EduTalk Radio Series: Independent Schools & the Financial Landscape
Schools and money are two subjects that, when combined, create quite a buzz. There are program budgets, teacher salaries, and student expenses all to be taken into consideration, and to be honest, it’s tough to manage. Every type of school has to make smart (and difficult) decisions, which is what Larry Jacobs, the host of EduTalk Radio, explores with Jeff Shields, CEO of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA). Their focus: independent schools and the financial future.
To start, what is an independent school? Is it a private school? Is it a boarding school? Does it occupy a piece of land that is in a total state of anarchy? As Shields explains it, independent schools are an alternative to public schools, and may include religiously-affiliated schools, but students do not live on campus like they do at a boarding school.
Shields says that the NBOA, as a major resource for business officers of independent schools, is assessing how to lead schools more effectively, especially where finances are concerned.
Currently, only 30% of these schools’ budgets are set aside for students, and Shields knows that this is not enough. He admits that independent schools have long-been proud of having exceptionally small classes, but that this may not be the most efficient focus. What should they focus on instead? Shields says the quality of the teacher and the quality of the student-teacher interaction is more important than a small class size.
By moving toward a student-centered approach and allowing the student to take on more responsibility in the classroom, Shields says that it “allows you to serve a higher number of students and families without increasing your costs.”
The NBOA is also looking into a future in technology – most notably, online learning. As a benefit of being an independent school, the staff and their leaders are only limited by their own creativity, which is probably why they’ve already had success with the Online School for Girls, a K-12 non-profit school of which Shields serves as a member on the Board of Trustees.
But online learning isn’t just for the students. Shields is also introducing his own online course for non-business officers who are involved in the finances of a school, but who may not have a financial background. The goal is to recreate the atmosphere of a classroom, while harnessing the advantages of technology.
The NBOA is aware of, and ready for the future of independent schools. As Shields states, “Change is happening around us and you can either be part of leading that change or you can just let change happen to you.”