Claudia Zaler

Claudia Zaler

Waverly City School District Treasurer/CFO Claudia Zaler admits that she isn’t good at “tooting her own horn” so to speak. She would much rather tell how well others are doing.

Zaler was recently surprised and honored to learn that she had received two awards from the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBA). Those two awards she received had a bonus attached to them in the form of two scholarships for Waverly High School students.

In news released by the OASBA, Zaler was listed as being one of five individuals receiving a “Regional Distinguished Service Award.” The award recognizes a member from each region of the state who has made a significant contribution — through their time and efforts — to the profession, their school and/or their community. Besides receiving a commemorative award, the winner also receives a $500 scholarship for a student in their school district through the OASBO Foundation.

Zaler was the Southeast Region winner. Other winners included Kyle Smith, Treasurer/CFO, Bexley City School District of the Central Region; Alan Binger, Retired Treasurer/CFO, Vangard Sentinel Career & Technology Center of the Northwest Region; Nicholas Ciarniello, Treasurer/CFO, Boardman Local School District of the Northeast Region; and Robert Hancock, Treasurer/CFO, Hamilton City School District of the Southwest Region.

Those five award recipients are now in the running to be chosen as an overall winner who will receive the Virginia Ramsey Service Award. That individual is awarded an additional $1,000 scholarship for a student in their district. The 2020 Virginia Ramsey Award will be announced at the awards ceremony at the 2020 OSBA Capital Conference, which is currently scheduled for Nov. 8 through 10.

Farther down the webpage highlighting the OASBO honors, Zaler’s name and photograph appears again — this time as the Chuck Gossett Legislative Advocacy Award winner.

Chuck Gossett was OASBO’s president in 2004-2005. Gossett passed away in September of 2004 before he could complete his term as president. The Chuck Gossett Legislative Advocacy Award for Legislative Involvement was formed in 2005 in his honor by his family, friends and colleagues.

Gossett served on numerous committees and worked closely with legislators around the state. His vision for OASBO was a strong legislative presence with members actively participating in the association’s advocacy efforts on behalf of public schools. The additional prize attached to this award that Zaler received was a $1,000 scholarship for a Waverly High School senior.

Zaler has served as the Treasurer/CFO of Waverly City School District since January 2012. Prior to becoming Waverly City Schools Treasurer/CFO, she held the position of Assistant Treasurer for Northwest Local School District for seven and a half years.

Before entering the public sector, Zaler worked as a Fiscal Specialist for Scioto County Community Action Organization, Senior Staff Auditor/Accountant for Balestra Harr & Scherer, CPAs, and Staff Accountant at Reynolds & Company, totaling more than six years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Morehead State University.

Additionally, Zaler is the Chairperson of the OASBO Southern Hills Committee, a member of State Representative Bob Cupp and State Representative John Patterson School Funding work group, and co-chair of Poverty and Preschool subgroup for Ohio’s Fair School Funding Plan. In September of 2015, Zaler was awarded the Outstanding Treasurer of the Year of the Southeast Region by the Ohio School Boards Association.

When Zaler received notice that she was receiving both awards, she also learned who had nominated her for each — fellow school treasurers from different parts of the state. Scott Paul, Treasurer of Franklin Local Schools, had nominated her for the Southeast Regional Distinguished Service Award. Ryan Pendleton, Chief Financial Officer with Akron Public Schools, nominated Zaler for the Chuck Gossett Award. Zaler has worked closely with Pendleton for almost three years on the Cupp Patterson School Funding work group.

“I am a member of the Cupp Patterson School Funding work group, one of eight treasurers, eight superintendents and other consultants who were chosen or nominated to work with State Representative Robert Cupp and John Patterson. We started back in November 2017 to work on a school funding formula for the State of Ohio,” explained Zaler.

“We were split into pairs; one treasurer partnered with a superintendent to be sub group co-chairs. I was paired with Doug Ute, Superintendent of Newark City Schools, for the Poverty and Preschool sub-group. During the course of our mission to build a school funding formula around the whole student, we met several times a month both in person and tele-conference with various school administrators, teachers, advocates, many State Representatives, and even Senator Peggy Lehner. Myself and others traveled to the State House to testify in support of the new funding model, and we continue to meet and discuss currently.”

Zaler believes that her work on the Cupp Patterson school funding project led to her being nominated for the Chuck Gossett Award.

“I believe that every student has the right to be taught at their level and that many students in our area have needs (social and emotional) that must be met before they can begin to learn. They have to trust us, make a connection, (and) they need to feel loved. In our area, we have a high rate of poverty, and we really don’t have the same access in our area as in others,” said Zaler.

“This has been my big statement, ‘Economically disadvantaged looks different in rural areas than it does in urban areas.’ When I think of disadvantages, I think of it as both economic and academic. That doesn’t mean that I think the value of education delivered in a rural area is less valuable than other places; it means it looks different. We have a lack of resources like internet access, counseling services, day cares, just to name a few.

“If you have two-thirds of the classroom that is economically disadvantaged, the other one-third of the classroom is going to be disadvantaged in some way. So, when I speak on this subject, I speak for all of southeastern Ohio — not just Waverly students — but all students. When I first started working with the group, I thought they had made a mistake; I was a small fish in a big pond. But I think that is what made me work harder.”

In order to receive one of the two scholarships, Zaler created an application for Waverly High School seniors, asking for basic information like grade point average, financial need, activity involvement both in school and outside of school, and future plans.

“I had a couple of administrators and myself narrow down the list and choose who we thought the best candidates for each one,” said Zaler. “The scholarships have not been announced yet. They will find out during the awards ceremony later this month.”

Zaler is appreciative to everyone who has had a hand in her journey.

“I know that without the support of many people in my life and career, I wouldn’t be where I am today. In previous years while attending the conference, I would sit in the crowd and watch others receive these awards, but I never thought it would be me,” said Zaler.

“I chose my career in numbers because that is what I enjoyed. I chose to work at school because I thought I could be a part of making a difference, even if it was behind the scenes.”

Email at jbillings@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @ Julie_Billings

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