Houston hires business manager

LOGO HOUSTON School RAMHOUSTON – Houston trustees hired a new financial chief last week to replace District Business Manager Ronja Lancaster who is slated to retire at the end of March.

Sarah Juckes, an accountant from Houston, will be the top bookkeeper for the school system and will ultimately oversee a budget of approximately $15 million and handle payroll for the third largest employer in the community.

Juckes was the final choice presented to the Houston School Board by a committee composed of Lancaster, Superintendent Steve Coker, Assistant Superintendent Chad Spence and Bonnie Granger, a consultant hired by the district to assist in the search.

“We looked at about 40 applicants from inside and outside the state and interviewed eight people,” said Coker. “We were looking for some with experience in payroll, accounts receivable and more advanced accounting practices.”

The district met in executive session to discuss hiring a new business manager in late 2012 and formally advertised for the post on Dec. 19.

“We were also looking for someone knowledgeable in how our system works,” Coker added. “So much of what a school district does is specific to schools and state and federal government.

“We were also looking for a people person,” said Coker. “The person in that position works with every principal, every department and every employee in this district.”

Jukes will start her job on Feb. 5 and work with Lancaster to learn details of Houston’s bookkeeping system.

Lancaster has worked for the Houston School District for 25 years and as District Business Manager is responsible for crunching the numbers that ultimately form a budget, staying abreast of changes to state and federal revenue and law pertaining to financial records and audits.

“Ronja has always done an outstanding job for the district, has always helped us find the answers and this is a big change for us,” said Coker. “We were also looking for someone who could continue to uphold the financial integrity of the district.”

Coker said the district was not looking to change the job description of the Business Manager. He said the district doesn’t expect a need to hire anyone to assist Juckes and Lancaster’s duties will not be distributed to other workers at the Central Office.

The motion to hire Juckes was made by Trustees Carol Byrne and seconded by Trustee Zach Huffman who was attending the meeting via Skype. The vote to hire Juckes was unanimous.

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