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Financial Planning and Budget Services Blog

Standard Operating Procedures - Creating Effective Documentation for our Work

Would you fly on a plane knowing that the maintenance crew and pilots were “sort of” trained, didn’t have written instructions, and were allowed to do things however they wanted to that day?

Probably not.

Everyone knows that being “sort of” trained does not encourage using best practices nor does it produce effective results.

Milwaukee Public Schools is establishing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) culture, to be a leader in using best practices, systems and processes equitably and efficiently to align and maximize resources in support of our strategic objectives. SOPs are  used by organizations  to create consistency in how processes and tasks are performed. They consist of clearly documented, step-by-step procedures and checklists that are easy for employees to follow and greatly reduce the chances of mistakes.

Why would I want SOPs and what will they do for me?

1.       They improve communication. Well written SOPs clearly define responsibilities to employees and can improve communications across the district and within departments.

2.       They facilitate training. Having complete step-by-step instructions make the future onboarding, training and transfer of knowledge to staff possible.

3.       They provide consistency in work and work products. SOPs ensure that the tasks and activities that keep the organization running effectively will be done, regardless of the day or employee completing the task.

4.       They enable cross training. Documented processes and procedures help to remove the effect of having just a handful of people or, in some cases, just  one person with the knowledge needed to perform a task. SOPs are an excellent reference document  for employees that are filling in on jobs they do not perform on a regular basis.

5.       They create efficiencies and best practices. A well written SOP will improve productivity and will outline how to do a job the same way every time rather than have an employee wondering, “How does my supervisor want it done today?”

The initial preparation and updating of SOPs may be time consuming, but the time is well spent when you consider the many benefits they provide.

How can I learn more about SOPs?


School District Earns Meritorious Budget Award

Milwaukee Public Schools

Milwaukee, WI

RESTON, VA – 2017. The Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) has awarded Milwaukee Public Schools its Meritorious Budget Award (MBA) for excellence in budget presentation during the 2016–2017 budget year.

The MBA promotes and recognizes excellence in school budget presentation and enhances school business officials' skills in developing, analyzing, and presenting a school system budget. After a rigorous review by professional auditors, the award is conferred only on school districts that have met or exceeded the program’s stringent criteria.

Voya Financial, Inc.® is honored to sponsor the MBA and the Pathway to the MBA program for the 12th consecutive year.

Voya Financial®, a top provider of retirement plans for the academic community, is an ASBO International strategic partner and exclusive sponsor of the Meritorious Budget Award. “Voya has a long history of supporting the school business profession, and we are honored to recognize this year’s Meritorious Budget Award winners,” said Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets for Voya Financial. “Like our award winners, Voya also shares in their pursuit of excellence. We are committed to offering the best solutions to help our nation’s educators and school officials prepare for retirement—so they can focus on helping their students prepare for a bright future.”

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), helps Americans plan, invest, and protect their savings—to get ready to retire better. Serving the financial needs of approximately 13 million individual and institutional customers in the United States, Voya Financial is committed to delivering on its vision to be America’s Retirement CompanyTM and its mission to make a secure financial future possible—one person, one family, one institution at a time.  For more information, visit

About ASBO International
ASBO International, founded in 1910, is a professional organization of 5,000 members that provides programs and services to promote the highest standards of school business management practices, professional growth, and the effective use of education resources. 

For more information about the Meritorious Budget Award or Pathway to the MBA, visit


Fiscal All-Star School Leaders

Office of Finance • July 2016

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, five School Leaders received the 2015-2016 MPS Financial & Budget Leadership Certificate of Recognition. Thank you for your fiscal stewardship.

