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School finances get help from crisis team

By Jeffrey Obser Daily Planet Staff
Monday October 22, 2001

State financial fix-it experts officially came to the Berkeley Unified School District’s rescue this week. 

The school board heard Wednesday night from Joel Montero, a consultant with the Financial Crisis and Management Team, a non-profit financial consultancy set up under state legislation, and Alameda County schools superintendent Sheila Jordan, who helped the team come to Berkeley. 

“It’s going to take a little bit of time, but we’re going to get there,” Montero said. 

FCMAT — known as “fick mat” among board members and district administrators who have eagerly awaited its arrival — is based at the Kern County Office of Education and is currently involved in 16 school districts statewide. 

Montero said 30 percent of its activity here will be to resolve the fiscal muddle that led the county to “disapprove” the district budget, Montero said. The rest of its time, he said, will go toward changing management structures. 

“We have to fix those so that when we go away, the work we do can remain,” he said. 

The very first task would be to fix, he said, “the functions of the business office, the day-to-day operations,” including its creaking data-processing system. A full-time FCMAT consultant with a strong technology and business background will play the role of the district “CEO” or associate superintendent for business services until a replacement is found. 

Jordan declined Thursday to estimate how long the consultants would have to be engaged. 

“We’re not making those predictions right now,” she said. “We know it’s a big job because it’s systems job, and there’s a