Organization: The Willows Community School

Location: Culver City, CA

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About The Willows Community School:

History

In March of 1994, a small, determined group of parents and educators set out to create a new kind of school. These founding families believed in Lisa Rosenstein as an educator – in her vision, in her work ethic, and in her upbeat approach to life. Their shared vision imagined a progressive, innovative educational approach with strong academic roots that instilled character and compassion, inspired intellectual fearlessness and flexibility, and appealed to a broad demographic throughout Los Angeles. The founding families formed a Board of Trustees, agreeing upon the name The Willows Community School, honoring a tree that grows quickly, whose branches bend but do not break.

This is realized in the mission statement:

At The Willows, we believe each child brings our community an extraordinary gift: a curious mind, ready to explore and eager to learn. Our mission is to grow that gift by challenging our students to uncover meaning and significance in the world around them and to become capable, confident individuals who demonstrate character, engagement, and a joyful passion for creative inquiry across a lifetime.

Their vision began to materialize when the school leased a warehouse located in Culver City. Less than six months later, The Willows Community School opened its doors to 90 students in developmental kindergarten through fifth grade. The school consisted of a single building in the Hayden Tract of Culver City, which became Willows 1, purchased in 2009. 20 years later, The Willows has evolved into one of the most desirable schools in Los Angeles, known for its highly regarded technology program and educational innovations, extending across a 2.86 acre, 124,404 square foot campus composed of five buildings and educating more than 445 students. Several leading national educators have recently spent time at The Willows, unanimous in their praise of the school’s creative and stimulating learning environment and its engaged, involved students. The Willows received the 2014 and 2015 Culver City Private School Award for Excellence.

The Willows began as a dream of community, defined intrinsically by its founders a “a sharing in common.” The Willows community is ever expanding and energetic, having grown through the years to include not only a vigorous, committed community of students, faculty, staff, family and alumni but also an outreach into the larger community. We believe that as individuals, we thrive; as a community we soar.

Founding Principles
The Willows Community School is committed to a strong, progressive education, rooted in academic excellence and social values. Its developmentally structured curriculum is founded on the principles of experiential learning and thematic instruction. These educational principles translate into a classroom experience of daily active learning.

The Willows educational program is characterized by attention to each student’s needs and respect for individual differences. The students at The Willows Community School learn to think, to have mutual respect and tolerance, and to understand the value of cooperation. At The Willows the balance between the needs of the individual and of the community is kept in sharp focus. Fostered as individuals, the students experience themselves as part of a larger community through their exchanges with each other as well as their active participation in community service. Preparing the student for a rapidly changing modern world, The Willows Community School strives to provide an environment where children, like those trees for which The Willows is named, bend gracefully in the wind but do not break.

Our Philosophy and Fundamental Purpose
The Willows is committed to a balanced yet demanding progressive curriculum rooted in experiential learning and social values, teaching and modeling a zest for learning and the courage to take risks. The Willows challenges children to challenge themselves and set high standards for academic excellence, which they pursue with energy and joy. The School nurtures a sense of compassion and community that begins at home, reinforcing what it means to be a respectful, involved citizen-of-the-world. In the spirit of the willow tree itself, The Willows’ “great minds” are flexible, resilient, and beautiful at every stage of development. The Willows Community School provides a balanced approach to education in an environment that nurtures connection, fosters character, values content, inspires creativity, and builds community.

Core Values

The Willows’ core values provide a basis for all student-learning goals:

Creative Inquiry at Our Core

Creativity is essential to learning at The Willows; it is an integral part of the teaching process across every discipline, as each child discovers her or his unique talents in an atmosphere that embraces questioning and exploration.

Challenging Academics in Balance  

The Willows believes passionately in developing students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills; their rigorous academics are founded on the progressive principles of experiential learning and thematic instruction. The Willows takes a balanced approach, placing equal emphasis on challenging academics and social-emotional wellbeing.

Character

The Willows prepares students to value empathy, accept responsibility, practice ethical behavior and commit to engaging in the global community, fostering character by emphasizing the development of social and emotional skills hand-in-hand with academic skills.

