Preparing for the unknown: Masters’ pandemic finances, Feb-May 2020

An in-depth look at how Masters navigated an emerging health emergency and took early steps to prepare for a return to in-person learning.

Head+of+School+Laura+Danforth+%28left%29+and+Chief+Financial+Office+Ed+Biddle+%28right%29+converse+in+Danforth%27s+office.+In+the+early+day%27s+of+the+pandemic%2C+the+two+consulted+with+leaders+on+the+Board+of+Trustees+and+others+before+making+important+decisions+pertaining+to+the+school%27s+pandemic+response.+The+school+also+organized+a+COVID-19+financial+task+force+that+met+frequently+during+the+early+stages+of+the+pandemic.

Logan Schiciano

Head of School Laura Danforth (left) and Chief Financial Office Ed Biddle (right) converse in Danforth’s office. In the early day’s of the pandemic, the two consulted with leaders on the Board of Trustees and others before making important decisions pertaining to the school’s pandemic response. The school also organized a COVID-19 financial task force that met frequently during the early stages of the pandemic.

Preparing for the Unknown: Masters Pandemic Finances, Feb-May 2020

Logan Schiciano, TBN Producer

No manual exists for navigating a school through a deadly pandemic, but Masters’ Chief Financial Officer Ed Biddle drew from the next best resource – a comprehensive report analyzing the effects of the 2008-2009 recession on independent schools across the nation. After school shut down unexpectedly last March, Biddle quickly called up the author of the study, Jim Pugh, whose 12 takeaways from the last major economic crisis have guided Masters’ response to the virus since it arrived in New York a year ago.
While Biddle said the most difficult part about the early stages of the pandemic was staying calm, he harnessed Pugh’s advice, upholding optimism and a collaborative approach through a period of induced isolation and uncertainty.

Biddle said, “The role of a CFO at a school is to help inform the financial decision making by the leadership team and the board. People will look to me to see if we’re going to be okay. I don’t answer, ‘Yes, we’re going to be okay, but–’ I say, ‘We’re going to be okay, and–’”

That “and” included a series of crucial steps in the early stages of the pandemic that impacted the school’s ability to adhere to its top fiscal priority – supporting the educational program.

Check out the mutlimedia piece above to read about the school’s pandemic response from Feb-May 2020.