New Escambia County Schools Chief Financial Officer Uses Technology to Save Taxpayers Money

When the Escambia County School’s new superintendent, Michele McClung, discovered that some employees were actually writing checks by hand to pay system bills, she realized something was missing.

Of the state’s 139 school systems, Escambia County schools were one of two not using modern accounting software called NextGen. Once the school board agreed to purchase the system, it had to fill the CFO position.

The board hired Rochelle Richardson, who, as it turned out, had known McClung for a long time. Their relationship dated back to when Richardson’s daughter was attending Dawes Intermediate where McClung was the manager at the time.

The CFO of a school system is a key position and goes beyond just paying bills. His work is so complex that there are four computer screens on his desk. But Richardson says NextGen will simplify things. Documents will no longer need to be printed and every process is streamlined.

Richardson has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and an MBA from LSU, and she’s one of those people who just loves numbers.

“What most people don’t realize is that math solves problems,” Richardson said.

Richardson said a simple subtraction would streamline finances, as things that currently take five steps will now be done at the touch of a button.

Rochelle Richardson. Photo: Randy Tatano.

“I’m going to look at the finances, where they are,” Richardson said. “I want to improve the school system as a whole for the good of the children.”

Every tax dollar belongs in the classroom, with little things like printing and postage costs adding up. Employees currently working nights and weekends will not be working overtime. Once these are eliminated, funds can be allocated to education.

Technology coordinator Jamie Burkett is working with Richardson to transition to NextGen, which is expected to be complete around October.

Richardson is married to a FedEx driver and has one child, a 16-year-old daughter. She once considered being an elementary school teacher.

“I love kids,” she said. But even if her work is one of dollars and cents, she can still have a huge impact on the quality of education.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected]

Don’t miss! Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our best stories every morning of the week.