posted October 12, 2016

Keep Fishing – A Perspective on Professional Development

by Aaron Van Winkle, Senior Associate 

We have all heard the proverb, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Any district employee can be more successful in performing their duties by learning to “feed” themselves within their specific District roles. This article will review two key concepts that are instrumental to building strong and informed district employees.


In addition to knowing the mechanics of specific job duties, it is also fundamental to understand why a process or function is performed and the reasoning behind that activity.How many activities are performed simply because someone said that is what is supposed to be done without explaining the ‘why’? Instead, take time to research. Each function should be able to be traced to a federal, state or local law, statute, ordinance, or even accounting standard.

Finding the source of reason for a duty or function will save time and resources in correcting errors or explaining the reasons a specific course of action was taken.

A simple example is the process of depositing clearing account funds to the County Treasurer. The Uniform System of Financial Records (USFR) states that “monies deposited into a clearing bank account must be remitted to the county treasurer at least monthly.” Time and effort documentation is another example. Time and effort requirements are a federal requirement underneath the Code of Federal Regulations (2 CFR Section 225) which govern Single Audit reporting.

Often seemingly minor tasks may be completed improperly due to a lack of knowledge about the reasoning behind a particular duty or method.Management for school districts of all sizes should devote resources to ensure that employees do more than perform duties by rote but help them understand the purpose and importance of their job functions. The internet is a fantastic tool to with help this research and Arizona school districts have a variety of helpful online tools, including:

Communicating and Networking:

Communication is an important step to help with understanding. For example, our firm’s auditors are frequently asked about what district employees could do in particular situations. While the auditors are a good resource, not all employees may feel comfortable talking with their audit team or may not have auditors available at the time help is needed.


Communication between all levels of district employees should be fostered to facilitate answering questions when needed. Business managers should be able to communicate with bus drivers. Teachers’ aides should be able to communicate with human resources directors. As a lack of communication can easily lead to confusion and frustration, there should be no limits placed on each employee’s ability to ask questions and find answers.Auditors, business managers, and superintendents are not always the people with the answers, but they and everyone should be a source by which an individual can be pointed in the right direction to find the right answers. As Paul Meyer said, ‘communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success.’

The power of networking as a form of learning should not be underestimated. Boundless knowledge may be available for those who are willing to step out and communicate with people outside their organizations.Occasionally a client has asked me very specific questions regarding an aspect of their duties which they could not answer despite hours or even days of investigation.After I advised them to contact personnel who performed the same duties at another District, their problem was fixed in minutes after a single phone call. While this may seem like simple advice, many clients have thanked me for the encouragement to reach out and network and communicate with others.In addition to informal networking, conferences and trainings for Arizona school districts are regularly available and provide perfect opportunities for sharing ideas and solutions to common issues relating to common job duties, similar technology system questions, and technical issues.

Both of these key concepts are dependent upon each other - understanding provides opportunities for communication, and communication in turn fosters more understanding. The more individuals know and understand, the better their performance will be, which, in turn, makes a better district. Encourage everyone at your district to take advantage of all resources and never stop learning to ‘fish.’

The content of these pages is for general information purposes only and does not constitute advice. Heinfeld, Meech & Co., P.C. tries to provide content that is true and accurate as of the date of writing; however, we give no assurance or warranty regarding the accuracy, timeliness, or applicability of any of the contents.