Assistant superintendent of business William Wong prepares to transition on with his career from SGUSD. He was presented with a job at an engineering company where he will be helping school districts with their budget in their electrical and power use.
Being in the Business Services Department for almost 2 years, Wong has had the responsibility of overseeing maintenance, information technology, food services, finance, and risk management, putting him in charge of some of the most pivotal aspects of SGUSD’s business side. These financial tasks are to ensure that the district has enough money to survive as an organization and to operate accordingly. With such an important role, Wong reveals some of the challenges he faces when making these decisions.
“The state of California has mandated that every district come up with an overarching guiding document called the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which is done in partnership with the Education Services Department. My role is to make sure the department supports that guiding document, but what’s challenging is that there are different ideas that the public has in the district’s direction. Unfortunately, there are limited funds so there are limits as to what we can do. Another challenging aspect is being strategic as we don’t have an ideal funding system but we just have to do our best with what we have.”
Over the span of Wong’s 14 years working in SGUSD, he has taken on many different roles including a math teacher for Gabrielino High School, a fiscal services director, a principal for Coolidge Elementary School, and finally an assistant superintendent. Being able to experience the different levels of the district has allowed Wong to see his growth over the years.
“What has been great was being able to learn different perspectives. Once I started switching to different positions and became an assistant superintendent, I learned how complicated things were. As far as personal growth, I saw how challenging each of these positions were and learned how important each person, employee, and voice was. Many times, we think we are the most important people in our job but in reality, every job is important and it takes a team of people with widely different skills and knowledge in order to make school and learning happen.”
Within his time in the district, Wong has shown his impactful role through the many decisions and tasks he has helped to accomplish. While there were many memorable moments he could recall, being able to amplify his and the community’s voices were at the top of his list.
“One of the proudest moments in my career was advocating for a position and for what I and a lot of others felt was better for the school district. It was uncomfortable for me because I was an employee taught not to cause problems and raise my voice but I and a lot of other people did. I think empowering people’s voices is critical in a democracy and in everyone’s lives.”
After working in this district for so many years, leaving SGUSD was a bittersweet moment for Wong. He has had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of staff that he will not forget.
“My favorite part about working in SGUSD is the people. It’s cliche but there are an incredibly gifted and hardworking staff in the district and that’s evident in every role I’ve had. There are teachers and principals working many hours because they’re so devoted. I am going to miss interacting and having fun with so many different people from school sites to the office.”
Based on Wong’s experiences and unique perspectives he has faced along the way, he advises people to stay curious and to try and understand others.
“As far as growth, every new job position was a learning experience despite its challenges. However, it has helped me grow as a person and I want to encourage that. This world needs a lot more understanding of people who are different from us. How you treat people is important. People thrive when they feel trusted and supported, so what I hope I can leave behind is that there are many different ways to run things.”
Despite this bittersweet moment, Wong is looking forward to what the future has in store for him. He shares some details about the importance of his new role at the engineering company.
“It’s [Electrical and power usage] the largest cost for our school district other than personnel, so if we can cut those energy bills by 20% to 30%, that could save hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s wildly different from what I’ve done working in schools but it’s a change I think I needed.”
While he continues on with his exciting journey, Wong hopes to continue advocating for education on the side. He wants to use his experiences and perspectives SGUSD has provided him for the better.
“I’ve spoken in different panels and organizations about the complexity of public education so I hope to be an advocate as I can in this next stage of my life. I think that public education in California needs to get more in the priority of the California legislature. The fundings have plummeted over decades as far as the share of the state budget.”