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Southern Comfort, National Connections

When newer business officers connect with experienced colleagues and each other, it moves all of our schools forward.

Jun 27, 2023  |  By Jeffrey Shields

BOI 2023 group photo
Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

Each June, as independent school leaders reflect on and celebrate the accomplishments of the previous school year, a group of committed volunteers gathers with individuals who comprise the next generation of the independent school business office. They meet daily at one of our member schools to learn about the unique portfolio of today’s independent school business office, explore essential resources from NBOA and our business partner community, and most importantly, build the most valuable tool available to any independent school business leader – a national network of colleagues committed to your professional success.

This incredible event is the NBOA Business Officer Institute. In 2023, it was hosted on the beautiful Texas-size campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in the one-of-a-kind city of Austin.

What a week it was! I had the pleasure of kicking off the program by moderating a panel discussion on the invaluable head of school-business officer partnership. Two pairs of successful independent school leaders — Chris Gunnin and Cindy Stadulis from our host school, and Ted Graf and Alex Penry from Headwaters School in Austin — working for diverse schools and in distinct styles, showcased a spectrum of ways that this partnership is critical to the financial success of our schools. Guided by yours truly, they explored the key elements for a strong head of school and business officer partnership, the evolution of these roles over time, and how these two critical independent school leadership roles can partner for their school’s success.


I also had the distinct pleasure of facilitating a session on the DiSC leadership personality assessment. I find it an incredibly valuable too for leaders because it provides you and your close colleagues with practical insights into your preferred leadership behaviors. We utilize DiSC regularly with the NBOA staff and the NBOA Board of Directors to understand the various styles that comprise our culture. As a leader, this tool helps me  understand how the groups I work with naturally communicate and contribute, and perhaps most importantly, where our blind spots may be.

It takes a well-coordinated team to support this week-long experience for 60+ attendees, in addition to experienced faculty, which this year included Dyana Conroy, CFO/COO at the Potomac School (VA); Chris Harper, CFO/COO at Landon School (MD); Andrew Schneider, associate head for finance and operations at the Masters School (NY) and Cindy Stadulis, chief financial and operations officer at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School (TX), as well as engaged business partner sponsors. “I am always amazed at how quickly more than 70 people — attendees, faculty and NBOA staff — become a cohort,” commented Mary Kay Markunas, NBOA’s director, member resources and programs, who plays a lead role in developing this program. “By the end of the week, attendees truly do have 70+ new connections on whom they can call for support, information and advice.

Melissa Zinder, NBOA’s senior director, membership and marketing, attended the program for the first time this year. She was impressed how capably “St. Stephen’s Episcopal School offered true southern hospitality throughout the week, making attendees feel comfortable, despite the soaring temperatures, and welcomed them into the independent school business community. Everyone seemed to leave feeling inspired and prepared to lead the business and operations at their schools confidently."

It is personally gratifying to steward this program, which fortifies our professional community in so many valuable ways. Now I’m off for some restorative time, and I hope many of you are as well. Happy summer!


Jeff Shields signature


Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO


Washington, DC

Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE, has served as president and CEO of the NBOA since March 2010. NBOA is the premier national association serving the needs of business officers and business operations staff at independent schools. Shields, an active member of the American Society of Association Executives, has been recognized as an ASAE Fellow (FASAE) and earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) professional designation. His current board service includes serving as a director for AMHIC, a healthcare consortium for educational associations in Washington, DC, as well as a trustee for the Enrollment Management Association. Previous board service includes serving as a director for the American Society of Association Executives, as a director for One Schoolhouse, an innovative online school offering supplemental education to independent schools, and as a trustee for Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. Shields holds a BA from Shippensburg University and an MA from The Ohio State University.

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