NBOA Leadership Academy Takes Root

The program’s success indicates that business office leaders and staff alike have an appetite for the executive skills to help advance their schools.

Aug 23, 2022  |  By Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

It’s now a given that business officers must serve as true leaders of their independent schools. Given this evolution, NBOA responded by developing an exclusive and unique program to support independent school financial and operational leadership. And thus, almost five years ago, the idea for the NBOA Leadership Academy was born. We developed a program that was distinct from NBOA’s well established technical education in the areas of accounting, tax, human resources, financial monitoring and the like. These programs helped business officers and staff build the “hard” skills they needed to fulfill their particular roles in finance and operations. The new program would focus on the “soft” but essential skills also crucial to success in those jobs – building relationships, leading change, collaborating across departments to achieve strategic goals, and the like. These ideas came together as we ran the first year of the NBOA Leadership Academy in 2020-21.

I’m proud to say now, as we launch the program’s third cohort, that the results of those early discussions have surpassed my highest hopes. I thought there might be demand perhaps only every other year for this offering, but each year we’ve received more applications than we can accommodate, due to the high-touch nature of the program. Far beyond the association, the important point here is that business officers and business office staff are looking to grow in their leadership roles, in line with the times.

The lead feature in the July/August issue of Harvard Business Review, for example, is “The C-Suite Skills that Matter Most,” which has this subtitle: “More than ever, companies need leaders who are good with people.” The article outlines how the leadership landscape has shifted: “For a long time, whenever companies wanted to hire a CEO or another key executive, they knew what to look for: somebody with technical expertise, superior administrative skills, and a track record of successfully managing financial resources… That practice now feels like ancient history... Today firms need to hire executives who are able to motivate diverse…workforces; who can play the role of corporate salesperson, dealing effectively with constituents…; and who can rapidly apply skills in a new company…with [new] colleagues.”

You see the need. NBOA aims to provide an avenue to fill it. And so, we are thrilled to welcome the 2022-23 NBOA Leadership Academy cohort. This year’s program participants are:

  • Stephanie Alvarez, Controller, The Awty International School (TX)
  • Tanya Bakken, Controller, Shattuck-St. Mary's School (MN)
  • Jo-Ann Bevis, Director of Financial Operations/Controller, Brooks School (MA)
  • Kristin Bierle, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Alzar School (ID)
  • Lynda Casarella, Chief Financial Officer, Poly Prep Country Day School (NY)
  • Jennifer Cookston, Controller, Baylor School (TN)
  • Erin Edwards, Director of Finance and Operations, Saint James' Episcopal School (VA)
  • Rudy Fabry, Director of Finance, Friends' Central School (PA)
  • Tina Farnsworth, Director of Finance and Operations, The Wyndcroft School (PA)
  • Daniel Groves, Business Manager, International School of Uganda
  • Tanya Horgan, Business Manager, Kent School (CT)
  • Amber Johnson, Director of Finance, The Branson School (CA)
  • Jennifer Kayayan, Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Colegio Maya de Guatemala
  • Christopher Mackey, Director of Finance, Boston College High School (MA)
  • Patrick Meehan, Chief Financial Officer, La Salle Academy (RI)
  • Karen Ortiz, Controller, Campbell Hall (CA)
  • Will Powers, Director of Finance and Operations, The Pike School (MA)
  • Zoe Schwam, Comptroller, Portledge School (NY)
  • Joe Sharp, Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Jewish Leadership Academy Inc. (FL)
  • Cheryl St. Pierre-Sleboda, Chief Financial Officer, Indian Mountain School (CT)
  • Laura Turner, Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations, Franklin Road Academy (TN)
  • Drew Upchurch, Director of Auxiliary Programs, The Bolles School (FL)
  • Risa Vine, Business Manager, Allen-Stevenson School (NY)
  • Cole Whiting, Director of Finance, Hawken School (OH)
  • Danielle Witten, Director of Finance and Operations, Foothill Country Day School (CA)

After helping shepherd this program from concept to reality, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and serve as a program mentor. In this capacity, I join four distinguished business officer colleagues and friends, who include:

  • Palmer Ball, Assistant to the Head for Finance & Strategic Planning, St. Joseph's Catholic School (SC) and 2015 Ken White Distinguished Business officer award recipient
  • Nancy Greene, Vice President for Finance and Operations/CFO, Pine Crest School (FL) and 2022 Ken White Distinguished Business Officer award recipient
  • Chuck McCullagh, Chief Financial Officer, The Williston Northampton School (MA) and 2019-2021 NBOA Board Chair
  • Donna Pacchioni, Retired CFO, Hawken School (OH) & Kentucky Country Day School (KY) and 2021 Ken White Distinguished Business Officer award recipient

Welcome to all who are beginning the program. Every one of us, participant, mentor and faculty member, has something to offer, or even better, something to learn this year, and this learning will make our schools and the entire independent school community stronger.

Jeff Shields signature

Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.


Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO

National Business Officers Association (NBOA)

Washington, DC

Jeff Shields, FASAE, CAE, has served as president and CEO of the National Business Officers Association (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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