By Jennifer Jimenez, Independent Newsmedia
After five dedicated years of service to the Dysart Unified School District with a list of accomplishments under his belt, Executive Director of Business Services Jack Eaton is retiring.
Dysart Director of Communications Zach Fountain said Mr. Eaton has dramatically impacted the way the district operates and said they are really going to miss him.
While he met and maintained the day-to-day requirements of the district, it’s something out of the ordinary Mr. Eaton said he is most he is most proud of.
He said over the past year, he has had the opportunity to benefit district employees beyond the scope of their traditional jobs.
“We work really hard and value the growth of employees outside of their jobs and we spent a lot of time on wellness and giving employees the opportunity to be healthy and make choices towards a healthier lifestyle,” Mr. Eaton said.
In addition to wellness, Mr. Eaton said last year they introduced financial management classes for all staff.
Mr. Eaton said there’s more value to those classes than he has been able to quantify, suggesting there’s much more to life than just their job.
“If I can make them do better in their job and if I can relieve some other stresses they have, it’s better for everyone,” he said
When Mr. Eaton first began his career with DUSD, the district was trying to recover from a serious financial downturn.
Several cuts were made and the department was slim, leaving little time for analysis and decision making. Mr. Eaton said he spent his first two years organizing and hiring a team strategically placed to move forward.
“Now we are an analytical group and have moved as many transactions as we could to technology and that was successful,” Mr. Eaton explained. “There’s still work to do. The district was in good financial shape when I arrived and it will be when I leave.”
Mr. Eaton said one the challenges he has been rapid enrollment growth, since the district has limited resources for things, such as buses, which run two million miles a year.
“Up until last year, we were unable to buy news buses and we hadn’t since 2006,” Mr. Eaton explained. “The good news is, Dysart is basically caught up in terms of facilities. But the bad news is, with state cut backs on capital funding, which was cut by 87 percent, we have $1.5 million instead to maintain buildings, keep parking lots clear and increase technology.”
Mr. Eaton said the upgrade in technology is expensive, but a good investment since its cheaper than textbooks.
He said you must have investment dollars to make something work and the district has done a great job of carving that money out while maintaining reasonable class sizes.
They are close to a 1-to-1 ratio for students having access to a computer.
Mr. Eaton gives credit to his entire department. Saying the team does all the work.
“I selected the team and since I’ve been around a long time I have a vision of how things ought to be,” he explained. “I manage several departments, but I don’t do their work. My job is to get them resources and give them general direction, then set them free. I haven’t done anything exceptional, just provided an environment for people to feel free to innovate. And we don’t do everything right, we’ve had some failures and that’s how you learn. This can’t be done without all the people and most are behind the scenes.”
Looking back, Mr. Eaton said its relationships with developers is another achievement for the district.
He said through voluntary agreements the developers have donated a portion of each permit cost back to the district, which has helped to secure six future school sites, saving the district money they won’t have to go back to ask for later.
Mr. Eaton’s future plans include continuing to call Arizona home and taking time to relax, before spending a great deal more time with his family in the Northwest.