The following is an unedited transcript from the ATLIS Budgeting Summit

Susan Davis 0:15
Welcome everyone coming into the Atlas summit, the first Atlas summit of the 2021 2022 school year. So this summit is on budgeting essentials in a post COVID world, I guess we kind of have to talk about a post COVID world and kind of elastic terms these days. We're in it, we're not in it, we're in and out of it. And it certainly is gonna affect your budget. But we welcome you all here today, to our first summit of the year. I'm going to say welcome first, to anyone who's new to Atlas, we're so happy to have you here. And we are also happy to have with us. Our our friends at veracross are sponsoring this event and you're going to hear from them in just a minute.

So we want you to know about all the summit's and all the events that are coming up this fall. And one of those is the Atlas cyber safety workshop that's going to be on October 22 and 29th. So it's actually two Fridays, one, one week apart. And they, we encourage you to check that out. If you have any interest in the changing, constantly changing world of cyber safety and how it relates to your school, we hope that you'll join us in that particular workshop, and is designed specifically for independent school leaders. We also have coming up in December our summit on diversity, equity and inclusion understanding the conversations that's on December 8. And we have our monthly town halls this month in October, we are going to have a special guest lane young from Phillips Brook school who will be sort of kicking off our discussion of the Google workspace for education. Ashley, you want to say a little bit about the discussion board?

Ashley Cross 2:27
Yeah, absolutely. So if you have not participated yet, we have a brand new discussion board, I just dropped a link in the chat. And we're gonna have some really great to have follow up from today's event on the discussion board as well. So we'd love to see you participating there. And joining us asking all of your questions and participating in the community.

Susan Davis 2:52
So I am actually going to move on to the next thing we have actually added in a discussion about this event. So look for the ongoing discussions, look for the discussions about this event. But I want to invite Mike Toohey to the mic. And he's gonna tell you a little bit about what's going on if aircross.

Mike 3:18
Perfect. Thanks, Susan. Well, hi, everyone. I'm Mike to me. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer at veracross. And we're really excited to partner with Atlas on this events. I'll keep my comments brief, so we can jump into the content. But I do want to call out what a pleasure it has been to partner with Atlas over the years. I'm sure many of you have gotten to know Christina Ashley, Susan and the whole team. But if you're less familiar with Atlas, they've always provided vital support and resources to technology leaders and independent schools. And as institutions are relying on technology now more than ever, Atlas is really leading the way and helping schools rethink the impact of technology on all aspects of education and their school operations. And we have veracross have really benefited from their vision regarding how technology is a real catalysts. We know that a major component of your budgets are school software. So if you're interested in learning more about our school Information System, I invite you to attend a webinar where we're hosting later this month. And I think there's also some more details on the link in the chat and we'd love to see you there But without further ado I'll turn it back over to the Alice team.

Susan Davis 4:38
Mike thank you so much and and we have to say on the apple side how much we value our ongoing partnership and interactions with fair across we've been friends friends in this sense for a lot of years and it's always been fruitful and and we really appreciate you guys a lot. Thank you So before we get to today's panelists, I want to just give you a little bit of housekeeping for how things are going to work. Today, we're using a little bit of a different format that we've used in the past. And so we have some housekeeping instructions, we want you to if you would be aware that we're going to keep your mic and your mics on mute and your videos off until we get to the q&a. And then we'll change the settings so that you'll be able to be on screen and ask your questions. If we, if with whatever time we have left, I know we have a lot to talk about. And then we, we want you to know that we're recording this summit for later sharing, we hope you will add your questions as we go through, don't save them all. For the end, when we have that kind of pregnant pause after everybody's finished. Write your questions as we go. And we'll do our best to manage those questions and get them answered before before the session is over. We want you to also, if you would at this time Introduce yourself in the chat. Sometimes we kind of lose track of who's here. And other people who are here won't know who's here. So if you would introduce yourself in the chat, who you are, maybe what your position is. And I would love to know what is where are you in your budgeting process right now. It is October 6, it feels like we just began the school year. And now we're starting all over to look at budgets for next year. So if you would put your name your school baby what your position is, and then let us know where you are in the budget process. And finally, you may want to make sure that you have your zoom settings on speaker view. So at least for the first part, so that you can see all of the speakers as they as they are coming in. And then we're gonna just start off, we're going to do this really fast. Each speaker has about 10 minutes. And we're going to pretty much try and keep you to that. We're going to first hear from Kurt line ik, who is retired technology director, he is an atlas pillar award recipient, and an old friend, a friend of many years, I should say. And we're so glad to have a back here working with this at Atlas. And then we will also hear from our special guests from NBA we'll hear from Liz Mayer, Director of accounting and tax programs and Mary Kay, Mark Kunis, Director of member resources and programs. And then we'll hear from Jeff Dayton, Director of technology at the Madeira school. And finally, we'll hear from Jimmy Zillow who is the Chief Technology Officer at Miami Country Day School. So without further further ado, I am going to stop sharing and we're not going to look at any more slides. And we're going to start with Kurt.

