How Can PAISBOA Support Schools Now?

October 10, 2020

Since March, life as we know it has changed dramatically, and independent school and university business officers and their teams have been working ‘round the clock. First to pivot to off-campus learning and work, then to pivot to a hybrid situation of some constituents on and off campus for learning and work, and this month to pivot back to full-time on campus learning and work — it has been a herculean effort for all involved. As one of our business officer colleague shared, “50 days until Thanksgiving, but who’s counting?!”

Every step of the way, PAISBOA has worked side-by-side with members to give you safe spaces to meet and share challenges and successes, like our Monday Morning Coffee Breaks; we post the most up-to-date information on COVID and related topics on the PAISBOA COVID Resources site; and we’ve given you access to professionals and corporate partners who’ve provided financial modeling tools, professional advice and counsel, and even some self-care recommendations to stay strong for our communities.

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Today is September 11th

September 11, 2020

Today is September 11th, and for 39 years, it was simply my brother and sister’s birthday. In 2001, everything changed. Being New Yorkers, we are notoriously tough, and our family was more fortunate than most as my brother arrived home after walking most of the way home from New York City to his home in the suburbs--a little dusty, a little shaken, but happy to be alive. Needless to say, the 40th birthday celebration for the twins was way more subdued than planned, like everything else that evening. The grief was real — we grieved for those who didn’t make it home, we grieved for those who were injured, we grieved for the loss of innocence.

Today is September 11th, and today we grieve for a lost spring and a summer co-opted by COVID 19. An Education Week Survey warns of declines in student enrollment, increased teacher resignations, and growing concerns about academic progress in students. Much of this can be attributed to unresolved grief. According to McKinsey researchers, grief arises from the loss of one or more deep-seeded human needs — attachment, territory, structure, identity, future, meaning, or control. To overcome grief, individuals go through a three-stage process: become aware of the problem; accept the pain of the loss; and, let go of the past and make meaning from the experience. Organizations can help by setting the right tone of openness, recognizing grief when it happens, creating rituals which signal transformation and recovery. As the organization deals openly with grief, it can “transform grief into a creative force that turns loss into inspiration.”

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Let’s Do This — Back to School 2020

August 21, 2020

Today is likely the last Friday before many of us start getting ready to go back to school. To say the anxiety level is running high is an understatement. Back to school plans have been upended by new guidance so many times, most of you have stopped counting the versions. Many folks are concerned with how to adequately accommodate students and adults both on campus and remotely. Those who have school age children are trying to figure out how they can be in two places at once — working and educating their children in a virtual learning environment. Onboarding new members of the community (students, parents, faculty, staff) is more challenging, and let’s not even get started on sports, lunch, and recess. Suffice it to say, Back to School 2020 is going to be messy, and nobody likes messy!

One way to deal with the mess is to manage stress. William J Koehler Ph.D., LCSW in Ready or Not, Here We Go Back to School, shares that faculty, parents, and students all have concerns about returning to in-person learning in the midst of the COVID pandemic. He offers five suggestions to “navigate through these continuously shifting circumstances, overwhelming feelings, and contradicting demands.”

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Churchill, Emotion, and Optimism

August 7, 2020

Like many of you, I am an avid reader and usually have a couple of books going at the same time as well as a pile of articles and magazines. I started reading The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson over Memorial Day weekend and just finished. Usually, I zip through books, but with this one, I was compelled to do some outside reading to supplement my knowledge of both the man and the times. I highly recommend it not only because it is an excellent story, but it is a lesson for our time.

