2020-2021 WASBO Award Recipients

2020 School Facilities Manager of the Year Award Recipient

Allen Behnke, Director of Facilities Services, Howard-Suamico School District 

The Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials (WASBO) has selected Allen Behnke, Director of Facilities Services, Howard-Suamico School District, as the recipient of the 2020 School Facilities Manager of the Year award. Behnke will officially be recognized during WASBO’s Fall Conference in October of 2020 at the Osthoff Resort and Conference Center in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

This award acknowledges the value and need to recognize outstanding school facilities managers in Wisconsin. Behnke is being recognized for his innovative practices, leadership in the district and surrounding community, and commitment to the profession. He has made vital contributions to many important projects in his district. This includes the prototype innovation studio at Bay View Middle School, which opened at the end of the 2018 school year. Since then, the space has inspired community leaders to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars and partner in workforce development initiatives for the students’ behalf. Behnke also was instrumental in creating the Bay Harbor Elementary Inclusive Playground, which is zero-entry and fully accessible. Annually, he manages more than $4 million a year in combined maintenance expense and capital improvements and makes sure the one million square feet of learning space is pristine.

Behnke is an active member of WASBO. He also serves on the board of directors for the Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association and the Wisconsin Sports Turf Managers Association. Locally, he also sits on a number of district committees and represents his district as a member of Packerland Sunrise Rotary and the Sunrise Optimist Clubs while consistently pursuing professional development and leadership training opportunities.

One of his nomination letters states that Behnke “makes our district better with his impressive work ethic, consistent high-end results on any project, and his enjoyable personality.”

Another nomination letter noted, “Al takes a tremendous amount of pride in the work that he does and puts in countless hours. His organization and attention to detail is a strength, and he is highly visible at a number of different events. It is not uncommon to see him at evening events at the high school, not because he is required to be there but simply because he wants to be a part of the community.”

This honor carries with it a $1,000 cash award, sponsored by Dude Solutions and Stalker Sports Floors, for continuing professional development.

Award Sponsored By:

2021 School Business Manager of the Year Award Recipient

Lynn Knight, Business Manager, School District of Nekoosa

The Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials (WASBO) has selected Lynn Knight, Business Manager, School District of Nekoosa, as the recipient of the 2021 School Business Manager of the Year award. She will be officially honored in January of 2021 during the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) - the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) - WASBO State Education Convention in Milwaukee, Wis.

The purpose of the School Business Manager of the Year award is to recognize the recent outstanding contributions of the recipient to their local school district and community and to the business manager profession. Knight is being recognized for her innovative practices, leadership in the district and surrounding community, and commitment to professional development. Affectionately called a “Knight in Shining Armor” by her colleagues, Knight began her latest position at a time when Nekoosa School District’s financial situation was “grim.” According to her nomination letters, her plan of fiscal responsibility and total transparency brought the district from a fund balance of under half a million dollars to $3.5 million during her tenure. In her district, Knight also has replaced a “broken” nutritional system with a much healthier model, helped forge a connection between the school board and the city, and proved vital in helping the district pass a five-year operating referendum in the spring of 2020.

Knight’s leadership extends to WASBO, where she has served as president of the Board of Directors. She even is a director candidate for the ASBO International 2021 election. Additionally, she has shared her expertise by speaking at countless WASBO sessions. She also helps plan a portion of WASBO’s professional development by serving on the Accounting Committee and is active in the WASBO Wisconsin Valley Regional.

In her community, Knight has served actively in the United Way of South Wood and Adams Counties as a Director, Treasurer and President, and she volunteers at her local TracyPawsRescue.

One of her nomination letters states that Knight “possess the rare an innate ability to lead in a forthright manner without being condescending or excluding people. She is a perfectionist who expects excellence from those she works with and demands even more from herself. Lynn is a leader who can effectively manage the current needs and problems of the moment while collaboratively working to develop a vision for the future.”

Another nomination letter noted, “anyone who listened to Lynn speak for the first time after her election (as WASBO Board President) could easily identify her as a fearless leader. She is not afraid to chart new territories and has served WASBO not only as a director but as a speaker, all-around volunteer, and perhaps most importantly is someone who is approachable and loyal to her peers in a service-oriented manner.”

This honor carries with it a $1,500 cash award, sponsored by M3 Insurance, for continuing professional development. Knight also has the privilege of presenting a $1,500 scholarship to a 2021 graduating senior in the School District of Nekoosa.

Award Sponsored By:

2021 George Gray New School Business Manager of the Year Award Recipient

Leah Hauser, Director of Business Services, Sparta Area School District

The Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials (WASBO) has selected Leah Hauser, Director of Business Services, Sparta Area School District, as the recipient of the 2021 George Gray WASBO New School Business Manager of the Year award. She will be officially honored in January during the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) - the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) - WASBO State Education Convention in Milwaukee, Wis.

This award was renamed in honor of George Gray, who was responsible for creating the School of Business Management Master of Science degree program at UW-Whitewater that trained several Wisconsin’s school business managers through the “Fairly Normal School District” budget mock Annual Meeting. Hauser was named George Gray WASBO New School Business Manager of the Year in recognition of her leadership in schools, innovative practices, and role in her community.

Just as George Gray before her, Hauser’s “skills curiosity, drive and caring are second-to-none.” Her business office is often described as running “like a well-oiled machine,” according to her nomination letters. Hauser also is “masterful” at making the complicated jargon associated with the business office easily understandable to the school board and community. In addition to being fiscally responsible, she was instrumental in reworking her district’s Teacher Compensation Model, which went from a complicated “selected performance” model to a detailed lane-and-step system that implemented incremental pay increases over a career. This was based on an actuarial study of every single employee in the district’s system. Sparta is in the middle of a major district expansion, including building a new elementary school, a new wing and selling two buildings. Hauser has been instrumental in every step of that process. Her planning goes far beyond the actual buildings, though, as she has created long-rang technology and staffing plans that have helped the district clearly prioritize resources.

As a leader in the areas of risk management and employee benefits, Hauser helped oversee various accident prevention projects that cut the number of incidents from 2015 to 2019 in half. She often serves as the district’s spokesperson on the Chamber of Commerce Board. One of her nomination letters notes that she was crucial in orchestrating the Sparta Area Young Professionals group. She also works with the Sparta Area Boys and Girls Club and can often be seen volunteering at local events like the Tail Gate Party with the Packers and the Sparta Santa Scrambler Race.

One of her nomination letters notes that “Ms. Hauser is a reflective, lifelong learner with a passion for ensuring our resources are providing the most that they can for the students we serve.”

This honor carries with it a $1,000 cash award for Hauser’s continued professional development, sponsored by Hays Companies.

Award Sponsored By:

Each week, WASBO will feature one of our 2020-21 Award winners as a part of our Award Accolades series.