This month’s spotlight features Nolberto Delgadillo (The Broad Residency 2012-2014), Chief Financial Officer of Tulsa Public Schools. Nolberto was recently included in The Strategic CFO: A guide for school districts, a toolkit we completed in partnership with ERS. The report includes 3 mindsets and 5 core functions shared by CFOs who help their districts change the status quo and align resources to strategy.
What inspired you to pursue your role?
My inspiration is anchored around an opportunity I saw to introduce and develop an aligned system coordinated not only around the required fiscal operations, but more importantly, one that blends school-based strategies and the school leader’s lens into financial planning. Too many times, the sole goal of the CFO office is ensuring the budget balances, payroll is accomplished and all of the other transactional tasks are executed, which are important, but there is space to be strategic and enhance the experience by providing more in-depth planning and analysis with robust service to school leaders.
What initiative are you currently focused on?
Currently there are three primary initiatives:
- Redesigning the school planning process: The goal of this initiative is to rework how school leaders experience strategic planning. In previous years, school leaders received their enrollment forecasts, staffing plan information late in the spring to make planning decisions with their teams. Now, we are in the midst of not only providing the information in the winter, but also building a support network with strategist to help school leaders build strategic plans where people, time and money are aligned to student data and needs.
- Reshaping culture in the CFO’s office: The team’s existing customer service and subject matter expertise is exceptional, the need for a culture shift is around building cadence and routine in how we support each other’s capacity to be strategic thinkers and optimize everything we Taking a step back from “this is how we’ve always done it” to asking “is this work absolutely necessary?”, “what value is it bringing to school leaders?” and “are we executing as effectively as possible?”. This has helped empower staff to identify and work towards efficiencies and even better customer service.
- Long-term strategic (financial) planning: We have an environment where our revenue is declining but we also have so many exciting programs and initiatives that will benefit our students. How can we make it all happen? The goal of long-term planning is evaluating where we will be financially in 3 to 5 years and understanding the tradeoffs that will be required. The key to this work is understanding how to value the tradeoffs through a strategic lens (assessing dimensions of valuation such as cost, student impact, community feedback, equity, etc. are going to be key to driving this initiative).
How does your work connect with your organization’s long-term vision?
The way I like to think about it is, don’t let the budget drive the strategy. My work is centered around, how can the budget support the vision of the district. Although, it’s fair to say “we can do anything, but we can’t do everything”, it’s my job to help us find the right balance.
How do you incorporate stakeholders in your financial decisions and planning, both internal (e.g., school leaders) and external (e.g., community members)?
We can always do better. This year we introduced, school strategy partners that work directly with school leaders throughout the year to support with planning. More recently with our community, we are developing a more consistent plan of engagement that will be key to our long-term financial planning.
How do you define success within the finance organization?
I define our success when our stakeholders see us as thought partners and a team that brings them value.
What aspect of the CFO role most surprised you?
Everyone assumes I am an accountant or CPA! I always smile and say, far from it. I’m a systems guy. There’s a “traditional CFO” perception to overcome and I enjoy enlightening folks.