Chief Financial Officer
  • Finance

The Fessenden School, West Newton, MA

Accredited by AISNE

OVERVIEW

The Fessenden School is thriving thanks to a strong leadership team led by Head of School, Steve Armstrong, as well as a dedicated and talented Board of Trustees and its high-performing Finance Committee. As such, the School has full enrollment and ambitious plans for its future. Fessenden has been successful in growing its endowment over the past decade and has experienced increased applications in recent years. Consequently, the School has invested heavily in building out the campus, including an upcoming science center project. Fessenden is a complex school, combining both boarding and day students and also offering vibrant auxiliary programs, including summer camps and facilities rentals.

Because of the need to manage the many parts of operations and the added operational demands of the boarding program, Fessenden employs a full time Chief Operating Officer, allowing the CFO position to focus on the strategic and immediate aspects of finance, risk management, and human resources. Both positions collaborate with each other on budgetary and other concerns, report directly to the Head of School, and sit on the senior administrative team. This model has worked very well for the School, with clear lanes of responsibilities and a collaborative spirit. The Business Office is well staffed with a veteran controller, a human resources director, as well as accounts payable and accounts receivable professionals.

The next CFO will need to have top notch communication and presentation skills for working with the Board and the various sub-committees. The successful candidate will need to be able to anticipate questions and provide transparency and insight. Strong modeling and forecasting skills are essential, as are tools and strategies for managing financial aid and experience managing banking relationships and debt. Tied to financial aid strategies is the School’s intense effort to increase diversity while becoming a more equitable and inclusive institution. Further, the next CFO must be a visible presence on campus, working to form close relationships with faculty, staff, parents, and students.

SCHOOL HISTORY

The Fessenden School was founded in 1903 by Frederick and Emma Hart Fessenden as a prepreparatory “feeder” school for Phillips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire). The School’s approach was an early version of “whole child education” that proved extremely successful. In short order, Fessenden added dormitories, classrooms, and playing fields to accommodate the growing number s of students. Frederick Fessenden and then his son, Hart, would run the school for the first 64 years.

Under the stewardship of the dedicated headmasters who followed, Fessenden has successfully blended valued traditions with innovative programs and creative initiatives that set Fessenden apart from its competitors. Graduates include some well-known statesmen, business leaders, philanthropists, and professionals in other fields

THE SCHOOL

Serving a diverse group of boys from 13 countries, 12 U.S. states, and 37 Massachusetts communities, The Fessenden School is one of the top junior boarding and day schools in the nation. Boarding students comprise 20% of the entire school; 50% of Upper School students are boarders. Its approach to supporting boys’ development in grades pre-K-9 encompasses a thoughtful mix of academics, the arts, physical education, and character education. Here, boys achieve, grow, and develop in mind, body, and heart because they’re fully seen, supported, and encouraged.

Overall, Fessenden’s innovative curriculum aims to both prepare students for top secondary schools and inspire enthusiastic, creative, lifelong learners. Its program helps students develop the academic and life skills, character traits, knowledge, and habits that will support their success in school and life. In pursuit of its mission, Fessenden also aims to instill honesty, compassion, and respect as a foundation for boys’ growth into young men. An added focus on wellness and service to others rounds out this impressive program.

The boarding program serves students in the Middle and Upper schools. Forty staff and faculty families make their homes on campus and support students in all aspects of their lives. Fessenden’s 9th-grade year provides its students with the opportunity to build leadership skills and further develop their athletic and academic skills in preparation for entrance into top high schools.

ACADEMICS

In the Lower School, pre-K-4, Fessenden teachers lay a strong academic foundation and promote a love of learning designed to last a lifetime. The faculty focus on cultivating passionate readers and writers, fostering analytical thinking and problem solving, and nurturing creativity. The core Lower School curriculum focuses on language arts, mathematics, and social studies. Additional programming focuses on art, music, science, Spanish, library, physical education, and technology. Students are steeped in the “six Cs:” Critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, character, and crosscultural competency

The Middle School’s (grades 5-6) and Upper School’s (grades 7-9) approaches to education involve nurturing and supporting boys in and out of the classroom. Intellectually, students are encouraged to take risks and explore their passions through student-led projects, collaborative work, and a wide variety of electives. Core courses include English, math, history, science, and foreign language. The list of electives encompasses nearly 20 visual and performing arts and technology classes. This breadth of offerings gives boys the opportunity to develop new passions and build upon existing talents. Students are offered a great deal of encouragement through the academic support program and the advisory system.