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Caring – Concern – Trust

June 12, 2020

I had my six-month checkup at the dentist yesterday, and found it to be an oddly comforting experience. Scheduled at the time of my last appointment, pre-COVID-19, I wondered whether I would have to reschedule, but I received a text asking if I would like to confirm, and if so, to expect further instructions about new office protocols. In reviewing the new protocols, my dentist explained the changes that went on behind the scenes to the HVAC system and other systems within the office. He explained what social distancing would look like in the office, and how both the staff and I had some responsibilities in keeping my appointment a safe experience for all of us. Directions were emailed to me on how I was to prepare for the appointment, I was asked to text them when I arrived in the parking lot, and when I was invited in, wearing my mask, it was clear where I was to wait for further instructions. I sanitized my hands, the staff member asked a number of questions about my health, they took my temperature, and measured my oxygen saturation with a fingertip pulse oximeter. I was cleared, and the rest of my appointment proceeded just like every other appointment I have had with them with a thorough teeth cleaning and examination. I was out the door in an hour with another appointment scheduled for December.

You might be thinking TMI, but I share this with you because it illustrates the importance of trust and communication in times of uncertainty. Your schools and universities have built trusting relationships with your students, families, and constituents, delivering a high quality educational experience for many years. You have also built trust through your communications by staying on point, communicating more frequently, and being straightforward, kind, and powerful in your response. You will continue to build trust, with some tweaks, in response to COVID-19 and with some cooperation from your entire learning community.

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June 26, 2020

We gathered this past Wednesday for the 2020 PAISBOA Annual Meeting. In his welcoming remarks, Mark Gibbons, Chair of PAISBOA Board of Directors, was clear, “We are you and you are us!” From its inception, PAISBOA works because it was founded by Business Officers, for Business Officers. As we continued with the required annual business meeting for PAISBOA and the PAISBOA Services Corporation; we approved the nominations for the Board of Directors; elected officers; said goodbye to some long-serving directors; honored three retirees who will be greatly missed by their schools and their colleagues; and lastly, we presented the John Batley Award to a most deserving Business Officer. It was just like any other PAISBOA Annual Meeting … except it wasn’t. As one Business Officer commented, “I’ve had been to an annual meeting on a boat, in a helicopter, and in a centrifuge, but this virtual format was a first!” Like all of its members, PAISBOA adapts to meet the challenges brought on by an uncertain future.

Which is why whenever we gather, we have a responsibility to reflect on why we do what we do. PAISBOA’s mission is to stimulate and sustain a passion for providing services and opportunities to empower Business Officers to excel. Our value proposition is to create savings in both time and money while providing useful resources and expanded knowledge to our members. This year more than ever, the Expanding Scope of the Business Office has been acknowledged and buttressed with a wide array of products, toolkits, training, education, networking, and safe spaces for conversations. Like its members, PAISBOA is focused on what lies ahead and moving toward innovation, rather than staying in crisis mode.

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The New 3R’s—Reboot, Reopen, Recovery

May 29, 2020

It is amazing how quickly our consciousness expands to encompass our new normal. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were focused on how COVID-19 was affecting us as individuals, mourning the loss of life as we knew it, lamenting cancelled or postponed rituals and traditions like weddings and graduations, combatting daily zoom fatigue, eating way too many carbs, and generally feeling very sorry for ourselves.

Fast forward to a conversation I had yesterday with Rahel Rosner, a former Business Officer and now the Chief Strategist for the St Paul’s Schools in Maryland, who referenced a McKinsey article that compares the next phase in this process to developing a new “muscle”: an enterprise-wide ability to absorb uncertainty and incorporate lessons into the operating model quickly. We talked about how we are now ready to refocus or reframe the narrative away from the individual to the community, and away from the emergent to the proactive. We are now ready to embrace the next phase with caring, nurturing, hope, and optimism.

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Fighting Quarantine Fatigue by Planning Ahead

May 15, 2020

Please join me in welcoming the newest members of the flock:

  • Mercersburg Academy – Mercersburg, PA – Maria Kimsey and Danielle Nordyke
  • Sewickley Academy, Pittsburgh PA – Karen McAvoy
  • Winchester Thurston School, Pittsburgh PA and Allison Park, PA – David Wollam

Quarantine Fatigue is Real! While exciting at first, being at home with family is not what we expected. Many of us had grandiose plans for cleaning and organizing, getting to projects that we normally don’t have time to complete, engaging in hobbies that have been put on the back burner, getting into a regular exercise routine, just to name a few. I don’t know about you, but I have done exactly none of those things, and I am not apologetic about it. Here’s why -- we are busy with living and working in the new normal – new routines, new responsibilities, new problems to solve, new technology to master, new lessons to teach, well, you get the gist.