Community

Willows students grow through the years on a single DK-8 campus, in an intimate, cohesive environment that recognizes the needs of each developmental stage while fostering connection and continuity. Students appreciate individual differences and experience themselves both as individuals and as part of a team.

Position Summary:

The CFO serves as a member of the Administrative Team and oversees all financial and operational activities related to the School’s $12 million budget. In partnership with the Head of School, the CFO serves as the School’s strategic projects administrator and provides leadership and managerial oversight, supervising a staff of up to 15 across the following areas: human resources, risk management, facilities, auxiliary and event services, business operations, and financial aid. The CFO provides the Head of School and Board of Trustees with financial and other pertinent information necessary for making key policy and operational decisions, attends all meetings of the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee, and provides or coordinates direct staff support for the Finance Committee, Facilities Committee, Governance Committee, Real Estate Committee and other related ad-hoc committees of the Board of Trustees. Alongside the Head of School, the Chief Financial Officer establishes, cultivates, and maintains excellent working relationships with a wide network of trustees, consultants, advisors, and colleagues.

Key Responsibilities:

Serves as a Strategic Projects Administrator for the Head of School and the Board of Trustees

  • Coordinates and attends Board of Trustees committee meetings.
  • Provides special project support to the Head of School and the Board of Trustees related to strategic planning and related strategic projects/initiatives.
  • Oversees and coordinates capital projects.
  • Provides special project support to the Head of School and the Board of Trustees.

Serves as the School’s Chief Financial Officer

  • Supervises the Controller and administers the Business Office.
  • Oversees and demonstrates responsibility for the School’s financial and tax reporting.
  • Reviews and approves operational and project based budgets.
  • Oversees and demonstrates responsibility for cash management and cash flow forecasts, including investment of operating cash, reserve funds, and endowment.
  • Coordinates and manages outside banking and accounting relationships.
  • Ensures compliance with contractual and external obligations, including with banking partners and IRS regulatory reporting.
  • Coordinates and attends Finance Committee meetings.

Serves as the School’s Risk Management Administrator

  • Develops and oversees risk management programs and supervises the Controller in the administration of the risk management functions.
  • Oversees and negotiates all insurance contracts.
  • Coordinating with the Controller, serves as the School’s primary contact for all liability questions, including for human resources and facilities.
  • Monitors status of all outstanding claims.

Serves as the School’s Human Resource Administrator

  • Develops, oversees and negotiates employee benefit programs.
  • Supervises the Controller in the administration of the Human Resource functions.
  • Oversees and administers the School’s employment contract process.
  • Develops and oversees the School’s performance evaluation program.
  • Manages personnel practices to ensure compliance with labor laws and other legal affairs.

Serves as the School’s Facilities & Operations Administrator

  • Supervises the Facilities Manager and Operations Manager in the administration of School facilities and operations department.
  • Coordinates major projects involving the School’s facilities and campus.
  • Ensures compliance with contractual, regulatory, and municipal requirements (including compliance with the School’s Conditional Use Permit).
  • Provides oversight of rental property maintenance and management.
  • Provides direct staff support for and attends Real Estate Committee meetings.

Serves as the School’s Chief Technology Administrator

  • Supervises the Director of Technology in coordination with the Head of School, and oversees the development of long-range technology goals and programs for the School.
  • Ensures the School’s technological infrastructure supports the academic and administrative needs of the School.
  • Recommends new technologies that would be beneficial to the School’s academic or administrative programs.
  • Administers the acquisition, organization, installation and maintenance of all School software and hardware.
  • Ensures ethical utilization of technology resources.
  • Develops and revises essential technology policies (including Disaster Recovery Plan, Security Policy, Acceptable Use Policy, etc.)

Serves as the Operations/Auxiliary Services Administrator

  • Administers the Operations/Auxiliary Services of the School and supervises the Operations Manager & Office Manager in the administration of the auxiliary service operations including:
    • Transportation program
    • Event management
    • Purchasing
    • Community Relations
    • Student trip program
    • Administrative office management

Core Competencies:

The ideal candidate will be strategic and results-driven with strong leadership skills and a proven track record of success in similar roles of progressively greater responsibility. S/he will have a strong finance and operations background, excellent relationship-building capabilities and impeccable communication skills. A strong complement to the Head of School, the CFO will be relied upon for good business judgment, an analytical mindset, great capacity for flexibility and adaptability to shifting priorities or needs, and sound and influential decision-making abilities.

