Hauser selected as WASBO’s business manager of the year
Leah Hauser, director of Business Services for the Sparta Area School District (SASD), was recently recognized by the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials (WASBO) as the recipient of the 2021 George Gray WASBO New School Business Manager of the Year award.
This award acknowledges the value and need to recognize new and outstanding school business managers in Wisconsin as well as their contributions to public education, their local school district and community, as well as to the business manager profession, regardless of the size of their district.
The award was renamed in 2019 in honor of George Gray, who was responsible for creating the School of Business Management Master of Science degree program at UW-Whitewater, which trained several of Wisconsin’s school business managers through the “Fairly Normal School District” budget mock annual meeting.
Gray is known for saying, “Business Managers are driving (the district) from the back seat.” Renaming the award in honor of Gray was done to recognize those members who are keeping the ‘car’ on the right side of the road.
To be eligible for the award, a nominee must work as a school business manager in Wisconsin with less than five years of experience
For purposes of the award, a school business manager is defined as an individual who is associated with a public or private school district, vocational/technical school, college or university and fulfills a position such as business manager or business assistant, accounting or finance officer, or head bookkeeper.
A nominee must also hold a Wisconsin 08 license, be an active district professional WASBO member at the time of the nomination and have not received the George Gray WASBO New School Business Manager of the Year award in the past.
Certain criteria are considered when selecting the George Gray WASBO New School Business Manager of the Year including a candidate’s leadership in the schools. The candidate must have demonstrated efforts to significantly improve district operations, save district resources and/or enhance student learning.
A nominee must also demonstrate continuing efforts to learn and grow as a professional; actively participate in the profession through professional associations, service on committees and related activities as well as providing evidence of meaningful involvement in the community.
Hauser received the honor in recognition of her leadership in SASD schools, innovative practices and her role in the Sparta community.
Just as George Gray before her, Hauser’s “skills, curiosity, drive and caring are second-to-none,” according to her nomination letters, which read that her department is often described as running “like a well-oiled machine.”
Hauser is also proficient at making the complicated jargon associated with the business office easily understandable to her colleagues, the school board and members of the community.
In addition to being fiscally responsible, Hauser was instrumental in reworking the district’s Teacher Compensation Model, which went from a complicated selected performance model to a detailed lane-and-step system that implemented incremental pay increases over a staff member’s career.
This was based on an actuarial study of every single employee in the district’s system.
Hauser has been instrumental in every step of SASD’s district expansion, which included building the new elementary school, selling two buildings and the remodeling and reorganizing of several other district buildings.
She has also created long-range technology and staffing plans that have helped the district prioritize resources.
As a leader in the areas of risk management and employee benefits, Hauser helped oversee various accident prevention projects that cut the number of incidents from 2015 to 2019 in half.
Hauser often serves as the district’s spokesperson on the Chamber of Commerce Board, works with the Sparta Area Boys and Girls Club and can often be seen volunteering at local events.
One of her nomination letters noted that “Ms. Hauser is a reflective, lifelong learner with a passion for ensuring our resources are providing the most that they can for the students we serve.”
Hauser was officially honored during the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) - the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) - WASBO State Education Convention in Milwaukee.
She received a plaque and a check in the amount of $1,000, which is to be used for her continuing education, attendance at conferences or seminars, membership dues, or any related activities or resources that contribute to her professional development.