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Balancing the Here and Now with Planning for the Future

May 1, 2020

As we conclude our 7th week of Staying Safe at Home, Together, I am struck by the immense power of our flock. As a relative newcomer to the PAISBOA family, I’ve seen evidence of the mission of PAISBOA -- providing services and opportunities to empower Business Officers to excel, daily. We are living our purpose every day -- to create savings in both time and money while providing useful resources and expanded knowledge to our members. Our core values of integrity, transparency, and loyalty are evinced in every conversation, e-list post, webinar presentation, and email communication. PAISBOA is truly an all for one, one for all experience for every independent school and university, no matter the enrollment, the size of endowment, or composition of the student body. We are truly all in this together.

In the early days of the COVID-19 we were focused on the here and now—pivoting from an in-person teaching, learning, and working model to a remote experience. For many schools, this was a huge undertaking in a very short time requiring leadership that demonstrated calm and optimism with a hefty dose of realism! As we continue to be challenged on many fronts, we no longer have an emergent situation, and our constituents have settled into a rhythm of sorts, albeit an exhausting one.

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PAISBOA: One for All, All for One!

April 10, 2020

Please join me in welcoming the newest members of the flock:

Immaculata University, Immaculata PA (Chester County) – Bruce Friedman

St. Edmund’s Academy, Pittsburgh PA (Squirrel Hill Neighborhood) – Diana McAllister

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Leading in the time of COVID-19

March 27, 2020

As we wrap up our second week of social distancing, remote work, and virtual learning, we are all adjusting to the new normal. New routines are established, new learning schedules are in place, and the initial decisions have been made to ensure business continuity for most of our schools and universities. We know that effective leadership is essential for the next phase of decisions that our member schools face in the coming months, and the business officers will have a major role to play in both the decision-making process and in communicating about the decisions.

Described in Leadership in a Crisis: Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak and Future Challenges, “the outbreak has the hallmarks of a ‘landscape scale’ crisis: an unexpected event or sequence of events of enormous scale and overwhelming speed, resulting in a high degree of uncertainty that gives rise to disorientation, a feeling of lost control, and strong emotional disturbance.” The authors indicate, “What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviors and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and help them to look ahead. Here are the five behaviors and corresponding mindsets to consider:

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We Are All in This Together! COVID-19 Update

March 13, 2020

The great thing about being part of the independent school community is that you are not alone in dealing with COVID-19 and the many repercussions related to school/university life and operations. We are all in this together!

PAISBOA continues to monitor COVID-19 and bring you the latest updates and resources from governmental sources, other independent schools associations, our corporate partners, and our PAISBOA Preferred Vendors (PPVs). Rather than inundate you and add to the volume of information coming at you from all directions, we compiled the resources at for you to reference when you need information—on your timetable. Log in to access this information HERE. If you are having difficulty with access, please contact Ron Hill at [email protected], and he will assist you and your colleagues with access to all kinds of helpful information and advice.

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Envisioning the Future and Your School, Your Legacy

February 28, 2020

This week I was privileged to represent PAISBOA at both the NBOA Annual Meeting in Orlando, and the NAIS Annual Conference in Philadelphia. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with our members, reconnect with colleagues from around the country, meet with our PAISBOA Preferred Vendors and Corporate Sponsors, and engage in some professional development.

Jeff Shields and his team at NBOA and Donna Orem and her team at NAIS put on amazing conferences. The keynote speakers were top-notch – I had a fangirl moment with Soledad O’Brien and was wowed by Vinh Giang at NBOA, Jonathan Haidt was compelling, and I am looking forward to hearing from Gretchen Rubin later today. As always, I have additions to my reading list as a result of these conferences:

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Contracts, Commitment and Performance

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!!! With cards, candy, and flowers, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of commitment. For some independent schools, Valentine’s Day used to be employee contract day — the schools committed to employing faculty and staff, and, in turn, faculty and staff committed to working at the school for the next academic year.

