Wednesday, March 26, 2014

College district's financial chief named top CFO in education

Sue Rearic
Sue Rearic, vice chancellor-business services for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, has been named 2014 CFO of the Year for education by the San Diego Business Journal.

Presented the award Wednesday night at Paradise Point Resort & Spa, Rearic was one of more than 60 finalists for the eighth annual event recognizing San Diego chief financial officers for the roles they play in the success of their businesses and their positive impact on the company. The Business Journal described the CFOs as key professionals who “exemplify hard work, dedication, ethics and the ability to inspire others to work together to find solutions to business challenges.”

Rearic has worked as a manager in the two-college district since 1986 and was named to her current vice chancellor post in 2008. The beginning of her tenure as vice chancellor came at the start of the most difficult chapter in the college district’s financial history – a four-year period that saw state funding for the district cut by $16 million resulting in the loss of more than 1,600 class sections at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges. Her keen understanding of the district’s financial blueprint and ability to accurately forecast and navigate the fiscal tsunamis after taking the helm as CFO has kept the district at an even keel, with balanced budgets and spotless audits year after year.

“No one is more deserving of this award and recognition for her top-notch financial oversight of the district,” said Chancellor Cindy L. Miles. “In building the district budget, Sue has always kept service to students and ensuring their success as top priorities, and she also understands the responsibility the district has to stay true to commitments it has made to its employees. We are proud to say the district survived the darkest days of the state’s financial crisis without having to lay off a single contract employee.”

As vice chancellor-business services, Rearic is responsible for managing the East County college district’s $200 million budget. She is also the leader of District Services, which has about 100 workers in areas such as facilities planning, research, law enforcement, accounting, payroll, purchasing and information systems. 

Greeted at work with a congratulatory cake and flowers the morning after receiving the award, Rearic was customarily quick to share the credit.

“I don’t do anything alone – I always depend on the support of my team thinking through critical issues and helping me track all the details,” she said. “In addition, our senior leadership across the district supports one another. I am especially appreciative of our chancellor, who understands the CFO role and encourages a fiscal voice and transparency in everything we do as the district.”

Rearic, a 27-year employee of the college district, is well regarded for her compassion and sensitivity toward others, as well as a dry sense of humor. She traces her life through her history with the college district.

“I started here single many years ago, met my husband at Grossmont College, married and raised three boys along the way,” she said. “My kids have learned to roll with the reality of having a working and sometimes crazy-controlling and commanding mom. They are awesome kids and have been very supportive.”

As vice chancellor, Rearic has created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for District Services and a collegial consultation group for strategic planning and budget transparency. A quarterly potluck lunch for district employees has been a morale-booster and an opportunity for friendly competition, as departments attempt to outdo each other with specially-themed events.

It was during one such lunch hour that Rearic joined in on a karaoke session, startling co-workers. True to form, she excelled.