Curt Lieneck 8:18
Oh, hello, everybody. I'm so glad to see people adding to the chat list, it looks like a pretty robust group. You know, even though it's just in October, it's just not too soon to be thinking about budgets, your CFO is probably going to want some hard numbers from you right around Christmas time. Because because who knows, of course, you you know, always want to get that big punch going when it comes to Christmas time. But anyway, I spent 20 years in the IT trenches. And in all those times I managed to miss my budget only twice once was not my fault and the other one was totally my fault. But other than that I work real closely with my CFO. So what you'll hear from me today is just basically pretty straightforward. It kind of a primmer on basics of managing budgets. So that said, let's get going. So you'll work mostly with capital and operating budgets. No doubt some of you are our today's webinar are familiar with many of the aspects there but for those who haven't. It's good to know you know what some of the basics are. Capital budgets are all about hardware, and items that your CFO can depreciate things that have a defined lifespan as well. Um, depreciating assets over a time period and helps your CFO accurately determined cash flow statements from year to year. The operating budget is the one you'll probably have your paws into most frequently told about consumable supplies, subscriptions, software costs, repairs and other expenses that you need to keep the status quo up and running. It also includes personnel costs, including salaries and benefits and benefits can really be high. Last time I did a budget to benefit number was 24.5%. So this is not, this is not a toy that we're talking about here. And your CFO is well aware of what those numbers look like, from year to year. So given that, that, you know, you're going to be working with these two sets of data, it's important for you to figure out how your schools really approach technology, being clear about that will directly affect any budget that you put together, Susan's going to add a link for the idea from the Journal of Accountancy, they post three ways that organizations think about tech budgets. And those three are run and grow and transform. So if you're the kind of school where you take a kind of measured approach to technology, and focus their tech budgets on just simply maintaining on what it takes to keep the school running, including, you know, mission critical components, they don't want to do anything in particular that that's really you know, out there yet, they're just, you know, keeping things the way they are. If you go to a grow mindset, it's adding new opportunities in tech, or making existing tech incrementally better. Such budgets usually are tied to strategic initiatives that the school has chosen to follow. And the third item is transformative. If your school is like, they want to be at the cutting edge on technology, and going all out and making heavy duty technology changes meant to address long term needs for organizational growth, large scale construction, those big, big, big picture items would also fall under that transforming area. So I'm another, you know, sort of quick way to think about this checking your school is, you know, is your school a late adopter? Are they Is it a mainstream adopter? Or is it an early adopter, if that helps you kind of get a better handle there. So um, however your school presents, its in its approach to tech budgets, it's essential that you be in close contact with your CFO throughout the year, you something you'll have in common as an IT leader, along with your CFO is that neither of you likes surprises. So want to make sure that you

