Dooley: Finances, proration most pressing issues

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 20, 2010

The most pressing issues facing local schools are finances and the threat of additional proration, Mark Dooley said.

Dooley, the CEO of Andalusia Regional Hospital, is a candidate for the District 5 seat on the city board of education in Tuesday’s election.

To remain a viable system through those challenges, difficult decisions and new ideas to generate revenue will need to be implemented, he said.

His almost 20 years of experience in hospital administration have prepared him for the task, he said.

“Surprisingly, there are many similarities between the hospital business and the business of running schools,” he said. “There was a time in both fields where money appeared to be plentiful, but both have endured drastic decreases in funding over the past several years. I have significant experience in guiding organizations with many layers, with hundreds of employees, through difficult times and I know I can help do the same with our schools.”

Specifically, he said, “we have to be creative and think outside of the norm when it comes to funding sources. We also must be diligent with every dollar we spend, although you cannot use expense cutting as your sole way to prosperity – that simply does not work long term. We need a sound fiscal strategy and fiscal leadership.”

Dooley and his family moved to Andalusia in December 2007. Having lived and worked somewhere else helps give him perspective, he said.

“Sometimes it is good to have a fresh set of eyes from the outside come in and offer new ideas or thought processes,” Dooley said. “I have utilized outside resources throughout my professional career to bring fresh ideas, and I feel that can benefit our schools as well.”

Some of that experience came when his family lived in Indiana, just prior to relocating to Andalusia, he said. Dooley served for two years on the Indiana Student Achievement Institute (InSAI) Task Force for his local middle school. The purpose of the task force was to generate ideas, strategies, and tactics to aid the school in achieving its goals related to Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and No Child Left Behind. That experience, he said, would allow him to offer some potentially new ideas and strategies to the city schools as they continually strive to meet those same targets.

“I know from that experience what it takes to meet the many AYP goals, and some of them are difficult for any school to live up to,” he said. “I am proud that our city schools have met those goals to date, but over time the requirements become more stringent, and we may need some new strategies moving forward.”

Dooley said he has the utmost respect for his opponents.

“I know that we are all in the race for the same reason – we want to help make a difference,” he said. “We all attend church together and I know that they are great people with their hearts in the right place.”

However, he said, he believes that his professional and InSAI experience make him uniquely qualified to serve on the board.

Dooley and his wife, Shelly, are the parents of five, four of whom currently attend local schools.