In the School’s Ciongoli Center for Innovation, students at all grade levels engage in STEAM projects, crossdivisional collaboration, and the “Innovation Station” Extended Day Program — focused on programming, robotics, engineering, multimedia, and design.

As a result of this comprehensive, 21st-century approach, boys thrive at top secondary schools and successfully navigate the world beyond.

THE ARTS

The arts are an essential element of a Fessenden education. In the Lower School, students take part in collaborative and individual projects that focus primarily on process. As their skills progress, students practice a variety of techniques and styles and learn about different genres and artists. Each Lower School grade takes the stage in a musical theater production. They also begin their instrumental music journeys with visits to the Music Technology Lab for keyboarding skills, and later study the recorder and ukulele. In 4th grade, the program expands to include brass, woodwind, and string ensembles.

In the Middle and Upper schools, a wide range of studio art courses give students the opportunity to grow their knowledge of a variety of mediums, from drawing and painting to three-dimensional sculpture and ceramics. The performing arts include choral, band, orchestra, a percussion ensemble, a strings ensemble, and a variety of theater arts. In all, Fessenden offers 13 musical groups and seven theatrical productions per year.

ATHLETICS

Athletics are an integral and required part of the educational experience — with an emphasis on sportsmanship, skill building, and collaboration. In the Lower School, students learn individual skills and team play through group activities and games and develop good sportsmanship through teaching that focuses on how to be gracious regardless of game outcome.

The Middle School offers 16 team and individual sports at the interscholastic, intramural, and recreational levels. Sports include mountain biking, sailing, hockey, soccer, football, basketball, cross-country, track and field, and more.

Fessenden’s Upper School offers team and individual sports also at the interscholastic, intramural, and recreational levels during each season — with more than 30 teams in total. Upper School athletics include the full range of sports, along with guided weight training and conditioning.

SCHOOL LIFE

Fessenden puts a great deal of emphasis on extracurricular programming — from community service to the arts and after-school and weekend programming. It also focuses on helping boys become culturally competent and empathetic young adults.

In the Lower School, the faculty and staff make a point of celebrating academic milestones, artistic triumphs, physical accomplishments, and social and emotional discoveries — focusing on supporting the emotional and intellectual lives of boys while creating community. This work extends into the Middle and Upper School programs.

The Upper School Club program offers students more than 20 options a year. The diverse offerings allow boys to further pursue academic, athletic, or social interests. The School also encourages students to develop their own ideas for clubs and to pursue faculty mentorship.

CAMPUS

The Fessenden School is located on an impressive, 41-acre campus in West Newton, Massachusetts, a short distance from downtown Boston.

Overall, this is a well-designed, architecturally engaging campus. The academic facilities include stateof-the-art classrooms and art spaces for all levels. The newest building is the $12 million Elfers Center for the Arts. The Ciongoli Center for Innovation, 2,400-square-foot STEAM center built in 2016, is situated at the physical and ideological heart of campus. Equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, and an array of tools and materials, the Center encompasses three expansive makerspaces, a machine room, and a collaboration classroom. The School’s Science Center will undergo a $5 million renovation this summer.

The campus includes small student dorms and housing for 40 faculty. Fessenden’s sports facilities rival that of top secondary schools. They include two new turf fields (one with a track), three gyms, a wrestling center, weight room, indoor hockey rink, six lighted courts, and two outdoor swimming pools.

WEST NEWTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Located approximately 10 miles west of downtown Boston and seven miles from Cambridge, West Newton is a thriving family friendly village within Newton, a city-suburb of Boston. With just over 24,000 residents, West Newton is rated among the best places to live in Massachusetts. It offers residents a dense suburban feel with easy access to shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks — as well all the benefits of living in the greater Boston area. The West Newton Village is a National Register Historic District.

The broader Newton community includes lots of green spaces, shopping, and walkable neighborhoods. Rather than having a single city center, Newton resembles a patchwork of 13 villages, each with their own attractions, charm, and many boasting small downtown areas of their own. The Newton History Museum at the Jackson Homestead is a local history museum dedicated to the city’s early development. Newton is also home to Boston College, the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst, and Lasell University.