make the avoid, you know, creating surprises when it's unnecessary. So I'm starting kind of at the bottom of how you present, you know, prevent those is doing some just basic tech housekeeping on a regular basis. And do you have clear procurement practices? In some of the consulting work that I've done, it's shocking to me that people don't really have a clear idea of who gets to who gets to, you know, procure what, and when you need to really know that if you're the it leader, because you're going to get stuck supporting it, whether or not you knew it was coming. Is there a clear process for capital requests? Do you keep an accurate inventory, it's really a pain to do that. Nobody likes doing that. And but but you'll pay for it in the end if you don't. So whether it's over the Christmas break, or whatever, but you need to do our regular accurate inventory. So you know what, you have a subscription and renewals, trying to get those so that they're synchronized to the same time in the school year. And then, you know, a regular monthly check in with your CFO. So moving from like some of the basic housekeeping onto bigger picture considerations. What is your replacement cycle look like? For hardware? Have you left room in the budget for emerging technologies during the school year? Often, we see that teachers are really excited about something they saw at a conference. And you don't want to be in a position of saying like, Yeah, that'd be really cool. If we could do that next year. Don't do that. Try to leave, try to leave room in the budget for those kinds of things. Also, audio visual stuff is really tough, I think to manage from that kind of perspective. It's really a dynamic workspace. New Product cycles are coming around like every six months, but you've already opinio committed to doing AV stuff that you know, maybe 3456 years old, are you really going to be ready to move that along. To keep in touch. Do you have a service level agreement? Do your users know what they can expect from you and your team? When do you know what you can expect from them. It's really useful to to demystify what happens in edtech. And I strongly encourage you to put one together. Similarly, having a service catalog available to your users is important as well, do you have a comprehensive list of services that it provides, and how they can access them. And finally, to reach an ultimately savvy approach to budgeting, you have to kind of step back and take a sober look at what is driving all of your costs, what's driving your costs up, what's driving them down. And these can be stepped up to address because some of them you can't control. Some of them have more to do with people than technology. Here's a few examples that Susan helped me kind of put together here. There are external factors that you should be looking at obsolescence of what you have on site already, market shifts, I mean, everybody, you know, had a rough time when Adobe decided to, like, give us give us make everybody pay way more money than they have been. That's not something you can really control. So you've got to start factoring these things in supply chain issues. That's, you know, of course, I've been retired for a couple of years, but I don't, I don't have anywhere near that problems that you guys we're currently doing, are running into a supply chain issues. But again, that's part of putting that together and in your, in your budget thinking and school culture. You know, what are the expectations for technology use? Does your is your school culture? Does it? Is it okay with institutional risk? The more risk you can take sometimes the you know, the the easier it is to get budgets done. Technology procurement practices, who's really in control of the budget, I mean, can can divisions, you know, put forward things that are heavy, are part of technology, or do they have to go through you to do that, for Napa only go through the CFO, good to know those things. And shifts in team responsibilities. You know, if you're doing a good job of getting your team, to to new heights, some of those costs money, mission critical commitments, your school has probably got some strategic goals that they've started, that's going to change what you add to your budget. Even something as simple as changing the schedules in a division, sometimes it means that you'll have to tend to spend more time and more money, working around those changes as well. And when there are leadership changes.

When it's, you know, I my particular school, back when I was there, there was a lot of turnover of the division heads and heads of school. And they come in all with different attitudes and thoughts about how technology should serve the school's best interests. And then also your tech team. And the commitments that you make. We talked a little bit about service level agreements, service catalogs, and you know, do you have things like a sunsetting protocol in place, so that you know when you're going to start changing out some things and as opposed to moving along with others as well. So that's my 10 minutes. And so pass it along. Just some basics on managing your budgets.

Susan Davis 18:33
Very good, Kurt. And we're gonna move on and really dig in a little bit more deeply into the idea of that relationship between the chief budget officer or the Financial Officer at the school and the tech leadership. So we're gonna hear from Liz, and Mary Kay.

Mary Kay Markunas 18:55
Hi, everyone. I'm Mary Kay morkunas. And prior to my joining staff at NBA, I was the director of finance and operations at the recruiting school. So I did sit in the seat at one point and fortunate to enjoy a pretty good relationship with my IT director at the time. And I guess, Kurt, I would say that, by Christmas, our budgets were pretty much done at my school. So I would have been at your door a little earlier. You know, I think the most important thing to remember when it comes to relationships that you have at the school with anybody but you know, in particular, the the it leader is that you have a shared goal and that's advancing the mission of the school. I mean, that's first and foremost why you're there. So kind of when you remember that it can make some of the more difficult conversations you have to have a little easier. If you remember that you're both working towards the same goal. It's just you may be coming at it from different angles or have different approaches on how to to reach that goal. So once you can kind of agree That you have the shared goal that, you know working through the the mechanics can give a little bit easier. Liz.