The ideal candidate will have at least 8-10 years of management experience in a financial/operations role at an organization of similar size; finance executives with corporate, nonprofit or higher education experience who are mission-driven and passionate about education will also be considered. S/he will have both financial and operational experience, and a management background in human resources, information technology and/or facilities is preferred. S/he will have the business savvy, financial and operational expertise and good judgment to establish the necessary trust and credibility with the Head of School, Board of Trustees, colleagues, parents, students and external partners.

In addition, ideal candidates will have the following core competencies, personal qualities and qualifications:

Expertise in Finance and Operations: The Chief Financial Officer will be an experienced leader in the field of finance and operations with a measurable track record of success in generating and implementing an overall strategy, serving as an important partner to the Head of School in these areas. This executive will have demonstrated expertise in a wide range of administrative functions, and have knowledge of industry best practices, standard tools and metrics. The CFO will be a self-motivated team player who will partner with the Head of School, Board of Trustees, the senior administration, and the community across The Willows in identifying key needs, opportunities and strategy. S/he will anticipate, understand and respond to the needs of the community to meet or exceed expectations. The CFO will have experience leading the planning and implementation of large capital projects, human resources management and administration, and be flexible in adapting to emerging school needs as they develop. S/he will serve as the thought leader in these areas for The Willows’ Board of Trustees and Head of School, providing thoughtful, focused insight on various projects and initiatives in a clear, collaborative manner.

Strategic and Entrepreneurial Leadership: In partnership with the Head of School, the Chief Financial Officer will have the ability to develop and implement clear, action-oriented, innovative strategies aimed towards elevating the administrative function of The Willows School, including in the areas of human resources, technology, and facilities and operations. S/he will inspire quality performance and enhance morale with the leadership capacity to build, nurture and retain a strong team of professionals that is focused on excellence, accountability and efficiency. Critical to success in this role, the CFO will be flexible in adjusting as priorities emerge and change; s/he will be a nimble problem-solver, able to balance multiple tasks efficiently and effectively. The CFO will have a high level of business acumen and judgment, with the ability to make practical, realistic, data driven, and timely decisions. S/he will understand, analyze and interpret complex problems and utilize appropriate approaches to achieve sustainable solutions with the sophistication to be creative in identifying and developing new strategies to ‘get things done’.

Relationship Builder and Collaborator: The Chief Financial Officer will have demonstrated success in developing, managing, cultivating, and leveraging major relationships, partnerships with a proven track record of “closing deals.” The CFO reports directly to the Head of School and will be a collaborative partner with the Head of School across all administrative functions, s/she develop strong working and interpersonal relationships across all levels of The Willows. With strong facilitation and negotiation skills, the CFO will possess the ability to communicate effectively with diverse constituencies, including the Board of Trustees, parents, faculty, and external stakeholders. A superior communicator, s/he will be a bridge-builder internally and an effective networker who seeks relationships that further The School’s mission. The CFO will effectively share information with any appropriate direct reports, keeping the Head of School and others up-to-date on matters related to the overall administrative priorities or needs. By leading collaboratively from relationships and partnerships, the CFO will be able to synthesize divergent views and coalesce all community members around a shared plan.

Passion for the Mission: The Chief Financial Officer Communications will have a passion and commitment for The Willows Community School’s mission, history and its work. S/he will understand how their role contributes to the overall mission, drawing inspiration for the position of CFO from the community. The CFO will prioritize the experience of The Willows’ students, parents, faculty, staff and leadership, endeavoring to raise the quality of the academic and personal environment at The School. Driven by the mission, s/he will influence the culture and impact of The Willows through the modeling and adoption of best practices. The CFO will be an empathic individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values, treating others with respect.

Contact:

The Willows Community School has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. This search is being led by Michelle Bonoan and Melanie Damm. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here or email Michelle and Melanie at the following:

Michelle R.S. Bonoan
Managing Director
mbonoan@koyapartners.com
Melanie Damm
Manager, Executive Search
mdamm@koyapartners.com

The Willows Community School is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBT applicants.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital-consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.