John Gibson, the chief school business official for Homewood District 153, has been the guy with the sharpened pencil who kept track of budgets and expenses. He’s retiring June 30.
Gibson has been with the district for 13 years. Aside from his day-to-day duties of money management, he worked with the board to develop facts and figures that gave residents insights into why the district was appealing for referendum approvals.
It was shortly after he took the job with District 153 that residents voted on the first district referendum in 2011 approving the sale of general obligation bonds to cover its deficit spending. Gibson’s prediction was that the money would be spent down over the next five years.
His forecast was correct. In 2016 the school board again appealed to residents to pass a second referendum to help meet its needs. Again, Gibson watched over the district’s dollars to make certain the referendum dollars covered deficit spending.
“We decided to do the bond issue, get the money and carefully spend it down, and that’s what we said and what we did,” Gibson said. “It’s not as stressful as it seems from the outside, because it’s about putting your budget together and if you manage the budget and people stay within that, then you meet your goals, so you have a certain amount of money each year.”
That pool of money also made a difference for District 153 kids, he said. It provided money “to maintain and still provide the services we provide. We haven’t cut any student programs. We added STEM labs and programs.” The district closed Millennium School, but didn’t cut any teachers.
In November 2022, the school board got its chance to increase the general tax rate. This referendum passed, and Gibson believes the district should be on an even keel for the next two decades.
Gibson came to District 153 with previous business manager experience. He had been the assistant business manager at New Trier High School, and business manager at Riverside-Brookfield District. He then accepted the business manager position in Kankakee District 111 before taking a job with Matteson District 162.
He earned a degree in accounting from Indiana University Northwest and worked in various positions for Chesebrough-Ponds, a division of Unilever. Most of his work was in the Chicago area, but he did spend several years with the company in Jefferson City, Missouri.
He left the company and was substitute teaching when a friend suggested he look into school financing. He went back to school to earn a master’s degree in school business management from Northern Illinois University.
“Knowing this had an educational component to it, I was cool with getting my master’s in it,” he recalled. “I was working on my MBA before. I thought it was more important to work for kids’ education than for a company’s profits. That’s aways driven me to do the best I could.”
Gibson is the youngest of 14 children. His father never had a chance to advance his education. When he moved to the area from Mississippi, he promised that his children would receive an education. Today three of Gibson’s siblings have doctorate degrees and nearly all have at least a bachelor’s degree.
In retirement, Gibson said his number one priority will be his wife and daughter. Then he’ll continue working part-time as a consultant. Third on the list is music. The trombone player has been a part of bands and orchestras for years.
“Music, it’s important. Music is not a hobby,” he said. “I want to put more time into practicing and playing as much as I can. The music that I like is combo music and pretty much all jazz. Jazz is just fun.”