Liz Maher 20:07
Yeah. And I am Liz, my her from MBA. And before coming to MBA, I served as CFO at a school in Illinois, and had a director of technology that reported directly into me. And I think one thing kind of piggybacking on what Mary Kay said, that made our relationship good was creating empathy for each other's positions, I, you know, we had to assume goodwill coming into every conversation that we had. And that and have an understanding that the demands of, of both of our jobs, I think, even now, are increasing, and they're not necessarily increasing at the same pace as resources are available. And when I say resources, I mean both people and money. So from, you know, the business officers perspective, we have a huge responsibility to the budget. And for some schools, those business officers, the weight of that is heavier than others. And so, you know, the money has to come from somewhere, right. And just especially now, during the budgeting process, it's possible that you are when you're going to talk to your CFO about the budget, that they just got done having a conversation with someone else about their budget. So, um, think about going to your parents and constantly asking them for $20 to spend here and there, it's kind of the same conversation. Um, but it's important that, you know, both the CFO is transparent about their experience, and that the technology officer is, is transparent about what they're going through, too. You can't assume that you know, what, each each person, what, what they know, you can't assume that they know everything, everything is part of your story. For sure. Go ahead. No, go ahead, Mary Kay.

Mary Kay Markunas 22:16
You know, and along those lines, you know, you're working together to create both short term, let's say within a budget year, and then long term goals, which might be three to five years out. But one of the ways you can create that partnership or really helps to kind of cement it is if you can include the other person, at the beginning of the conversations or as soon as you realize you're going to need to involve the other person, you, the sooner you can get started on a conversation, the better. I found with my tech director, that it was easier to schedule formal meetings to discuss bigger issues like the budget for the upcoming year, and what they thought they would need, or we did a lot of leasing of our equipment. So we did an annual hardware order. So we would sit down and go through that together every year, but that was always kind of a formal scheduled meeting. And it did two things it made sure we have the conversation because we scheduled it. And secondly, it gave us both time to prepare coming into the conversation. Because neither of you wants to get caught flat footed and off guard when someone's having a conversation about money or technology or anything. So it's always good to if you can schedule meetings. And then when we would do our budget meetings, we would also look at longer term items, like three to five years out. And if he was, you know, knew he had to make a big purchase or wanted to change something over it. A if I got the heads up early, I knew I could kind of work it into the budgets or figure out how to do it. And then also it gave me the opportunity to figure out how to fund it was it something we would fundraise for? Was it something I could put away surplus, you know, designate surplus, at the end of the year, I was fortunate in that my school were in pretty good shape. So we did have surpluses usually each year, so we could designate some funds if necessary. Or in one case, we had to make a very large purchase and we rolled it into the debt that we took out on a building. So you know, financing, things can come in a lot of different methods. And the more time you have to figure out what that is, the better, the better chance that the CFO has to find the most advantageous way to do it. For everyone involved. On the other hand, you know, and stop in and have a conversation with, you know, stick my head in and see what was going on. Because it was usually when I heard something from one of the faculty members that they were thinking about, and I would go hop deep needs to know about that. So you know, quick catch up conversation is always a good way to kind of just keep tabs on what's going on in each other's camps. Yeah. Oh, just one last thing. Sorry. Let's um, the other place to really work closely with your chief information person is when it comes to staffing. Because as you know, right now, everybody's having issues with staffing, but, you know, certainly there may be ways to utilize outsourcing to as a temporary stopgap measure to fill a spot or, you know is that the longer term option. And then, you know, the other thing too is when you're thinking about adding a position, the more opportunity that CFO has to build it in the budget, the better. Because it's not always easy to add a headcount as Kurt mentioned, it's not just the salary, it's all the benefits and everything else that go along with it. Okay, let's

Liz Maher 25:32
Sorry, no, sorry. So I would say just, um, no matter the goals, or the mix of the team, it's really important to create a culture of accountability and shared success. So part of that is helping each other project manage. So I was in a little bit different situation, I think, than Mary Kay where I had someone report in to me, and it was really important for us in all the projects that we did together to create opportunities to check in so we would meet at least for an hour every other week, and then depending on the project more often if we needed to. But that helped us kind of create some of that transparency about what we were working on, and communicate any roadblocks or bottlenecks to the process. And, you know, I also think that I know personally, it gave me as much as it was nice to pop into each other's offices, it also, we're working on like a really important project, you tend to have questions about it every day, it also can create a lot of disruption. And my former head of school used to say, working in a school is just one big disruption. And I think it is so true, and any opportunity I could take for myself to limit some of those disruptions. I would, and one thing that worked for us, is to set up a meeting, because then we knew we had that time and space to have that conversation. But Mary Kay if the direct if your IT director reports directly into you, that's a different situation, right?

