URBANA — Growing up in Urbana, Caty Roland never wanted to leave.
In evenings as a child, she’d find herself playing at the playground at Leal Elementary School or at Carle Park, where she’d play until the streetlights came on and she needed to head home for dinner.
She graduated from Urbana High School and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in recreation, sport and tourism from the University of Illinois, all the while working for the Urbana Park District.
“I’m an Urbanite through and through,” she said.
After 14 years as the park district’s business manager and superintendent of business services, Roland will take on a new role, but she’s not done serving her community.
This week, the Urbana school board approved Roland as the district’s next chief financial officer. She’ll take over when Carol Baker retires at the end of this school year after 29 years with the district.
“There’s not a whole lot of places I would have wanted to move beyond the park district, but the school district was one of them,” she said. “This is just a really great opportunity to serve the school district in the same function.”
Roland, who was a member of the math team in high school, always had a knack for numbers. Early on, she assumed her career would mesh with her love for the outdoors. After working for the Urbana Park District in various positions, though, she moved into administration, and then-business manager Dotty Lierman noticed her mathematical abilities.
“She really took me under her wing and said, ‘Man, you really have a knack for accounting, I really would love for you to go to school and take over for me when I retire,’” Roland said. “I kind of have that parks-and-rec background, but once I got into the back-end side and found out that I have a knack and a love for the accounting and the budgets and audits and all of those features that keep the finances rolling of the park district, I really loved that side of it.”
Roland received her accounting certificate from Parkland College and recently earned her CPA certification.
The new job, she said, will be similar to her old one, because both oversee bond issuances, the audit process, preparing the budget and tax revenue. School districts, though, have broader funding sources, so she’ll have a learning curve as she studies under Baker.
“Education is not my background, so it’ll be a new growth area for me,” Roland said, “so I’ll put my thinking cap on and absorb everything Carol has to teach me before she’s gone.”
She does bring an important base of knowledge to the position, though.
“Being from Urbana and an Urbana person through and through is part of my identity,” she said. “I’m just excited to continue to serve.”