School district’s CFO retires Aug. 30
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
Las Cruces Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Terry Dean isn’t so much retiring at the end of August as he is shifting gears.
After more than 15 years with the school district, Dean, 55, will officially hang up his calculator, so to speak, on Tuesday, Aug. 30. But, after taking about a month off to go elk hunting, he will begin a new career as a certified public accountant helping smaller school districts and charter schools around the state deal with financial issues. “I’m not necessarily interested in slowing down,” Dean said. “I want to be an accountant again,” he said, adding that, “My wife says I can’t stay home without adult supervision.”
So, with a list provided by the New Mexico Public Education Department, Dean will begin traveling the state in September to help fill what he called a “huge void” that many small districts and charters are experiencing because they lack trained business professionals.
DEAN “There’s so much need for someone to go in and teach them … cash-basis accounting,” Dean said. “It’s not politics, it’s just the facts.” He plans to help the schools and school districts “clean up their mess and teach them how to keep it clean, and ride off to the next assignment.”
Dean said he also will be able to pursue his interests in hunting and fishing during his travels. “If I have an elk tag, I’m going to put a ‘Gone huntin’ sign on my office door and go hunting,” he said.
Dean was hired away from the Gallup-McKinley County School system by former LCPS CFO Jack Jenkins in 2001. Dean’s first position with the school district was comptroller. He was named CFO in 2006, and has also overseen LCPS operations since 2014.
“Jack did such an incredible job of managing the finances of this district … during a difficult growth period,” Dean said. In contrast, Dean said much of his tenure as CFO has been spent dealing with a “funding crisis from the state of New Mexico. They’re not funding education,” he said.
Not that many years ago, half of the state’s general fund was allocated to education. “Now, less than 42 percent of the state’s operational fund goes to public education,” Dean said.
That’s one of the reasons Dean has decided now is the time to retire from public education. “I feel like sometimes the public blames the superintendent and myself because there’s less resources,” he said.
“Because the resources are not there, there are comments made by bomb throwers from the pulpit of public input that make insinuations on my integrity,” Dean said. “I’m going to leave before any of the allegations or bomb throwing sticks to me,” he said.
“The society of entitlement has gotten to such that everybody is looking for somebody to blame,” Dean said. “I’m not going to do that,” he said. “You might not like what I’ll tell you, but I’ll always tell you the truth.
Dean said the thing he is most proud of at LCPS “is this team.”
He has allowed many employees in his department to take flex time and pursue university degrees. As a result, “nine people have gotten their degree since I’ve been here.” That includes not only accounting degrees, but also degrees in speech-language pathology, radiology, school counseling and teaching, along with several MBAs. “A lot of them have left” his department, he said, to pursue their careers.
“My goal is to grow the individual,” he said. “If you can’t help someone achieve their personal goals, you’re just treating them like a screw in the machine.”
Dean said he also is proud of his service directing LCPS’ enhanced educational environment program, which is gradually replacing cheap classroom furniture with quality desks and other fixtures. Each high school costs about $3 million to refurnish, he said, and there are still two of those two go, along with middle and elementary schools. The process is about one-third complete, Dean said.
“We’ve been able to accomplish a lot,” he said. Former LCPS Superintendent “Stan (Rounds) was able to accomplish an incredible amount with the finance piece,” Dean said.
“You go around the state, Las Cruces is a gem, it’s a jewel,” he said. LCPS “facilities are second to none. We’ve done a good job using the resources to maintain facilities, to build facilities. We’re sitting in a good place.”
Dean said he had intended to retire on June 30, at the end of the last fiscal year, but decided to wait two more months to “get the fiscal year rolled over, set up and get school started. It just worked better for the team,” he said. The time is right” to move on, Dean said. “I’ll pull a Peyton Manning. I’m going out on top.”
Dean is a native of Tatum, New Mexico with bachelor’s degrees in accounting and personnel management from Eastern New Mexico University. He worked in a bank early in his career, doing collections and “hated it. I liked when I was doing monthly accounting reports.”
Dean worked for both Gallup-McKinley County Schools and Silver Consolidated Schools in Silver City before coming to LCPS.
He has twice serviced as president of the New Mexico Association of School Business Officials. “I’m kind of the old guy in the state,” he said. “Now they call me.”
Dean and his wife of 29 years, Dama, who teaches special education at Tombaugh Elementary School, have two children, Katelyn, who teaches drama at Camino Real Middle School in La Cruces, and Quintin, who is a senior at New Mexico State University studying wildlife biology. They also are expecting their first grandchild in February. “We’re excited about that,” he said.