D65 chief financial officer ready for retirement

Nomaan Merchant

When he left his last long-term job in 2001, Lutaf Dhanidina started walking each morning from his south Evanston house up to Northwestern’s Technological Institute and back.

Dhanidina gave up his morning walk for almost three years to serve in the financial office of Evanston/Skokie School District 65. But as a new chief financial officer takes over, Dhanidina will return to retirement and service work.

Dhanidina was the CFO between 2002 and 2004 and returned again in September 2005 to work as a consultant.

He returned to the district to help stabilize the office after its last CFO left. Mary Brown will become CFO in July. Brown directs business services in River Trails School District 26 in Mount Prospect, Ill.

“We’ve given the new CFO some time now to see what areas need attention,” Dhanidina said.

Dhanidina worked in several Chicago area school districts as a budget director and school administrator for more than 30 years.

A native of Tanzania, Dhanidina, SESP ’66, studied education at NU.

After attending graduate school at Columbia University, Dhanidina said he intended to return to Tanzania but stayed in the United States after he could not find a job back home.

Dhanidina became interested in school administration after studying school finance and economics at the University of Chicago.

He started his career as an operations researcher with Chicago Public Schools in 1971. He held a variety of positions during the next 23 years before leaving CPS in 1994 as its budget director.

For the next seven years, Dhanidina worked as a finance administrator in a Skokie high school district and an elementary school district in Deerfield.

“I was just curious about how it felt to manage in these different districts,” Dhanidina said. “I enjoyed it and learned a lot.”

But in 2001, Dhanidina left Deerfield Public School District 109 after doctors diagnosed him with high blood pressure and hypertension caused by excessive stress.

“It seemed like this high-pressure job was taking a toll on me,” Dhanidina said.

A parent of two former D65 students, Dhanidina agreed to serve as CFO to give “the district some stability.”

During his tenure, the district continued to maintain a balanced budget.

“Big stuff like that cannot be done with one person,” Dhanidina said. “While I’m happy to be part of that achievement, I would never claim to have done it myself.”

Dhanidina left the district in 2004 and was replaced by Ed White. But after White left in summer 2005, the district asked Dhanidina to return as a consultant until a new CFO was appointed.

Rosalie Ziomek, executive assistant to the CFO, said Dhanidina was a positive administrator.

“He is probably one of the kindest, most intelligent people I’ve ever worked with,” Ziomek said. “He is basically a teacher of life …”

Now, Dhanidina spends most of his time researching poverty in local communities, something he said “is probably going to become my full-time job.” He said he also looks forward to reading more and making his daily walk to Tech.

“I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the staff the district has,” Dhanidina said. “I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with them.”

Reach Nomaan Merchant at [email protected]