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Unsung Hero: Cynthia Fanikos, St. John’s Prep

By Net Assets posted 23 days ago


Leadership |

Fanikos helped restore the school’s financial health while advancing diversity, social justice and equity at St. John’s Prep.

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 2020 recipients. Stay tuned to for additional profiles.

Title: Assistant Head of School for Finance/CFO
School: St. John’s Prep, Danvers, Massachusetts
Years in position: 8
Years in an independent school business office: 8

Superpower: Financial Restoration: “Cindy began her role at St. John’s Prep during a time of turmoil and crisis,” explained Edward Hardiman, headmaster, and Keith Crowley, associate head of school. “The prior CFO plead guilty to embezzlement, leaving a tremendous credibility gap in addition to significant structural issues in the finance office. Over the past eight years, Cynthia has led efforts to streamline finance operations, restore credibility and create a culture of possibility within the finance team. Without her professional leadership and mastery of school finances, St. John’s Prep would not have achieved the goals of our strategic plan.”

Visionary: “Cindy works tirelessly to leverage tuition assistance funds in support of our diversity initiatives,” said Hardiman. For example, Fanikos set aside funding to create “soft costs” for students receiving grants of 75% or higher, funding that enables high-need students to participate fully in school offerings such as international trips. “Through her leadership, the fund to cover soft costs has grown from less than $50K in FY2015 to just under $400K in FY 21,” said Hardiman. In 2017, Fanikos received the Martin Luther King Jr. Equity and Justice Award, presented to a member of the school community who has demonstrated a commitment to diversity, social justice and equity by creating a caring, welcoming environment and working toward cultural competence and awareness.

Ally to advancement: “In her work as CFO, Cindy has also supported the advancement team in a successful $45M capital campaign, led two successful bond financing efforts to add a 90K sq. ft. academic building and a 90K sq ft. wellness center. Additionally, Cindy's leadership has enabled the school to launch a highly successful middle school program.”

Quiet connector: “Cindy has a quiet and unassuming way about her that invites people to speak with her. Whether she is speaking with a family requesting increased tuition assistance or working with a department chair on budget issues, she is approachable and [a good listener]. Cindy is constantly on the move across our 175-acre campus to meet people in their space and talk through concerns.”

Outside the business office: In addition to her tireless work in the finance office, Fanikos also teaches yoga as part of St. John Prep’s wellness program and serves as a member of the community formation committee. Read more about how she helped establish a yoga practice at St. John’s Prep in After School: Stretching Her Limits (July/August 2018).

See a full list of the 2020 recipients and read more about the Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award. Net Assets will post additional profiles of Unsung Heroes throughout the summer and fall — check in to learn more about other recipients.


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