Mary Kay Markunas 27:16
Right. Because if you do have it reporting directly into you, as the Business Officer, you really have to become an advocate for your IT director, because it goes back to what Liz mentioned about communicating the same messages concrete, creating goals together. But you know, as you know, with any employee, if you have a stake in the goals of your direct report, you're going to be rooting for them. And that's going to be if we're honest with each other good for both of you, because their success is important to the school success and your own success. And if they're successful, they're probably going to be a little happier in their job most likely, and you get a person you can rely on because if there's that shared those shared goals, and the trust together, that you're working towards the same goal, it's just gonna make life so much easier for everyone. As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work.

Liz Maher 28:12
And part of building that trust is learning how to effectively communicate with each other. I think when we had all met previously, as a panel, Kurt had mentioned, you know, learning each other's personalities. And each other's communication styles. And that's really important. And there's tons of tests and stuff you can do as a, you know, a leadership team to take care of that. But you know, how each other communicates. And also make sure you're communicating the same message to the rest of the school. No one wants to hear you know, that the IT director said this, but the business officer said that, I think that's damaging to your relationship. And it's really important to kind of have consistency and common communication. And remember the level of confidentiality of the information that these two positions share. I mean, you're really privy to a lot of really sensitive information. And that that job, there's a big responsibility that comes with that. And I would just add to make sure you team up and communicate all your needs to your advancement team, so that you both can get everything you want. The IT department can get their their things and the CFO can get the money they need to fund it. But with that comes some creativity and innovation, right Mary Kay right.

Mary Kay Markunas 29:30
I think one thing the last two years is truly shown us is that schools can be nimble, and change can happen quickly when necessary. And I think we all as a group collectively need to be careful that we don't let the tradition mindset kind of creep back in. Not that I'm advocating for change, you know, for changes sake or anything like that, but I think we have to be really careful to remember that we don't have to just dismiss things because they aren't part of the plan. already. You know, potentially when you're working together, you know, there may be that energy in ways you can you know, can you push out some orders or pull in some things? Can you do some shifting of the way you're going to do business for three months or six months or something that may create the funds you need at the time to do something innovative or different or that wasn't in the plan? You know, we all get into a routine where Oh, these all these things get renewed in May maybe or your June or whatever it is it can we can we sneak it out 30 days and not have to worry about things getting turned off and be able to do something in this year's budget that we hadn't planned for, and, and still be okay in next year's budget. So, you know, there's a lot of, you know, creativity that you can use, if you think about it, but it's really important to work together. Because the CFO is going to know what's, you know, what the funds are, and what the availability is, and where things can move and, and, and flex. And you will know about? You know, the kind of the hardware, the software, the pieces and the parts and the things there, yes, I can I can wait on this, or no, I can't wait on this. So it's just a matter of being creative and investing a little brainpower between the two.

Susan Davis 31:19
I think that's a perfect way to sum everything up, I know, everybody's gonna find a whole lot to unpack and what Kurt said, and what, Mary Kay and Liz said, so much there, I know that staffing is on people's minds, I know that Jeff is going to jump in and give us a little bit of a sense of how things went during COVID, maybe some changes that were brought about or brought to the surface by COVID. And help us see a little bit into the future.

