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Kristi Coleman Receives Extraordinary Service Award

Comments by Dr. Dan Tollett, Utrust Administrator
January 17, 2023

It is my pleasure today to recognize a Utrust employee for outstanding service and for going above and beyond what was required of her. During the pandemic, Kristi Coleman, Utrust Director of Finance and Administration, received a continuous barrage of requests for assistance with uncommon Unemployment Issues.

The Department of Labor was overwhelmed. They were totally unprepared for a pandemic. As a result they were forced to assign employees to deal with issues about which they had limited if any knowledge. And, as might be expected, they made decisions that defy logic. School system employees were frustrated as they found themselves dealing with situations and issues that didn’t know how to handle.

Neither the DOL, DOE or the feds provided the level of assistance to school system employees that was desperately needed. Kristi quickly immersed herself in learning about the issues and building on her 30 years of building knowledge as an employee of Utrust, she developed an expertise that proved invaluable to our membership.

She communicated with Senator Alexander’s office about the details of the CARES Act and related issues. She formed an alliance with an attorney from another organization that provided help with personnel issues to its members and teamed with her to pool their knowledge and conduct webinars to explain UC issues and answer questions that local school district staff members had.

Not only did our members find Kristi to be a source of information that they had not been able to find elsewhere, she proved to be patient in guiding them through the processes they needed to follow. And she was willing to spend whatever time was needed to help them resolve their problem.
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Kristi was on the phone with finance and human resource employees answering questions, showing them how to access data, helping them to prepare appeals and appeals to appeals. She prepared sample letters to help our members request funds from their city or county governments. She established contacts in the Tennessee DOL that she has accessed to expedite matters or affect decisions. One of our member systems was so impressed with her assistance that they tried to hire her as their Director of Finance.

Kristi spent many hours in trying to accurately answer questions from our member school districts about how to handle very complicated issues related to unemployment and the coronavirus. He said that neither the state nor federal government has done a very good job of telling school districts how to handle issues related to unemployment and the CARES Act.

Kristi is a valuable resource to the Utrust membership and an exceptional member of the Utrust staff. I am privileged to work with her and enjoy her as a friend. I’m delighted today to present her with this Extraordinary Service Award.