You’ve had a rewarding career in education, and now you’ve been hired as a Federal Programs Director. Kudos to you!
This is an important role that impacts students across your district – and it comes with a lot of responsibility. Federal Programs Directors oversee strategic plans, manage budgets, provide leadership for Federal Programs, and ensure compliance with State and Federal laws.
As a new Federal Programs Director, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed with the responsibilities of your new role. To make the transition easier, we consulted with Federal Programs Directors across the 806 Technologies network, and asked for their advice and expertise. We received so many answers that we’re releasing 2 blog posts to help you get started as a new Federal Programs Director. In this first blog, we’ll cover 10 tips to maintain compliance from day one.
1. Become familiar with the local school board's vision for student success.
As a Federal Programs Director, you are responsible for the distribution of your school district’s federal funding. It’s important to meet with the members of your School Board and understand their vision for the district, so you can ensure funds are being directed toward district priorities for student success.
2. Learn the laws.
To ensure compliance, you must be familiar with the laws affiliated with every grant funding source you manage. Spend some time on the U.S. Department of Education website and read up on Titles I, II, III, IV, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Carl Perkins, and other Federal policies.
Be sure to also read the State and Federal Program Guidance for each program, so you understand what you can and cannot do with funds.
3. Note State and Federal due dates.
Print a timeline of State and Federal due dates, and keep it somewhere you can easily access it. You may also wish to add these dates to your online calendar, with alerts to help you stay on track throughout the year.
4. Create a list of monthly "must-do's".
Federal programs work is very seasonal, with certain tasks that must be completed each month, and some tasks that only take place once a year. The first year can be daunting, but it you can create a good timeline of the tasks that are pertinent each month, you will have a repeatable process you can follow each year.
Key tasks could include collecting:
- Personnel Activity Reports (PARs)
- School Improvement Plans (SIPs)
- Contract Renewals for Federally Funded Employees
- And more…
If the previous director is available, ask for their help in creating this list.
5. Enlist the help of your administrative assistant.
If you have an assistant, allow them to take over support tasks and assist you in your role. If your assistant also worked with the prior Federal Programs Director, he or she is likely to be familiar with tasks required throughout the year and may be a good resource in helping you get up to speed.
6. Meet with your accounting team and/or Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to learn the budget process for your local education agency (LEA).
Each school district or state will have its own procurement policy, which may differ from policies held by other states or districts. It’s important to understand what the budget and purchasing process looks like for your LEA, to ensure all procedures are followed.
Meet and become friends with the people in your business department and find out how your role works with theirs in regards to budgets, expenditure approvals, and more.
7. Lead the process for conducting a Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA).
Almost every Federal Grant program requires a CNA on file with the LEA to ensure funds are being directed to the greatest needs in the district. Guide your district in developing a plan based on prioritized needs that include evidence-based strategies along with methods for evaluating those strategies.
8. Get to know your State Department of Education Contacts.
Ask the Superintendent or their assistant to update the State Department with your contact information. It’s important to ensure the state knows that you are their contact for Federal Programs.
It’s also a good idea to introduce yourself to contacts with the State Department of Education as they can be a great support system for you.
9. Network with leaders across the state and beyond.
Developing a peer network will expose you to different perspectives, help you stay informed about new developments, and give you resources to call when you have questions.
Federal Programs Directors in our network suggest creating a “Phone-a-Friend” list with numbers to call when you need advice.
Soon, you’ll become the friend to call. (Be sure to read Part 2 in this series for more advice on networking!)
10. Choose an easy, organized method for maintaining required documentation.
Federal funds are usually monitored for compliance 1 to 5 years after the year of spending, and this can become a stressful and seemingly impossible task for Federal Programs Directors.
While some districts still manage audits and state monitoring events with paper documents, most are using a more reliable online document management tool.
Starting any new position can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you already have what it takes to succeed. Your experience, job performance, and leadership have led you here, and these qualities will continue to serve you in your new role as a Federal Programs Director.
Following the steps above will help you maintain compliance from day one. Refer to Part 2 for tips that go beyond compliance to help you achieve career excellence and student success.
We are here for you! Our team of certified educators at 806 Technologies can help you through every step of the way with our web-based Title1Crate and Plan4Learning tools. We also offer professional learning for creating effective Comprehensive Needs Assessments.
Our mission is to create a world of innovative schools, and our software programs help free up school leaders’ time to allow for that innovation.
Title1Crate is a secure, web-based compliance document management system for collecting, organizing, and validating Title I documentation. It eliminates the need for physical files, crates of paperwork and filling up local servers.
All LEA documentation is in one central, cloud-based location – easily accessible when needed and completely secure and protected for years. The organizational structure, number and type of required files, notifications, timelines, and users are all completely customizable. It is straight-forward and easy to use.
Title1Crate is the best way to be compliant, ready for audits and to monitor expenditures to ensure the very best use of federal dollars.
Plan4Learning is a web-based software program that enables campuses and districts to develop improvement plans that comply with state and federal laws and create measurable advancements in student performance.
Plan4Learning provides a multi-user platform that supports effective processes to implement, monitor and adjust the actions schools take to improve student achievement. Plan4Learning’s format helps stop planning as an act of compliance and utilize planning as an essential component for creating and growing high-performing schools.
806 Technologies is made up of experienced Title I administrators and Federal Programs Directors who know the comprehensive needs assessment process and can help you along the way.
We will partner with you to provide job-embedded support, mentoring, and training. Access our team of certified educators who can provide you with planning tools, advice, resources, and more.
Ready to start the school year with greater ease and efficiency? Contact us today and let us help you kick off the school year with success!