By Jeff Gallatin
After starting in just a part-time capacity 25 years ago, Deborah Putnam made a strong work ethic and ability to work with other people count, and became an honored treasurer for the Bay Village City School District.
Putnam’s formal notification of her intent to retire was “reluctantly” accepted by the school board at its Jan. 13 meeting. When asked, Putnam said she was happy with the career she built in the district.
“I never set out to be treasurer of the district,” she said. “It really just started out as working with an old neighbor from when we lived in Wisconsin.”
That old neighbor was Randy Stortz, who eventually became the Bay Village school superintendent.
“Our family had actually moved to Ohio first, then he became superintendent and we talked and he said they could use some help in both the business and treasurer’s offices, and he asked if I wanted to do some work,” she said. “I thought about it, and then started out helping part time in both offices.”
A few years later, the district merged the functions of the business and treasurer’s offices, with John Cavalier heading both departments as treasurer and Putnam becoming assistant treasurer, a job she held for 13 years. Then, when Cavalier made plans to retire, district officials expressed interest in Putnam moving up and helped her obtain her school treasurer’s license.
Putnam said she has always emphasized having an open door and strong communications.
“If someone had a question about school finances or the treasurer’s office, I wanted them to be able to come in and ask the question, and we have done that,” she said.
The district received the Auditor of State award under Putnam’s leadership in 2012, and it has received clean audits with unqualified opinions and with no compliance citations every year she has served as treasurer. She led the district in its transition from paper-based forms to many online services that allow for more efficient operations, including the acceptance of parent online payments, an employee online time clock, employee online scheduling of vacation and personal leaves, and elimination of paper paychecks and other services. She has also led the district in its collaboration of health benefits with other districts through the Suburban Healthcare Consortium.
“Debbie will be very much missed,” said school board member Gayatry Jacob-Mosier. “She has been an outstanding custodian of the district’s money, with her honesty and integrity always shining through. Her commitment and hard work have provide the schools with an underappreciated foundation from which the rest of the district’s operations could thrive.”
Putnam holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and she completed postgraduate studies for her school treasurer license at Ashland University.
“I have highly valued Debbie’s skill and expertise during my board tenure,” said Board of Education President Bill Selong. “She has combined a desire to achieve the very best for the students within the financial limitations in which we must exist. She is highly valued by all who work in the school district. She will be missed, and I wish her well in retirement.”
Putnam and her husband, Tom, have been residents of Bay Village since 1980, and their three children all graduated from Bay High School. They have six grandchildren, all of whom factor into her retirement plans.
“I look forward to spending more time with my children and grandchildren,” she said. “I plan to volunteer in Cleveland at The Bridge Avenue School, a school owned and operated by my daughter and son-in-law which serves Cleveland middle school children who need reading intervention. I also plan to stay active in the community of Bay Village.”
The school has hired the search consultant firm Finding Leaders to help find Putnam’s replacement, with interviews expected to begin this spring.