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8 June 2012
Deakin University's School Leadership expert, Professor Karen Starr, has reiterated her call for more business management expertise in schools following the closure of debt-laden Mowbray College.
Her call follows comments by the administrator of the college about the lack of experienced financial acumen on the college's board.
"Business can no longer be seen as a dirty word in education," she said.
"It is an absolute imperative and deserves serious attention.
"Education is a business, it is complex, it is massive in scope and time-consuming and should not be left to well intentioned parents or amateurs," she said.
Professor Starr also warned Governors of schools - school councillors or board members are liable (personally).
"Many don't realise this," she said.
Professor Starr has worked both as a former private and state school principal and was named Telstra Business Woman of the Year for the non profit sector. Her latest book Above and Beyond the Bottom Line looks at the emergence of the education business manager.
"When I first took up the principalship I was amazed at the amount of time, thinking and effort that had to occur to ensure the business aspects of the school ran in a sound, thorough and timely manner," she said.
"I soon realised the immensity and importance of the complete range of my new responsibilities, many of which to that point had never crossed my mind.
"Given the power the principalship provided I understood the potential impact my decisions could have on the school's business: I could blow it or bust it.
"Very quickly I realised the importance of working closely with the school's business manager and I've been blessed then and since with working with some of the best."
Professor Starr said in many respects, managing education business is the same as managing any other business endeavour.
"The only difference is the organisation's core focus and function," she said.
"If the business is not well managed within the education system or the institution itself, and the business fails, education itself suffers or as in Mowbray's case ceases to happen."
Professor Starr said the scope of the business side of education is expanding constantly.
"The business includes not only finances and budgets but human resources, managing facilities (including multi-million dollar building projects), governance and strategy, all compliance, regulations, audits and accountability requirements, PR, supervision of all Education Support Staff and a lot of work that used to be conducted by educators, including timetabling.
"This is too much for principals and it should come as no surprise to find that more and more educational institutions are appointing business managers to oversee the enormous range of corporate functions essential to education.
"Some of the larger institutions have general managers, and chief financial officers as a matter of necessity.
"The business manager is emerging as a critical education leader who can secure savings, find additional funding and ensure legislative and regulatory compliance."
Deakin Media Relations
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