VACAVILLE — Kari Sousa’s office at the Educational Services Center is spacious and has a coveted large window that allows in sunlight.
It also has children’s artwork dotting the white board. Sousa said it’s her children’s favorite thing to do when they come to visit her at the Nut Tree complex.
That door will shut behind Sousa, 35, on Friday as one chapter as the district’s associate superintendent of business and administrative services ends and another, that of stay-at-home mom, begins.
Sousa quickly said that she doesn’t dislike her job – in fact, it’s the opposite – but finding the balance between home and a demanding work schedule has been a challenge.
“When you work in this position, it has a priority over your time. I’m looking forward to making my family my priority,” she said. “The problem is, I want to do two things that aren’t fundamentally compatible. But the bottom line is I want to be home with my kids.”
She said she went back and forth over whether to stay through her contract’s end, June 30, or leave earlier. She opted for earlier so she has some special time with her youngest, who is in kindergarten half days. Her older child is 9.
Ken Jacopetti, the district’s superintendent, said he has mixed feelings about her departure: While he’s happy for her, she’s also played a pivotal role in the district’s administration team.
“‘She’s a strong part of our team,” he said. “She is definitely going to be missed by our district.”
“I’m happy for her because it’s moving into a role of connecting with her family,” he said. “That’s all very positive.”
After becoming a certified public accountant, Sousa started working for the Fairfield-Suisun School District in 2002 as the district’s director of fiscal services. In 2003, she began filling in as the chief business officer and just about the time she was appointed to the position officially, she found out she was pregnant with her first child.
She laughed as she remembered her daughter’s delivery date of July 6 and working on the district’s budget up to the end of June. She said it was approved June 28 and when it was passed by the school board, Trustee Gary Falati “banged the gavel and said, ‘Now, you can have your baby.’ ”
She left Fairfield in 2008 and did financial consulting work in neighboring counties, allowing her the flexibility to set her work schedule around her family.
During the course of her position in Fairfield, she got to know John Niederkorn, then the Vacaville School District’s chief business officer. A desire to help Niederkorn in 2011 pulled her into the Vacaville School District as interim chief business officer. Sousa replaced Steve Shields, who lasted only a matter of months at the district before he was arrested and ultimately sentenced to six months in jail for possessing child pornography.
She laughed again and said Niederkorn dropped constant hints that he would like her to stay on. She did, for a while, but Jacopetti knew she would probably be leaving.
“I think when she came to the district, it was always in that vision of an interim status, because her family was her No. 1 priority,” he said. “She came to Vacaville during a transition process and stayed longer than initially planned.”
Jacopetti said that one of the attributes Sousa brought to the table was her ability to articulate finances in way that was easily understandable. He also said he could walk away trusting the numbers and feeling confident.
“It’s a special district,” Sousa said. “If I was in a different place in my life, I would love to stay here.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.