
“Obviously, one the reasons why I’m here and like doing what I do is the small impact I have on the kids,” he said. “In my new job, I’m hoping I’m going to have a broader impact, since I will be working to help kids throughout the entire state.”
During his tenure with the Los Alamos Public Schools, Wolfe had many challenges.
He said his biggest challenge was dealing with the district’s declining enrollment issue, an issue that was seriously impacting the district when he first started with the district. Though they were able to save many programs by balancing them against the enrollment of students from outside the district, it will probably be an issue the district will have to revisit in the future.
“I had a discussion with the superintendent at the time, prior to Gene Schmidt arriving, about how to deal with that. I had some suggestions, but we didn’t act on them at that time. When I had the same conversation with Dr. Schmidt, he was willing to do something, and obviously, that’s what helped to stabilized our numbers,” he said.
Wolfe also said that while he and his staff didn’t necessarily work directly with the school district’s students, like the teachers do, money and finance played and continues to play an integral role in a student’s classroom experience.
“We pay all the staff, so obviously, if staff is not happy because something is going on with their pay, then they won’t be fully focused on the kids, so our job from that perspective is to make things flow smoothly as possible,” Wolfe said.
The same thinking goes for the extracurricular activities, such as field trips and sporting events.
He said most people don’t think of the funding and insurance events like those take in order to run successfully, something he and his dedicated 10-person staff dealt with on a daily basis.
Besides finance, Wolfe was also the district’s safety officer, helping to coordinate safety drills at all the school sites among as well as other duties involving safety.
Shortly after the Sandy Hook School shootings in Connecticut, one of the things Wolfe helped introduce was proper training and safety measures to teachers and staff about what to do during a school shooting.
He did that by taking advantage of the safety and security experts at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, inviting them into the schools to train staff and answer questions.
To his fellow coworkers, Wolfe said he wishes them all the best and that he really enjoyed working with them.
“They are a great bunch of people, I’m sorry to go, but obviously I think it’s time to move on. I also wish them the best in their future endeavors as well,” he said.