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Unsung Hero: Saundra Sparks, Echo Horizon School

By Net Assets posted 13 days ago

  
Saundra Sparks

Leadership |

Sparks aligned admissions practices with the school’s vision of inclusivity while managing multiple successful leadership transitions at Echo Horizon School.

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. 

See a full list of the 2019 recipients. Stay tuned to NetAssets.org for additional profiles.

Title: Chief Financial Officer

School: Echo Horizon School, Culver City, California

Years in Position: 8

Years in an independent school business office: 8

Superpower: Admissions ace. Sparks led efforts to align Echo Horizon School’s admissions practices with its model of inclusivity to ensure “a beautifully diverse and inclusive campus where ALL families feel honored and supported.” The past two years of admissions data reflect that 50% of incoming students identify as people of color, and 15% are deaf and hard of hearing. By aligning inclusivity with operations, Sparks has helped establish “the heart of who we are, [which] makes for a truly magical community.”

Quiet strength: Sparks has been the keystone throughout two head of school transitions, during which she balanced daily operations and made numerous refinements to Echo Horizon’s strategic direction. “Saundra has worked positively under three heads and has handled every challenge with the same quiet professionalism that has been her hallmark throughout.” Three years later, the school has “a new team, tremendous growth mindset…improved faculty morale and positive enthusiasm throughout our community.”

Resilience: Following changes in the economy coupled with major leadership transitions, the school faced declining enrollment. “Thanks to the brilliant leadership and investments of Saundra and the board, the school was able to survive hard times.” Echo Horizon has since seen upticks in enrollment, outperforming targets and halving attrition.

Astute approach: Sparks “thinks well beyond the accounting impact of a decision — she thinks strategically, mindful that financial decisions that might seem narrow in scope can impact our enterprise broadly, affecting faculty, admissions, morale and future options. I think of the countless times we’ve called on her to model scenarios: she negotiates expertly the many complexities of modeling and the subtle assumptions involved. She’s both a realist and an optimist.”

Outside the business office: Sparks is a mountain climber and marathon runner, and has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. Look for more on her adventures in a forthcoming “After School” article.

See a full list of the 2019 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. 

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