Unsung Hero: Paul Silva, Cushing Academy

Silva's skilled financial management resulted in substantial tuition revenue increases backed by a long-term financial model, ensuring his school’s long-term sustainability.

Aug 25, 2023

Unsung  Paul Silva

The Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award is given to business officers who have made extraordinary contributions to their schools and exemplify exceptional integrity, knowledge and motivation. At the end of each school year, new Unsung Heroes receive their award from their head of school, often at a significant school occasion such as a board meeting or an all-school ceremony. What makes these Unsung Heroes so special? The highlights below come straight from their colleagues' nominations.

Title: Chief Financial Officer
School: Cushing Academy, Ashburnham, MA


Superpower: Unmatched ambition. Silva came to Cushing Academy after being a CFO at a community hospital for many years. Despite never having worked in an independent school before, Silva hit the ground running. Working alongside the head of school, he restructured the budgeting and financial reporting processes, hired new business office staff, completed analyses of benefits and faculty salaries, and reviewed other policies along with the board of trustees — all within his first year on the job. Silva’s momentum has not waned in the years since, attested Head of School Randy Bertin. For example, during his second year at Cushing, Silva finalized a long-term financial model, which focuses on every detail of the school’s budget for eight-year projections.

Eye on financial growth. Silva has been integral in sound financial management that has resulted in a 23% increase in gross tuition revenue. The school has more than doubled its capital budget, primarily focusing on deferred maintenance. Silva also refinanced bonds to reduce interest expenses by approximately $400k annually.

Accountability partner: Silva “demonstrates integrity and is honest in his dealings with members of our community,” said Bertin. “He takes responsibility for his actions. If a mistake is made, he corrects it and is accountable to the team, making him an outstanding role model.” In addition to financial services, Silva directly oversees human resources, dining services, security, technology, facilities, housekeeping, the school store and health services, so his model work is felt throughout all aspects of operations.

Other Duties as Assigned: As CFO, Silva thinks about how the budget can be used to enhance students’ sense of joy on campus, said Bertin. Most recently, Silva led an initiative to bring a new food truck to campus. Cushing branded the food truck as the "Raft" to honor the school’s Penguin mascot.


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