Feature image: Participants in the virtual Business Officer Institute don the event's swag — hats.
Relationships were at the heart of the week’s learning. The week opened with BOI faculty —Michael Bergin, chief financial and operating officer, Miss Porter's School; Debbie Lee-Rizzi, CFO, The Evergreen School; Phyllis Palmiero, CFO/COO, Collegiate School; and Chad Stacy, CFO, The Dunn School — providing snapshots of their schools’ cultures and their place in it, illustrating how independent schools are truly independent.
“There is no such thing as ‘your job,’” said Bergin in a development session, which he presented with Miss Porter’s development officer, Christine Pina. Knowing not only overt policies and procedures but perhaps more importantly the subtext of a school’s operations can be key to a business officer’s early and continued success. When asked what Pina, as a development officer, wanted from a business officer, she quipped, “A sense of humor.” Any and every professional relationship at school will present challenges at some point, the colleagues indicated, but with understanding and communication, they can be tackled in time.
For the first time ever, a complete session was dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. Lana Asuncion-Bates and Shari Berga, consultants from the Wells Collective, provided background on systemic racism, key terminology and current dialogue, and then offered ideas about how business officers can make a difference in their schools’ diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) efforts. “You in the business office are truly integral to the success of DEIJ work,” they said.
Advancement was one area they touched on. “Money is flowing in Black organizations,” such as churches and Greek houses, Asuncio-Bates, explained. If schools can demonstrate to Black alumni and other alumni of color that they are making sincere efforts to advance social justice within their mission, they may find new donors. Other issues that are squarely within the business officer’s purview include pay equity, financial aid policies and vendor contracts, among others.
Next year, NBOA plans to hold the Business Officer Institute in person, barring any unforeseen developments. For more information, see the program overview.