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Announcing the Inaugural Innovation Award Recipients

By Jeffrey Shields posted 02-09-2021 10:35 AM


CEO Notebook |

These schools have capitalized on their strengths to serve essential community needs and build a stronger financial future.

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Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

I am excited to announce, for the first time, the recipients of the Jeffrey Shields Award for Innovation Excellence in School Business Operations, as selected by the NBOA Awards Selection Committee. Schools honored with this award have “shaken up” their organizations and disrupted the status quo by implementing new ideas and transforming organizational culture. 

This award was established last year by the NBOA Board of Directors to recognize NBOA member schools that have demonstrated innovation in school business operations through approaches, programs and practices that may serve as a model throughout our independent school community. I am humbled that this award bears my name, and our hope at NBOA is that recipients provide inspiration, as all of us continue to reinvent the way we operate and support our missions in unusual times.

Filling a Need, Expanding Opportunity

Baylor Esoteric and Molecular Laboratory

In mid-March 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the availability and speed of testing for the novel coronavirus was one of the biggest obstacles to fighting spread of the disease. Baylor School faculty members Elizabeth Forrester and Dawn Richards, both Ph.D. research scientists trained in molecular biology, developed a testing protocol for COVID-19 and prepared to help with the area’s testing. Baylor School had the specialized equipment to carry out the protocol.

The molecular research lab was quickly certified as a clinical lab to test COVID-19 samples and leased by the county. Throughout the spring and into summer, it processed thousands of COVID-19 tests for the area at a time when local cases were surging and testing was urgently needed.

In July, the new Baylor Esoteric and Molecular (BEM) Laboratory opened at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, located adjacent to the Baylor campus. With additional space and equipment, the BEM lab team expanded testing from 65 tests in a 24-hour cycle to 600-900 tests in the same time period. While the BEM lab has focused primarily on COVID-19 testing, it plans to expand testing to include other pathogens, and eventually cancer genetics. The initiative aligns closely with Baylor's mission to foster in its students both the ability and the desire to make a positive difference in the world.

Capitalizing on Strengths To Build Alternative Revenue

Mount Vernon Ventures

Mount Vernon School (MVS) developed a service to generate non-tuition revenue and leverage its strengths in analyzing community demographics and educational thought leadership. MVS believes that the traditional philanthropic model, courting families to make donations, is unsustainable in its context. Without an endowment, the school has had to look for other revenue streams and done so with an entrepreneurial spirit.

MVS created Mount Vernon Ventures (MVV), an educational consulting business in which teachers serve as consultants to private and public schools throughout the country. MVV is also developing international business with schools in Vietnam and China. MVV partners with organizations that are committed to carefully creating change and to caring for and leading the people who are part of the change effort. Services and capabilities include individual consulting partnerships, executive coaching, professional development workshops, curriculum products, conferences and webinars.

All revenue is reinvested into the school’s campuses and programs, directly benefiting the Mount Vernon families and students through new facilities and program development.

Honorable Mention

Tuition Guarantee Program

Good Shepherd Episcopal School created a new mission-aligned tuition model, the Tuition Guarantee Program. The program allows families to choose from either the long-established standard annual contract or a divisional contract that commits a family to the school for the duration of the time that their child is in a particular division. Families with divisional contracts agree that they will not leave the school, and in return, they lock in tuition at the current rates until the child completes the division. When children change divisions, tuition resets at market rates, and families can again opt for an annual or divisional contract. The Tuition Guarantee Program discourages families from changing schools and promotes commitment and loyalty to the school community.

The program has four goals:

  1. Create a financial partnership that extends the existing strong educational partnership and further strengthens the sense of community.
  2. Stabilize enrollment and increase retention.
  3. Make future revenue streams more predictable, with the tradeoff of forgoing some additional income.
  4. Remove some of the uncertainty in our families’ planning and budgeting.

Sharing the Stories of Positive Change 

Unlike NBOA’s other awards, the innovation award recognizes schools, rather than individuals, and includes a monetary contribution to the recipients’ annual fund or a gift to support a specific program.

Beyond recognizing the groundbreaking and impactful work our member schools are accomplishing, this award provides an opportunity to tell the stories of leadership and innovation that are taking place at independent schools across the country and around the globe. We will continue to tell those stories at the 2021 NBOA Annual Meeting, during the State of NBOA and Leadership Awards presentations, on Tuesday, February 3, 3-4 p.m. ET, and in Net Assets magazine, to share more details behind the strategy and execution of these exciting initiatives.

In the meantime, I hope you continue thinking creatively on your own campuses, and when a program improving school finance or operations takes off, be sure to let us and your peers know about it.

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Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.
From Net Assets NOW, February 9, 2021. Read past issues of CEO Notebook.

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