NEW PALESTINE — In 2021, Sarah Gizzi made the bold decision to leave behind her job as a math teacher, which she loved, and move to the administrative office for New Palestine Community Schools to become an assistant business manager.

The move paid off for Gizzi, who for the past three years has been learning everything possible about school financing from assistant superintendent Bob Yoder. When Yoder steps down officially later this summer, Gizzi will take over all of his financial duties for the district.

During the most recent school board meeting in May, district officials approved moving Gizzi from assistant business manager to full-time business manager, a position she will fill effective July 1. District officials also boosted her pay to $100,014 per year and gave her a phone stipend.

“That was the goal when I came over, was to work under Bob and get training to eventually do more with the business office,” Gizzi said.

Gizzi, who has a teaching degree, earned financial certification through The Indiana Association of School Business Officials (IASBO).

“Their training program is phenomenal and their networking is amazing,” Gizzi said.

Gizzi is a former New Palestine High School (NPHS) basketball All-Star player, NPHS basketball coach and a former NPHS math teacher who noted it was never her goal to end up in the corporation office away from students and the classroom.

Still, she’s glad things turned out as they did.

 Sarah Gizzi has been named the new business manager for New Palestine Community Schools after several years of serving as the assistant under Bob Yoder. Wednesday, June 5, 2024. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

“I love school,” Gizzi said. “Having the opportunity to do something really different within the school system was really appealing to me, so I took the chance and made a change.”

Now she’ll have the full responsibility of balancing a budget and keeping track of a school district’s finances. New Palestine schools have an operating budget of over $45 million and assets well into the hundreds of thousands, making the job a daunting task. However, Gizzi noted, she won’t be doing anything alone.

“Oh, we have an amazing team in place,” Gizzi said. “That’s what gives me extra confidence that we will make the transition and do quite well.”

A history of balancing the books effectively in the past, Gizzi notes, should continue and lead to a bright future for the district, which continues to grow.

“Bob and this staff (four members) have made sound decisions through the years, so I feel like we will continue to work hard to think everything through and continue to make good decisions,” Gizzi said. “Things are however constantly changing, and that’s one of the things as a teacher or even as a building level administrator you might not think about those things necessarily, but as an administrator, you have to.”

It’s those dynamic possibilities and making sure all the numbers comes out looking as they should that Gizzi says makes the job challenging yet rewarding.

“Every legislative session we have changes, so that’s been probably the thing I’ve found to be most interesting,” Gizzi said.

Gizzi said she’s been fortunate to learn from the people in the business office over the past three years and will continue to work closely with the team and new superintendent Gina Pleak when Yoder leaves.

“Bob has been great because he’s got so much knowledge and connections in the school business world,” Gizzi said. “Every place we’ve gone, he’s taken the time to introduce me to the right people who I will need to work with in the future.”

Gizzi, who is a top-tier competitor, said it’s funny because she’s now working in a section of school administration where different district offices aren’t competing against one another, but rather often work together to find ways to make state dollars stretch.

“We’re all trying to make the best decisions that we can for our students,” Gizzi said. “That’s been one of the things that gives me so much confidence because every time I meet with someone in the county, they’re all supportive.”

Gizzi, who considers herself to be a people person admits that, as a former math teacher, she likes crunching numbers.

“I love numbers,” she said with a laugh. “And I’ve really enjoyed being part of the decision making here, looking at the bigger picture.”

The hardest part about switching from the classroom to the administrative building for Gizzi has been being away from students. While Gizzi coached girls high school basketball for one more year after she came to the corporation building, she’s all about the numbers now.

“The hardest thing for me in all of this is being away from the students,” Gizzi said. “I do miss being with the kids, so I find it really fun when I get to go back into the buildings.”

It’s one of the reasons Gizzi says she’ll jump in and talk with students and teachers and even work on projects in the district to keep those student and teacher connections intact.

With Yoder’s retirement date approaching, Gizzi said that he’s been letting her make all the financial calls, and he’s been watching to make sure everything is in place.

“I’m just trying to get used to that,” she said. “I’m finding myself already making decisions before I go and talk to him about something now. I also ask a lot of questions, and those things you don’t learn in textbooks, you get from experience and knowing the district and what parents and teachers like about our community. Those are things I know which I think will help me moving forward.”

Gizzi noted that, at 47, she’s excited for this next chapter of her life, and if past success is proof of what’s to come, the school district is in good financial hands with Gizzi at the helm.