Kenneth Dyer is the executive finance and operations director for the Dougherty County School System.
An avid golfer, Kenneth Dyer says his dream is to line up for a birdie putt on the 17th green at Pebble Beach. He is quick to admit, however, “that I like golf a lot more than it likes me.”
Dyer is the executive finance and operations director for the Dougherty County School System. He joined the system two years ago after a one-year stint as the deputy chief financial officer for the city of Albany.
Dyer is in charge of a $116 million budget for the 16,000-plus student school system.
Dyer recently sat down for a question-and-answer session with Herald reporter Terry Lewis
Q: If you were fresh out of school, what would you first do in searching for a job?
A: I would have already begun during my last year of school; so, I would probably be following up on leads. Of course with the online job search sites being so popular, I would probably subscribe to at least one of those.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first job was a part-time library assistant at the Northwest Branch of the Dougherty County Library. My supervisor was Gary Barton, the branch manager.
Q: What was the first thing you bought after you got your first paycheck?
A: That’s been a long time; but, I believe my first purchase was a pair very comfortable casual shoes for work. The job called for a lot of standing up and walking around; so, comfortable shoes were an imperative.
Q: Who was your role model or mentor in your current job?
A: I must say that I’m fortunate to have a lot of people I have been able to count on for support during my career. I can’t say that I have had one specific mentor in my current job because I draw on the advice and guidance that I have received throughout my life and apply all of that to my current circumstances. It would be impossible to narrow that list down to just one role model or mentor.
Q: How has the recession affected education budgets?
A: The recession has had a major impact on education budgets. For the DCSS, QBE funding from the State has been cut by tens of millions of dollars over the past seven years. In addition, local property tax revenue is down significantly compared to seven years ago. To illustrate my point, the General Fund budgeted revenue for the DCSS is $7million less this year when compared to fiscal year 2009.
Q: If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology (email, internet, cell phones, etc.) what would it be?
A: Text messaging. Although it is certainly convenient at times, I believe too many people use it as a primary form of communication. The risk with that is it may be making some of us less affable; not to mention it has created an entirely new language of abbreviations, hashtags, etc.
Q: I am up and going by ...?
A: 5:45 a.m.
Q: Favorite hobby or activity outside of work?
A: Golf, although I haven’t been able to get much in over the last year or so.
Q: If you could take back one decision in your career, what would it be?
A: I don’t know that I would take back any. I believe every decision I have made has helped shape me into the professional I am today. I’m not saying every decision I have made has been the right decision; but, even when I didn’t make the best decision, I have been able to learn and grow from the experience. I believe being able to grow from the not-so-good decisions is very important, that and not making the same mistake twice of course.
Q: What’s the best thing about your job?
A: The challenge, I love a challenge. Having to work with a diverse group of colleagues and board members to help meet the educational needs of the students in the Dougherty County School System amid ever-shrinking resources is a tremendous challenge and an even more tremendous responsibility. It’s a challenge we take head-on and a responsibility with do not take lightly.
Q: What’s the worst thing about your job?
A: The politics of some adults aiming to put their wishes, desires and preferences over what is in the best interest of the students we serve.
Q: The most beneficial course you took in school?
A: Governmental Accounting with William Boyce Wright.
Q: What would be your dream job?
A: I’ve been blessed with great jobs throughout my career. Quite honestly, I have never thought about one dream job. Before I accept any offer, I try to make sure the job is a good fit for me and I am a good fit for the job.
Q: What your most rewarding job?
A: One of my most rewarding jobs, however, was when I was asked to serve as the CFO at a small, struggling college in Alabama. The school suffered with an operating budget deficit of approximately $2 million, a declining enrollment and had a qualified audit with about 40 findings, not to mention, it was placed on probation by SACS. My predecessor there had actually drafted a preliminary school closure plan. In two and a half years, we were able to turn the deficit into a surplus, grow enrollment and eliminated all of the prior year audit finds, ending with an unqualified audit with zero findings.
Q: Finish this: “On the first anniversary of my retirement” I see myself ...
A: Putting for birdie on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. A guy can dream can’t he?
Q: What is the one trait an educational leader cannot be without?
A: Courage. An educational leader must have the courage to do what is in the best interest of the students we are entrusted to serve, even when it is not the most popular decision. An educational leader must have the courage to take on major issues that confront public education, not just those that are politically expedient.
Q: What do you see as Albany’s biggest education challenge?
A: Gaining, or regaining, the trust and confidence of the public at large is a big challenge. The DCSS has managed to work through so many challenges. Some of those challenges have painted a not so pretty picture of the district. Understandably, a lot of people in the public are discouraged with what they have seen, heard, or read about. It is important for us in the DCSS to accentuate the positive, letting the public know that there are some great things happening in the DCSS. At the same time, we must not bury our heads in the sand when it comes to those critical issues that need to be addressed. We must be willing to accept constructive criticism and use that as part of a balanced and transparent approach to problem-solving.
Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in education over the past several years?
A: The biggest changes I have seen in education over the past several years deal are the drastic cuts in funding coupled with an increased emphasis on accountability. Not only accountability in finances, but also in student performance results.
Q: What was the best vacation you ever took?
A: Believe it or not, the best vacation I ever took was probably the simplest. My family went to a vacation property in Orlando. Of course, my wife and I had plans on taking the girls to the theme parks. Surprisingly, my daughters did not want to go to any of the parks. They asked could we just hang out at the pool and in the game room. So, we just played everything by ear — no plans, no schedules. We spent the entire week just hanging out and I think we all really enjoyed that time together.
Q: Any parting words of wisdom?
A: I just want to challenge everyone with a child in the DCSS to become actively involved in the academic and character education of your child. For those that do not have a child in the system, I challenge them to find a way to make a positive difference in the lives of our students. It is critically important that we serve as positive influences on our youth. It may seem like a big challenge; but, to paraphrase Frederick Douglass, It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken adults.