Contract = Commitment.

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Health and Safety Update

January 31 2020

We know that there are many health and safety issues that schools and universities grapple with every day. This week we are focusing on an update regarding novel coronavirus, and Act 67 of 2019 which updates Pennsylvania school safety laws regarding training and credentials for school resource officers, schools police officers, and school security guards. I also realize that as soon as we publish this update much of the information will be outdated, so we are including additional resources at the end so you can continue to check back for updates on your own.

Novel Coronavirus

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The Quiet Quandary

I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions — This year though, I plan on making an exception, mostly because the change I am interested in happens to coincide with the New Year.

We all work in different types of spaces. Some of us work alone in discrete offices, some work in shared spaces with another person or two, others work in an open space configuration. I have worked in all these types of spaces and found them acceptable, even enjoyable. It never makes much difference to me how or where I work. But, I have been reading a lot lately about working or at least spending a part of each day in quiet or even silence, and there are both health and productivity benefits to finding some quiet in your day. As a total extrovert and supreme multitasker with a Type A personality, I am going to embrace the quiet and maybe even try for a little silence every day.

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What’s on Your Stop Doing List?

December 20, 2019

Every week, we dutifully create our to-do lists and work diligently to cross items off that list by Friday. Some of us have 90-day lists. Others have their lists divided by long-term items and short-term items. To-do lists are even more important at this time of year, with a race toward year-end at work, additional social commitments, gift lists, errands, etc. I am getting to the point where my lists have lists -- you know what I am talking about!!!

So how can we restore order? Saying Yes to No: The Power of a Stop Doing List outlines 5 tips for creating your own “stop doing” list:

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Thank You for Your PAISBOA Membership!

November 15, 2019

Like many of you, I filed PAISBOA’s 990 this week, and to say that I am grateful for the support of Lisa Carbone Warren, Treasurer of PAISBOA and the  PAISBOA Services Corporation, the PAISBOA Board of Directors, our accountants, Mainline Accounting, and our auditors, Tait Weller is an understatement. Anything related to compliance is a heavy lift for all of us, and I am thankful to have this level of professional expertise available to the association.

So, with that out of the way, and with the year-end fast approaching, it is now time to focus our attention on membership renewal.

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Rethinking Risk for Independent Schools and Universities

November 1, 2019

Next Friday, November 8, PAISBOA will host one of our signature events, the Annual Meeting of the PAISBOA Business Insurance Group. For Members of the PAISBOA Business Insurance Group, this is a mandatory meeting. Additionally, all members of PAISBOA are invited to attend as we will be discussing how to mitigate some of the top risks for independent schools and universities.

In recent years, the news has been full of catastrophic events involving schools and universities—active shooters, mudslides, fires, floods, sexual assault, abuse and molestation, hazing, and other violent events that affect our schools and our children. ISM, one of the PAISBOA Business Insurance Group carriers, notes that the more mundane threats: “mold, faulty playground equipment, unlicensed vendors, social media activity, unmaintained employee records, and outdated insurance policies” can be just as detrimental to schools and universities.

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Right Questions, Right Time, Right Solutions

October 4, 2019

In our personal and professional lives, we are asked to make roughly 35,000 decisions every day ranging from “should we have a cybersecurity assessment?” to “should we reset our tuition?” Obviously, some decisions are more important than others, so how can we make better decisions when we must make a tough call, or when we are faced with options that are unpleasant?

According to research by McKinsey, “Decision makers complain about everything from lack of real debate, convoluted processes, and an over-reliance on consensus and death by committee, to unclear organizational roles, information overload (and the resulting inability to separate signal from noise), and company cultures that lack empowerment.”

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