Stranger Things

Business officers share some of the most unexpected moments they’ve had on the job.

Jun 20, 2023

From the March/April 2023 Net Assets Magazine.

NBOA members

All responses here are anonymous due to the sensitive nature of some incidents. Some we could not even print. But regarding what’s below, we know well that what’s shared within NBOA stays within NBOA!

Over Exposed

A donor gave the school a commissioned sculpture of a famous dancer, who was depicted nude. This was supposed to stand in the entry way to the elementary school. We thought, “There may be a little too much art in this.” So the donor thought we could drape a cloth over the sensitive areas, but that inspired just as much curiosity.

We had a naked woman on the playground once. The head of school was male, and I was female so he said, You need to get out there right away to handle this. I had to guide her to her car and convince her to put her clothes back on and go home.

Risky Business

I physically assembled and set off a large-scale fireworks display for a school gathering — industrial fireworks — much to the chagrin of my loved ones.

Working in a small school, you have to wear many hats. One of my top priorities is ensuring student safety. I always volunteer to help if I can, like mopping the wet floor from a water fountain.

Animal Management


My first day on the job, someone called to tell me we have a dead deer on the property. I thought, I’m a CPA, why are you calling me? What do I know about this? I realized it was my responsibility. Will the operations staff remove it? Do we need to call animal control? Should I call the dining hall and say we’re having venison for lunch? There are all these things you have to sit back and think about.

I bought a horse treadmill during the pandemic. I am not well-versed in equestrian knowledge and didn’t know such a thing even existed before our equestrian director brought it to my attention. It turns out that horses still need to get their steps in when there are no students on campus to ride them. At the time, we were struggling to figure out how to stay in business and whether to apply for a PPP loan, so it sounded like such an extravagant thing. But in fact, it was a great purchase and continues to be used regularly when students go on extended break. When I share that story with NBOA people, they like to poke fun at me because it sounds so ridiculous. They say things like, “What’s next, buying the horses headbands and Lululemon yoga pants to go with that treadmill?” We all share a good laugh. It was an amazing, strange experience.

"Why are we in charge of the eagle on the side of the road? Because we are the problem solvers."

I got a phone call from a neighbor saying, There's an eagle injured on the side of the hill over on the main street that runs through our campus. And I didn't know who else to call, so I'm calling you. Why are we in charge of the eagle on the side of the road? Because we are the problem solvers.

I was asked to have a beaver that had made its home on campus exterminated because it had built a dam that was flooding the campus. I think beavers are cute and I didn’t want to have it killed, so I called animal control to rehome the beaver. The flooding was quite troublesome.

I chased a bat out of the business office. Our school is in a historic neighborhood, and the building itself was built in 1920. So it has all the creaks and crevices you associate with an old building — the perfect setting for a bat to fly in. On a different occasion, we had a snake escape from the upper school science building, and it made its way through the roof and out an opening in the wall of a coworker’s office. If that had been my office, I would have burned the building down!

I had to wrangle a pretty feisty racoon from an outdoor classroom at my former school. Coming from the South Side of Chicago, there’s not much that will throw me off. But that definitely did it when I realized how dangerous they can be.

Maintenance Matters


Becoming an expert on water well systems.

Putting on a hard hat and walking through an active construction site.

Getting into the weeds, literally, in our community garden.

Wearing rubber boots and wading through waist-deep flood water.

A sprinkler pipe broke in our field house and it was flooding. I rode around on the back of a giant floor cleaner, which looked kind of like a Zamboni, to vacuum up the water. It was a holiday, and I came in with the maintenance crew, and while I was ankle-deep in water, the athletic director took a video of me operating the machine. My wife is like, why is the CFO doing this? We all chip in and do whatever it takes.

I once got a phone call from a neighbor who was complaining that our sprinklers on our field were getting the sidewalk wet. I wanted to say, Who do you call when it rains? God? But I have learned to be diplomatic and bit my tongue. Instead I said, Oh, I'm so sorry. I'll see if we can adjust them so that they don't spray onto your sidewalk.

Tender Moments

Distributing eggs, toilet paper, and other staples to our staff during an economic crisis.

Talking a student off the ledge.

Handling a parent who said she wanted to kidnap the child of someone that her husband was having an affair with.

Protecting a student from a parent who was barred from seeing their children due to domestic violence. This parent was trying to get into the school, and our receptionist was holding them off, but I was worried the parent would break the glass around the reception area, so I went down to support her. I went outside and she stayed inside.

Pandemic Perils

Taking students’ temperatures at the door during COVID.

Getting on my hands and knees with a yard stick to measure six feet of distance in classrooms and putting little squares on the carpet to indicate where students should stand to maintain social distancing.

Testing positive for COVID on my way to the airport and quarantining in our guest room for a week, which meant chairing an accreditation visit virtually.

I’ll Be There

I spent all day at the ER with a teacher who had an allergic reaction after drinking excessive amounts of mango juice.

At our boarding school, students took the opportunity to “celebrate” the holidays on Christmas Eve. That meant that every year, I would walk around on Christmas day with a janitorial cart, cleaning up vomit – sometimes in the bathrooms, sometimes not. It gave me the opportunity to show my appreciation to our cleaning staff who work hard year-round and shouldn’t have to come in on a holiday to mop up vomit. The good news is that the partying lessened over the years, making that part of the job slightly more pleasant.

Crossed Wires

One of the strangest things to happen to me was when a vendor contacted me that they hadn’t received a check from us. Our bank statement showed that the check was cashed. I was able to see the endorsement of the canceled check and sent a copy back to them. Apparently, the check was sent to the vendor’s neighbor and it was deposited by that neighbor. The rest of the story was among them.

"My hair felt like it was on fire from the stress of the situation, but the kids had no idea. They were just delighted to get free pizza."

I was a biology major, and during my very first year at my first school, they were looking for a chaperone to go on the week-long trip to study marine biology. And that was my love, so I chaperoned that trip for probably six years in a row. I didn't have my own children then and it was a great chance for me to get to know the students. Later I taught a class on turtles. My dad loved box turtles, and he’d keep 10 or 15 of them at a time, so I’d bring in a turtle to class and teach about them.

Coming from the corporate world, I never expected I’d be serving lunch in the pizza line. It’s not a strange thing to do in schools, necessarily, but it certainly took me by surprise. The first time this happened, we had to close the cafeteria due to a backed-up drain and order pizza for 850 students. My hair felt like it was on fire from the stress of the situation, but the kids had no idea. They were just delighted to get free pizza.



years is the target ceiling for a school plant's financial "age."

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