Tyler Backus is the Maine Department of Education’s Employee of the Week this week. Get to know a little more about Tyler through this brief question and answer:
What are your roles with DOE?
I oversee the School Finance & Compliance teams. We ensure each of the school districts submit accurate information that informs the school funding formula. A major focus for my role is the financial information that is submitted each year. What that really means is I get to talk with business managers, accounting managers, superintendents, special education directors, and lots of other school staff to ensure they understand how the information they submit impacts the state’s funding formula. I also am the Military Family Liaison for the State of Maine, where I get to work with the School Liaison Officer at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, to help students of military personnel during their transition into and out of Maine schools.
What do you like best about your job?
I really enjoy interacting with the field. Maine’s school funding formula is considered one of the most equitable funding formulas in the country, but to achieve that equity it is an extremely complex formula. That means most people do not understand the formula. So I love explaining the funding formula to anybody who is willing to take the time to learn it. I also enjoy coming up with creative ways to explain the formula, even with the use of food.
How or why did you decide on this career?
I do not know that I necessarily decided on this career. After leaving the Army (driving M1A1 Abram tanks) I started at UMF for Secondary Education Math, and after a couple of changes in major and a deployment to Iraq, I ended up with Political Science degree. I worked for 18 months at Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices reviewing financial submissions for legislative candidates. I then was hired by Jan Breton to review the use of Individual of Disability Education Act funding. During that time I visited about 75 school districts, where I got to interact with business managers, special education directors, and superintendents. During the time in this role I got to learn parts of the funding formula and account coding for school departments. When a position opened up on the School Finance team I applied for the position.
What do you like to do outside of work for fun?
Outside of work I mostly focus on my soon to be 6 year old son. I enjoy trying to get him excited about learning and trying different activities, some of which he still enjoys like soccer and swimming. I enjoy attempting to stay in shape (but I hate the gym) so I try different workout routines, running, bicycling, and playing soccer. I also enjoy trying to do my own work around the house including replacing the bathroom in our house, building a patio (including moving around 100 yards of material), pouring a 400 sq. ft concrete slab after building up the base, and this summer building a shed on the slab. Working in an office all day, I find it enjoyable to use as little mechanical assistance while doing these projects at home, and it also provide an opportunity for my son to help. We also get out camping as much as possible during the summer.