From left to right: Michael Harris (Riverside University High School), Justin Henze (Lancaster), Tanzanique Carrington (Hartford), Gerald Pace (Chief Financial Officer), Katrina Fisher (Benjamin Franklin), Ebbie Wells (Fairview)


Teaching Economics

"Bridging the Financial Literacy Gap: Empowering Teachers to Support the Next Generation"

S.D.S.(2016, April 13). Bridging the Financial Literacy Gap: Empowering Teachers to Suppor the Next Generation. Education Week, pp. 5

Millennial teachers are more likely to believe that financial literacy should be taught in schools than their older colleagues, concludes a report from professional-services firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

The report, released last week, measures approximately 2,000 teachers' attitudes toward financial education. The research firm MDR conducted an online survey of teachers of various subjects and grades from across the country. PricewaterhouseCoopers launched a financial-literacy effort, including a curriculum called Earn Your Future, four years ago.

The survey found that 47 percent of millennial teachers, compared with 42 percent of their older colleagues, believe financial education should be taught primarily in the classroom and reinforced at home. The margin of error was 2.9 percent. Millennials were also more likely than their peers to use grants or to fundraise through websites like DonorsChoose in order to teach financial literacy.

Overall, 92 percent of the teachers surveyed said they believe that financial education should be taught in school, but only 12 percent do so.

MPS Systems Thinking - Links to Leadership

Shannon Gordon • March 15, 2016

In December 2014, the district entered into a contract with the Waters Foundation to develop the MPS Systems Thinking in Schools project.  The Waters Foundation began work with MPS in the development and integration of the Systems Thinking model, which utilizes habits, tools and concepts to develop an understanding of the interdependent structures of dynamic systems.  Systems Thinking is currently being implemented at 5 schools (Brown Street Academy, Emerson, Humboldt Park, Story and Thurston Woods).

As part of the FY16 and FY17 Biennial Budget Operational Planning Process, a white paper was developed to expand the Systems Thinking in Schools project to include district central office staff (MPS Systems Thinking – Links to Leadership).    In January 2016 the district extended the contract with the Waters Foundation to provide workshop facilitation and follow-up professional development coaching for the MPS Systems Thinking – Links to Leadership project.

By learning and practicing the Systems Thinking habits and tools, staff at central office would be a part of creating a culture that seeks to understand system behavior as a whole, not individual parts.  In order to implement improvements of the MPS goal of effective and efficient operations, especially in fueling better communication systems within the district, MPS must facilitate a deeper understanding of systemic change.

During the four sessions participants learned the “Habits of a Systems Thinker” and within like job groups, practiced the habits and tools using situations from their daily work and interactions. In March 2016 the Department of Financial Planning & Budget Services completed the MPS Systems Thinking - Links to Leadership project. Members of the Office of Finance that participated in the training look forward to using this mindset in their daily work, especially as they move forward with the FY17 budget planning process.

Time For Finances?

Tom Back • September 17, 2015

School leaders and various MPS administrators have enough going on every day to leave them no time or energy for taking care of the financial responsibilities inherent in their role. So how do we get around to managing the money?

Here’s some tips gleaned from our years of observing MPS leaders who were/are successful at managing their financial responsibilities:

  1. Especially for first or second year on the job: ask an experienced peer or supervisor how they make time for budgetary matters.
  2. Call a friend:  the Finance team can step through routine tasks with you to make sure you are addressing what’s important first – using your time wisely.
  3. Delegate what you can. While a leader/manager is responsible for the finances in their purview, an assistant can run reports, create supporting documentation, serve as a “sounding board”, or otherwise check your work.
  4. Make an appointment on your calendar. If you wait until you are not distracted, you will not look at finances for weeks or months. As we know, the neglect usually leads to much more time cleaning up a mess than the time needed for regular attention to the issues.
  5. Amy Morin wrote an article for Forbes magazine which reminds us of some ways to deal with procrastination. One of her tips is “breaking goals into manageable chunks”. That may be very important for an MPS leader who can spend an hour on payroll one day, check overall spending another day, review finances with staff on yet another day, and of course meet with Finance on yet another day.

Best of luck as we serve our families this fall!

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