“We’re used to it. We have pure commitment, we’re going to do what it takes no matter what,” Garcia explains.
A few extra hours of time together means going for bike rides with the kids, and Garcia also uses her time off to scrapbook, attend church and relieve stress by exercising.
At work, Garcia’s responsibility at ICOE is a daunting one. Garcia manages the fiscal oversight for all the school districts and aids in reviewing budgets once they are submitted for approval. Money from the government is first filtered through her office before being allocated to the districts. She also oversees attendance reporting and is responsible for bringing issues facing the state that impact the schools to the local level.
“This is not an easy job,” Garcia says. “But I love being able to give guidance and help business managers at the districts share ideas on how we can get through this. We have a lot of those talks.”
Brent Watson, Garcia’s former supervisor and the person who vacated the position she now holds, says Garcia’s dedication to providing the right information is unmatched.
“She’s all business, but once you get to know her, her amazing personality shines through. That personality is what helps her do what she does now. People become comfortable with her and they open up and ask her questions,” Watson adds. “She’s developed some great friendships with the school districts.”
Watson, who now works as the assistant superintendent of business services at the El Centro Elementary School District, says Garcia’s biggest challenge is assisting school districts through this difficult time of tight budgets.
“She has a good handle on what the districts need to do and what’s happening at the state level,” Watson continues. “She can take a situation that is tricky and get them through it.”
Though Garcia says she wishes politics could be kept out of the conversation about school budgets, she challenges herself to communicate necessary budget changes in a way that helps business managers understand.
“When I can help them figure something out and make their job easier, that’s great,” Garcia adds.
Watson says Garcia’s passion for balancing each account line is genuine and at the core of why she is perfectly suited for her position.
She also has an uncanny ability to laugh and make others laugh, even at the most stressful of moments.
“You can hear her all the way down the hall. She gets the entire office laughing,” Watson says. “Once you get to know the person behind the numbers, she’s even more valuable.”
Garcia’s dedication to her work is very personal. More than just fulfilling her longtime dream of becoming an accountant, she is inspired by what she describes as a responsibility to the kids who attend the schools throughout the county.
“I went to school here. I believe in great public schools,” Garcia says.
She admits she could never follow in her mother’s footsteps of being a teacher, she says with a laugh, but she is “happy I can be in a support role.”
“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to use the money we get in an efficient manner and give kids a great education. I still think that’s possible,” Garcia notes. “I love this job. I feel like this is what I was meant to do.”
It Is More Than a Job! Erin Garcia: Balancing Budgets and Family Life