When new Escambia County School Superintendent Michele McClung discovered some employees were actually hand-writing checks to pay the system’s bills, she realized something was missing.

Out of 139 school systems in the state, Escambia County schools were one of two not using modern accounting software called NextGen. Once the school board agreed to purchase the system, they had to fill the opening for a Chief Financial Officer.

The board hired Rochelle Richardson, who, as it turned out, had known McClung a long time. Their relationship had gone back to when Richardson’s daughter attended Dawes Intermediate where McClung was the principal at the time.

The CFO of a school system is a key position and goes beyond just paying bills. Her job is so complex there are four computer monitors on her desk. But Richardson says NextGen will make things simpler. Documents will no longer need to be printed, and every process is streamlined.

Richardson has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and an MBA from LSU, and she is one of those people who simply loves numbers.

“What most people don’t realize is that math is problem-solving,” said Richardson.

Richardson said simple subtraction will streamline finances, as things that currently take five steps will now be done with one touch of a button.

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Rochelle Richardson. Photo: Randy Tatano.

“I’m going to look at the financials, where they are," Richardson said. "I want to improve the school system as a whole for the betterment of the kids.”

Every tax dollar belongs in the classroom, with little things like printing costs and postage adding up. Staffers currently working nights and weekends won’t be putting in overtime. Once those are eliminated, funds can be earmarked for education.

Technology Coordinator Jamie Burkett is working with Richardson to make the transition to NextGen, which should be completed around October.

Richardson is married to a FedEx driver and has one child, a 16-year-old daughter. She once considered being an elementary school teacher.

“I love kids,” she said. But even though her job is one of dollars and cents, she can still have a huge impact on the quality of education.

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