NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — David Bein is counting down the days — 286 as of Oct. 19, per an app on his phone — until he retires as assistant superintendent of business services for the Barrington 220 Community Unit School District in Illinois.
But while the days of fishing with friends and long-anticipated trips are mere months away, Bein is spending much of his time now planning for when he leaves the district and how to pass along the institutional knowledge he's gained during his time as assistant superintendent.
Meanwhile, Sarah Lager, the district's director of fiscal services and asset management and a mid-career professional, is hoping she'll be promoted to Bein's job. She plans to apply for the position and says she feels well qualified for it.
She's been stretching her skills and learning more about the responsibilities of the assistant superintendent job. For instance, she recently took the lead for a presentation to the school board about a district levy.
Bein and Lager shared how they are planning for succession and for their career transitions — both individually and together — during an Oct. 19 session at the 2023 Association of School Business Officials annual conference.
‘Aspire, inspire and retire’
For Bein, who is also president of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials, his approach has been to "aspire, inspire and retire." With his retirement coming up, Bein said, he has inspired others in his office to aspire to his position. He has done this through staff development and ensuring the office has clear protocols so that once he leaves, the core responsibilities of the office, such as paying bills, are handled efficiently.
He's also considering the skill sets of the people on his team, their career aspirations and opportunities to help fill any knowledge gaps of individual employees.
Bein said he is putting energy into his staff's career development because he wants to make sure the office management and functions stay strong after he leaves.
"When we think about the sequence of career changes, actually I'm just focusing on retirement. That's really my interest in transition, but I have a vested interest in the work that I do," Bein said. "What I care most about is educating children. That's my why. I don't want it to fall apart. I don't want it to fail. That's why I care about transitions."
Some managers may worry that if they put a lot of time and effort into developing their staff's instructional and practical skills, those people may leave the district for another job. While Bein said that can be a valid concern, especially in hard-to-staff districts, it shouldn't prevent leaders from helping staff grow in their careers.
"Why would you ever — when you work in education — why would you ever hold someone back from being able to improve what they're doing?" Bein asked.
For her part, Lager said that while she's preparing to hopefully take over Bein's job by learning as much as she can about his position, she's also worked to build a good work culture in the office. The finance team holds monthly meetings where they discuss a number of nonwork topics. "We just laugh. We have a great time together," Lager said.
Plus, she's invested time into helping current finance staff members learn the particulars of her own job in anticipation of her move to the assistant superintendency.
ASBO audience members asked Lager and Bein how they would handle any charges of favoritism that could arise from their succession planning. Bein said that if another staff member expressed interest in his job, he would share with them the skills needed and suggest resources and supports to get there.
"I can have more than one favorite," Bein said.