Analy finance teacher Jeff Ogston has been chosen as the new chief business officer for the West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD). The board approved his appointment at its meeting on Feb. 19.
Ogston, who has degrees in economics and finance, is a certified financial planner and has been a math teacher at Analy for 13 years.
“The majority of my background is in finance,” Ogston said. “I didn’t go to college to be a math teacher. I got into teaching because, at the beginning of my career, I was coaching baseball and wanted to have a career where I could also coach, and teaching allowed me to do that.”
Ogston stopped coaching a couple of years ago after his son graduated from Analy, and he said he’s been looking around for “what might be the next steps for me professionally.”
“About a year ago, I started digging in a little bit more to learn about the CBO position and what it entailed. Just taking a look at the skillset that I have and what’s required of that position, I felt like it might be a good fit.”
WSCUHSD Superintendent Toni Beal agreed.
“He’s a very trusted and well-respected teacher, and he has a financial background,” Beal said. “CBOs are really hard to find. There’s a lot of vacancies in the county, and we thought what an opportunity for us to hire someone that is already well known, who communicates really well, and is respected and then train him. We’re very excited to have him.”
The world of school finance is an arcane universe unto itself, and Ogston will be working with interim CBO Ann Baron until June and will be participating in several training programs at the Sonoma County Office of Education and the California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO).
“I think one of my strengths is knowing what I don’t know,” Ogston said. “I’ve already got trainings lined through the summer: there’s a CBO boot camp, and there’s a whole year-long training program with CASBO that I plan on being involved in. I definitely want to try to hit the ground running.”
Mastering the technical part of the position is just part of the job. Moving from being a member of the teaching staff into management will be challenging. Past CBOs in the district have faced an incredible amount of rancor from the teachers union.
“I’m not naive enough to think that I’m just going to step in, and everything’s going to be great,” he said, “But, from being on the other side of it, what I know is that it’s really about communication and transparency — and rebuilding trust, to be quite honest.
“Hopefully, the teachers will know that they have someone in that position that really truly does understand what it’s like to be in their shoes,” Ogston said. “Hopefully they will also realize that the person who’s in that role has the whole district to think about, as well — trying to make those decisions with competing interests. At the end of the day, everybody involved, not just the teachers, wants to feel like they’re a priority and they’re heard, and I’m hoping that I can bring that to the table.”
In preparation for this job, Ogston has been a member of the Superintendent’s Budget Committee for the last year. The Superintendent’s Budget Committee is made of administrators, teachers and parents. They spend hours going over the budget, combing the rows and columns for things to cut that will do the least damage.
“It’s definitely been interesting,” Ogston said. “You have the reality of what the budget situation is and so you have numbers that you’ve got to meet in terms of what the budget has to look like and how it’s going to be balanced, and then ‘How do you get there?’
“Oftentimes, the quickest things — and the things that can happen in a given time frame — are cuts, and those always hurt everybody involved … It’s hard to sit there and talk about who’s going to get cut or what’s going to get cut and who’s it going to impact.
“Then on the flip side of that, like any business, is ‘Can you generate revenue to offset so you don’t have to cut so much?’ and then trying to put those ideas in place.”
Unfortunately, Ogston said, sometimes wise long-term solutions can’t be put into effect fast enough to address short-term budget shortfalls.
That, plus the lack of time to fully explore all the ramifications of an idea have been one of his frustrations on the Superintendent’s Budget Committee.
“I think ultimately what everybody on that committee would love to have, in a perfect world, is time enough to flesh out everything that’s brought to the table … The feeling of not having enough time to fully flesh out some of the ideas, like, ‘Is this a good thing or not?’ is a concern.”
When asked what he does in his spare time when he’s not wonking out with spreadsheets, Ogston laughs.
“My spare time is rather limited,” he said, noting he does “a lot of extra stuff with the school.”
“That being said, I do have a personal life. I do the normal middle-aged guy stuff — hang out with the family” in Rohnert Park, where he grew up.
Ogston has a daughter who is 24 and a son who’s 21. His stepdaughter is also 21, and he still has one child, his 11-year-old stepdaughter, who is at home.
Ogston said he’s really looking forward to the challenges of his new position.
“I’m definitely not walking in with rose-colored glasses,” he said. “I know that the district is in a tough spot financially … I feel like I’m coming in with my eyes wide open about what the challenges are, and I’m ready to embrace them.
“And I hope that instead of impacting 150 kids a year in my classroom, I’m able to help impact the 1,800 kids that we have in our district, along with the teachers and the rest of the staff.”