After 5 years in Wareham, school business manager accepts job in Cohasset
His resume includes a stint in London with the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the Department of Homeland Security, working on billion-dollar budgets and mingling with members of Parliament.
But for the past five years, Michael MacMillan has been business manager for Wareham Public Schools, overseeing finances and explaining budget decisions to voters, parents and teachers in the district. Recently, he accepted a new position as director of finance and operations for Cohasset Public Schools. His last day in Wareham will be June 30.
The Wareham position was his first foray into education. He holds an MBA in public finance and studied law for four years in his native Scotland. In London, he worked for a government agency focused on security. Both of his parents are teachers, and he saw the move to education as a step up.
“As a member of the finance team for a big, government agency, you’re a much smaller cog in a much bigger machine,” said MacMillan. “Here, you have a much bigger impact on fewer people.”
Before coming to Wareham, he did some work in Barnstable schools, implementing new technology systems for students. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife, a Massachusetts native, and two daughters.
Stepping into the Wareham position was difficult, he said. MacMillan’s predecessor had been on leave for almost a year due to illness. Also, a new superintendent had just been hired. Soon, though, he learned the intricacies of school budgets. Explaining the numbers to school and town officials, as well as voters, was a skill he honed in London.
“In both situations, there’s some political stuff going on, but my job is to present the information in a way that will be intelligible to people,” he said.
MacMillan said he’s looking forward to furthering his career at Cohasset and was proud of his time in Wareham.
“I loved all of it,” he said. “I enjoyed my experience working here and I’m looking forward to seeing how another district operates and manages. I think that would be good for me, professionally speaking.”
School officials are currently tasked with closing a $600,000 gap between what is available from the town to fund education. Potential cost-saving measures include closing Minot Forest Elementary and laying off upwards of 30 teachers and staff.
It was up to MacMillan to present that information to school officials and residents, including during one public hearing in February attended by a couple hundred people – “far and away the most people we’ve ever had for a budget discussion,” MacMillan said at the time.
Through the difficult discussions, MacMillan said he was impressed with the close working relationship town and school officials have cultivated over the past few years.
“The relationship between the town and the schools has been great,” said MacMillan. “We might disagree, and we’re supposed to have different views, but we do it with a level of professionalism and respect that’s a credit to the town.”