This is the first in a series of feature stories on Springdale Public School District Administrators.
Deputy Superintendent, Finance
Kelly Hayes’ specialty may be accounting but he has a wonderful sense of humor. In fact, he’s been told that rather than be a financial expert for the largest school district in Arkansas, he should have been a cruise director.
“I’ve had friends who have come back from cruises tell me I remind them of their cruise director,” Hayes says. “They say I am personable and funny. I hope people see me that way. I take my job seriously but I don’t take myself seriously.”
Former Superintendent Dr. Jim Rollins saw both sides of Hayes. He trusted Hayes’ financial advice while also ranking him “the eighth or ninth funniest comptroller in the state, depending on the joke.”
New Superintendent Dr. Jared Cleveland also appreciates Hayes’ humorous side and has been so impressed with Hayes’ professional abilities that he has added the responsibilities and title of Deputy Superintendent to his duties as head of finance.
“Kelly Hayes is one of the most trusted educators in Arkansas,” says Cleveland. “He always makes himself available to help other districts in the state. We are not replacing the position of deputy superintendent because of Kelly’s unique talents. His ability to lead in this district is needed. I look forward to the support and input he will provide to advance quality education in our district.”
Hayes, who has a bachelor of arts degree in Accounting and a master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration, appreciates Cleveland’s confidence. Kelly and his wife, Jo Ellen, enjoy being involved in the Northwest Arkansas community as well as the Springdale Public School district.
“My wife and I love Northwest Arkansas,” Hayes says. “It’s beautiful and a wonderful place to live. Plus, both of our children and their families live here. That makes it even better.
“It’s also great to be on the Springdale Public Schools staff. My motto is simple: Do Right. I enjoy helping find solutions to problems. My greatest joy comes from making a difference with our students. I believe that right now our students have more educational opportunities than they’ve ever had before.”
Springdale is fortunate Hayes and his family were willing to leave Cabot 11 years ago. After all, Hayes grew up in Cabot, graduated from Cabot High School and served as business manager in the Cabot district for 17 years before moving to Springdale.
“It was great working in Cabot,” Hayes says. “It was my school district and our children were in school there. We were at all the football games and other events. Our son was into sports and our daughter was a cheerleader. I was president of the PTA when our kids were in elementary school. There weren’t many jobs for accountants in Cabot so I was grateful to work with the school district.”
Cabot gave Hayes his initial experience in public school finance and he had to learn on the fly.
“After I graduated from college I worked a year as an accountant, then six years in a friend’s family business,” Hayes recalls. “I applied for the Cabot schools’ job in 1991 but didn’t get it. A year later it was open again. I applied and was hired.
“My first day was June 15. The fiscal year ended June 30. So, in two weeks I had to close out one year and start working on the budget for the next. When I took the job I didn’t know the difference between a mil and a million. In all the accounting courses I had in college we spent the grand total of two weeks on government accounting. We only covered the basics.
“So, I learned on the job. Somehow we got the year closed and got the budget in and we’ve done it ever since.”
Even though he loved Cabot, he and Jo Ellen sensed it might be time to move. An opportunity opened in Springdale.
“I went to a conference and Allen Williams from Springdale was there,” Hayes remembers. “He told me there was a position in the business office open and asked if I was interested in relocating. I surprised him by saying yes. During my time at Cabot I had heard a lot about Springdale. Springdale was and still is regarded as a leader in educational circles. When I interviewed with Dr. Rollins, it was the first time I had met him.
“Dr. Rollins asked me who the best district business managers in the state were. I thought that meant he wasn’t interested in me so Allen and I started naming them. Then he asked, ‘Aren’t you one of them?’ I said, ‘Well, I guess so.’ Since I didn’t know Dr. Rollins, I am sure Allen Williams helped him get a feel for who I am.”
Now, of course, Hayes is extremely knowledgeable about public school finances. What, many years ago, stirred his interest in accounting in the first place?
“In high school I had a knack for accounting and I had great respect for my accounting teacher,” Hayes answers. “That led me to major in accounting at Ouachita Baptist.”
From high school accounting to deputy superintendent of the Springdale Public School District has been a great adventure for Hayes. And, by the way, he’s even been on a couple of cruises.
“We’ve cruised in the Gulf and also in Alaska,” Hayes says. “The cruise directors were good but neither of them reminded me of me.”
Directing cruises may not be in his future but Hayes is among the humble, competent administrators that help make Springdale Public Schools #THEChoice.