CORE RESPONSIBILITIES The CFO

is a member of the 13-member Senior Team that oversees the development and implementation of strategic goals for the School. The CFO works closely with the Head of School to address the financial, investment, and business objectives of the School.

  • Work with the Head of School, senior administrators, the faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees to provide strategic direction and implementation of the School’s mission.
  • Provide the financial information and planning that builds understanding and trust among the faculty, administration, staff, and families.
  • Manage and direct the annual operating budget. With the Controller, plan and prepare forecasts of the financial condition of the School. Report to the Head of School, Board of Trustees, and Finance Committee on the results of the present and future operations including overseeing the on-going maintenance and updating of the ten-year financial model.
  • In partnership with the COO, oversee the PPRRSM/Capital Reserve Fund to ensure that it is deployed to meet the strategic needs of the institution.
  • Manage and direct the day-to-day operation of the business office to include payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and accounting functions.
  • Supervise the work of the business office personnel and use standard accounting (FASB) and bookkeeping procedures to keep an accurate and continuous record of cash and the financial position of Fessenden. Manage the financial operation of the School so that the institution remains financially stable in a greater context of sustainability.
  • Communicate risks, opportunities, and trends via the collection of comparative data by creating or participating in school surveys.
  • With the Controller, prepare operating statements for the Head of School and the Board of Trustees and provide monthly reports of expenditures for use of each budget center within the School.
  • In concert with the Finance Committee, establish a plan and schedule for the preparation of the annual budget that will permit the setting of the succeeding year’s tuition and compensation at the Board of Trustees’ January meeting.
  • With the Controller and Audit Committee, provide for the securing of an annual audit of the School’s financial records and financial positions.
  • Oversee the School’s purchasing and contracts, banking activities, payroll, benefits program, and financial investments, including endowment. Implement the investment decisions of the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.
  • Provide staff/liaison support, in conjunction with the Head of School, to the Audit, Finance, and Investment Committees of the Board of Trustees. Document all Committee meetings. 
  • Manage risk assessment at the School to ensure the safety of personnel and students in their use of the facilities and to maintain appropriate levels of insurance to protect the property and to cover the liability of the School.
  • Play a significant role in the emergency planning process.
  • Establish, review, revise, and ensure legal compliance and risk mitigation with regard to a number of practices, procedures, and publications of the School.
  • Report and collect data to and from school associations (NAIS, AISNE, JBSA, etc.) and manage surveys of data from benchmark groups.
  • Assist the Head of School with decisions regarding salaries and benefits for all personnel, including the evaluation of support staff.
  • Complete annual FOLIO evaluations of all members of the business office.
  • Serve as a member of the Senior Team and Administrative Council.
  • Represent the School at various regional, state, and national associations relative to the role of a CFO/Business Manager.
  • Act as the School’s liaison with appropriate local officials. Serve on committees, task forces, and study groups as needed.
  • Support the faculty, staff, and school leadership.
  • Perform other duties as assigned by the Head of School

DESIRED QUALITIES AND QUALIFICATIONS

  • Bachelor’s degree required, MBA or CPA preferred.
  • Prior direct experience as a school business manager is highly desirable.
  • Ability to integrate effectively into the culture of a not-for-profit independent school while implementing strategies and tactics necessary for successful operations of the business.
  • Significant experience with increasing responsibility supervising other personnel and managing multiple projects and programs.
  • Strong management, negotiation, and project management skills.
  • Experience developing and managing a budget.
  • An open and collaborative work style.
  • A high level of integrity and a strong work ethic.
  • Discretion and the ability to handle confidential and sensitive matters appropriately.
  • State-of-the-art computer skills; facility with Google applications including Google Docs, Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Presentation, Google Spreadsheet; facility working with databases such as Whipple Hill and Blackbaud.

TO APPLY

Interested and qualified candidates are encouraged to speak with the consultants in confidence. All applicants will be expected to submit (preferably in separate PDFs) the following materials:

  • A cover letter expressing their interest in this particular position;
  • A current résumé;
  • A list of five professional references with name, relationship, phone number, and email address of each (references will not be contacted without the candidate’s permission) to:

Greg Britton Managing Associate ggb@carneysandoe.com

John Clark Senior Consultant john.clark@carneysandoe.com