Lori Fadok is a Senior Compliance Analyst with Funds For Learning. She has served Schools and Libraries through the E-rate program for 17 years.
30 Years Supporting
K-12 Schools and Libraries
[School District: 13 Yrs] + [Funds For Learning: 17 Yrs]
This interview took place on August 11th 2021 to learn from Lori as she plans to retire on Friday, August 13th
EP: Before coming to Funds For Learning, you worked for a Florida school district. What was your role there?
LF: Bervard County School District in Florida and I worked there for almost 12 and a half years. I did every role, but since 1998 I’ve worked on E-rate. I was in the office of technology services as a programmer.
EP: So right when E-rate came out, you were on the front lines.
LF: I was in the Superintendent’s Office and I got transferred to the Office of Technology to handle E-rate. I got put into E-rate in the middle of ‘98 and the very first E-rate phone call that I had was with Ellen Wolfhagen. She was the attorney for USAC and she was asking about my “BEARS,” the district’s “BEARS.” And I told her unless it was a brown, fuzzy thing in the woods I have no earthly idea what she’s talking about. So we bonded that day and I’ve met her a couple of times since, but that was my initial thrown-into-cold-water with e-rate
EP: And you joined Funds For Learning after that?
LF: 2004, August of 2004. I met FFL in 2003 and they offered me a position.
EP: One of the things that people highlight about you is your ability to be relational with your clients. How have you accomplished this and where does this relational mindset come from?
LF: I think it comes from being in a school [district]. A couple of things here:
- Being a school district employee, and understanding that the people in technology, finance… understanding that E-rate is only one hat that they wear. This is only one piece of what they do, so it’s important for us [FFL] to be efficient and to help take the burden off of them.
- It’s really important to understand that the information we need for E-rate isn’t necessarily central to the Technology Officer or the Finance Officer. It comes from food services, finance, accounts payable, and knowing those resources is really important when you’re talking to the client to be able to point them where to collect this information. Having that understanding is important.
EP: What advice do you have for new or future staff of Funds For Learning and how they can best serve schools and libraries?
LF: They need to be looking ahead. One of the things I do well is always looking ahead. I always file on the first day for my districts. The earlier you get in, the more successful your application is going to be. Looking at what’s on the horizon and keeping those items on the radar for your clients.
As your finishing 2020 and looking ahead to 2021, what projects do the schools need to focus their attention on? Because school districts need to be out looking at facilities that could be E-rate eligible, but this project isn’t crossing the right personnel necessarily. So we can help them to look ahead on their calendars.
EP: Best memories from working with FFL staff?
LF: I have a lot of funny memories. During the first 5 years I got to fly a ton, giving seminars around the country. We did on-site seminars for school districts. Basically E-rate 101. I enjoyed giving the seminars because you get immediate feedback and I was able to answer questions in-person. I felt like I was doing the schools a lot of service because I was getting feedback and able to help answer questions and educate.
EP: What are your plans for retirement?
LF: We have an Airstream [RV] and our first extended trip will be through Nashville. 17 days through the mountains of Tennessee and 5 days in Nashville. With my husband, myself, and our 90-lb dog.
EP: What type of dog is it?
LF: He’s a black labradoodle. And our plan eventually is to be out of Florida when it gets hot and humid and be in Wyoming and Washington state and come back to Florida in October when it’s nice weather.
EP: Do you follow Tampa Bay sports?
LF: Our son-in-law got tickets for my husband to see the Tampa Bay Lightning playoff game.
EP: Yeah, the Lightning are incredible.
LF: Yes, he went to Game 4 and had incredible seats. Then I went to see the Bucs in the Box to see the Bucs vs the Green Bay Packers. It was cool to see Tom Brady and we kicked the Packers’ butts that day. All we need is the Rays to step up and we’ll be good.
EP: Anything else about E-rate and FFL that you want to leave us with?
LF: Funds For Learning is great. I will miss everyone at Funds For Learning. A part of me doesn’t know what it’s going to do without E-rate. The other part of me wants to deprogram from E-rate, which I don’t think is going to be easy to do.
It’s been a great company to work for. I am not a job-jumper. I never chased the extra dollar, so it took a lot for them to convince me to leave the school district. But it’s been the best decision I’ve made, and I never had any intention of leaving [FFL] until I retired and that speaks highly of a company to stay with them for 17 years.
EP: I mentioned this on Tuesday, but I know the impact that you’ve made is so hard to measure because everything we do is behind the scenes.
EP: But I know you’ve made an immeasurable impact on the lives of students through E-rate.
LF: I hope so. I think that’s very important. I think from a customer service side, it’s important that our clients have a comfort level. That we are helping them navigate through a very complicated federal program. And I know it impacts the students and the library patrons. The value that we provide really shows up with our clients. And my clients mean the world to me.
Lori Fadok, on behalf of K-12 schools and libraries across the country, thank you for your dedication and service.