District leaders still searching for replacement –
By Patricia Beech-
When Manchester Local School District (MLSD) Treasurer, Karen Ballengee, announced she would be retiring this year, her colleagues all agreed it wasn’t going to be easy to find someone to fill her shoes.
MLSD Superintendent Brian Rau calls her the “cornerstone of our district.”
“They say everyone’s replaceable, and I suppose that’s true, however, replacing Karen and all the knowledge and experience she brings to her job is going to be extremely difficult,” he said. “One person cannot fill her shoes.”
Ballengee earned a BA in Business Administration and a Masters in Political Science from Ohio University. She began her career as an Assistant Treasurer in the Washington Nile School District in West Portsmouth, a position she held for 20 years.
She accepted the MLSD Treasurer’s position in 2004, and has seen the school through some of it’s toughest financial times and transitions.
MLSD Board member Rick Foster says that Ballengee has been an integral part of the district’s day-to-day operation.
“When Karen joined our MLSD team in 2004, she joined not just as our Treasurer, but as a true administrative partner,” he said. “We relied upon her for her knowledge, as well as her caring personality, and she assimilated quickly into our community.”
Foster says Ballengee’s contributions will impact the district for years to come.
“Karen has been the driving force behind our tremendous infrastructure progress and our accomplishments in improving the district’s assets,” Foster added. “Her forward-looking vision for developing our campus will have benefits for decades.”
Ballengee is equally generous in her praise of the MLSD Board.
“The board here is very dynamic, they’re willing to take on new ideas and new projects,” she says. “They’ve always been very positive, and it’s been a lot of fun working with them because they like change and moving forward.”
When Ballengee accepted the Treasurer’s position in the Manchester district, the school had just separated from the Ohio Valley School District (OVSD). She says the transition out of OVSD was one of the greatest challenges she faced in the job.
“In 2004 there were no records, and the biggest challenge at that time was getting the files created and all the employees on the payroll,” she says. “It was a big job, but we got the paperwork setup for the district.”
She says the district “moved at warp speed” when it came to construction, programs, and changes.
“We’ve had construction going on the whole 14 years I’ve been here,” she says. “We built a new elementary school, the MEAC, the ball fields, and the football stadium.”
And, when the district lost millions in DP&L tax revenues, it was Ballengee who met with legislators and members of the Ohio Department of Education to ensure that MLSD received the money needed to keep the schools open.
“Public education has its ups and downs,” she says. “School districts expand when there’s money, but when that money is gone, we need to learn to cut back while still moving forward.”
Even though her approach to fiscal responsibility is heavily seasoned with common sense, she says it’s often painful to do what must be done.
“The worse part of my career was seeing people laid off for financial reasons, or reasons related to student population,” she says. “You just have to learn to adjust, and that is very hard to do.”
Rau praises Ballengee’s financial acumen.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better Treasurer to work with,” he says. “The trust and respect we have in one another doesn’t just happen overnight. I’ve learned that as a fiscal mentor, she has no equal.”
For 14 years Ballengee taken care of the district’s money, received its revenues, paid it expenses including payrolls, and written financial reports and state reports that earned her recognition in Columbus.
Under her leadership the district consistently received clean audits from the state.
“They’re a result of team work and team effort, she says. “I have Administrative Assistants in both school buildings that help me, and everyone who is involved with handling money helps with the accounting process by keeping track of receipts. It’s a group effort, I’m just the director.”
As MLSD Treasurer, Ballengee has worked under four different superintendents. She says it wasn’t difficult to transition from one to the next.
“Our Superintendents all had a good sense of humor and great personalities and they made my life easier because they could take a bad situation and find humor in it,” she says, adding, “Most accountants don’t really have a sense of humor, but I do, and they kept me laughing.”