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: Business Manager
School: John Burroughs School, St. Louis, Missouri
Years in Position: 34
Years in an independent school business office: 34
Superpower: Indefatigable mentor: Placio “devotes substantial time to being a resource for other business office leaders in this community,” said Head of School Andy Abbott. “She sits on visiting teams and serves as an unpaid consultant for other schools' finance committees. She is a mentor to every new CFO in the city, and she is a deep friend to all!”
Todd Fuller, finance director at neighboring Westminster Christian Academy, can also attest to Placio’s goodwill: “Laura was one of the first people I reached out to [when I accepted my position at Westminster]. She was a great help to me as I was learning the ropes in the field of independent schools, and eventually helped me join our local and regional school CFO groups. Even though I've been in my role for over 20 years, Laura is still one of the first people I contact when I need advice.”
Growth mindset: “Laura Placio has essentially been the only business manager our school has ever had,” explained Abbott. In the 34 years since she took over the office the school has moved from an operating budget of under $3 million to one over $28 million. In that time, the campus footprint has nearly doubled, and the entire physical plant has been either built or rebuilt. “She has taken the school from essentially a wonderful volunteer-run start up and turned it into an efficient but friendly business.”
Go-to person: “My guess is that no one has spent more living hours on the campus of John Burroughs than Laura Placio,” said Director of Finance Leanne Rohr. “She is the go-to person for nearly everything and everyone on campus.”
People-focused: Placio is “utterly devoted to the people in this community,” said Head of School Andy Abbott. In an HR capacity, she runs the gamut from onboarding new employees to working “with retiring faculty, staff and plant operations employees and helping them figure out their finances and whether or not they have saved enough for a comfortable retirement.”
See a full list of the 2021 recipients and read more about the Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award. NetAssets.org will post additional profiles of Unsung Heroes throughout the fall — check in to learn more about other recipients.