Jeff Dayton 31:53
Great, yeah, if I could see into the future I'd be retired about now. Thank you, Susan, it's good to see everybody. I'm Jeff dating from the Madeira school. I'm coming up on my 21st anniversary next month. And I've had to CFO since I've been here. And I've been fortunate to have just amazing relationships, both of them, though, they were both very different in the way they handled, budgeting and the finances of the school. But thankfully, my relationships and I'd like to just sort of touch a little bit on what Mary Kay and Liz, were saying, that relationship with your with your CFO is really one of the most important ones you can have at a school as an IT director, you know, being here for so long, and having that kind of relationship with them. In fact, to be honest, we're three years into our budget year, I haven't had a budget meeting at and basically, there's a level of trust between me and the CFO, you know, I know he's going to give me the money I need, he knows I'm not going to spend more than he gives me, you know, I'll eventually we'll catch up with the budget meeting this year and talk about, you know, long term future needs. But as of right now, you know, we're all still sort of playing catch up from COVID, I want to add, not only is your you know, depending on how your business offices is laid out at your school, you know, we have a fairly large business office of seven people. And it's good to have relationships with each and every one of them, our comptroller sort of handles the nuts and bolts and day to day of the budgeting and the expenses and the coding and things. And so having a great relationship with him is, you know, in our case, it's a he is is a great way to really learn about what's going on under the hood of the business office. Also, I have found that my relationship with the accounts payable person has become very valuable, because I know everybody has gotten that email on Friday afternoon threatening to cut off your internet connection because the bill wasn't turned in. And it's something that you forgot or slipped your mind. And you're running down there and you have to get them to cut a $10,000 check right away and get it you know, so being able to walk into somebody's office and do that is is very, very valuable when you when you find yourself in that situation. And of course, you can also you know, it's kind of they scratch my back, I scratch there, I make sure you know we give great support always. But I make sure that the business office gets extra special support, especially when they're running payroll, if there's something wrong, you know, you got to be down there to help them with payroll. So it really is a symbiotic relationship where you can help each other. And then over time, you just build these relationships that it's just like we all know what we're doing. We all can sort of read each other really well. I know when I walk in there that I need to turn around and leave just by the look on Alex's face right now when it's okay to go in there and just sit down and say Hey, how's it going? I need 50 grand for this kind of a thing. So those relationships are just so so important and everything builds on that. And what I've learned in my time here is to me budgeting is like a game. Hi finances sort of a hobby and an interest of mine and It's a game to beat the budget to make sure I come in under budget. And like Kurt, I've only been over budget twice since I've been here. And the first time I was only over by a few dollars, I offered to write them a check to pay the school back. And you know, Alec said no, that's not necessary. And then I was over budget last year. And I'm gonna say the same thing Kurt did, it was not my fault. I had a big firewall issue, that was a big surprise last year, and they cut my budget last year by 10%. So I did go over. And I was over by about three and a half percent. And it really concerned me because I really didn't know where we were at during the COVID. Year and budgeting. So I was like, Oh my gosh, I gotta call Alex, I got to tell him what's going on. And I did. And he said, I don't worry about it, it'll be fine. So you know, you know, again, no surprises is the two words that you have to have with your CFO, they hate surprises. So anytime, even if I think something might be needed, I just put it on his radar, I'll say, hey, there's a possibility that in a year, six months, two years, five years, this might be coming up, he puts it on this giant spreadsheet, he deals with it with the board. And then when the time sort of comes, that sort of bubbles back up, and we needed or we don't. So having that communication, having that relationship is really helpful.

COVID, I want to talk a little bit about that. One of my favorite sayings that I heard someone I can't take credit for was never let a good crisis go to waste. And that has been true with COVID. When COVID hit, it just threw a hand grenade into everything that included budgeting and included procurement, all of a sudden webcams for $200, you needed 60 of them. We were a very desktop sense centric school, when COVID started, only my faculty really were laptop users. And so all of a sudden, I had people at home doing, you know, doing work from their personal computers that their children were using. So we had to go out and just scramble and get as many laptops as possible, get them out in the field, get them working, get him up and running, so that we could be safe and secure. Needless to say that kind of busted the budget a lot. But I had full support from the business office, I kept them in the loop as to what was going on. And it just, you know, when everything was said and done, I was thankful I was only three and a half percent over. But being having that pipeline to them all the time, even in the remote world was very helpful. And what we've done, we actually started the process as we were coming out of COVID, our comptroller made. And this was something I asked for when I first started here, I had three budget codes, three accounting codes, when I started here, hardware, hardware software, we're in one budget code, contracted services were another and then the other category. So I asked for more. And they said, Oh, no, we can't do that. So I created my own subsets of those that I tracked separately. So I could, you know, do a better job of tracking what I was spending and where it was going. And then 20 years later, Scott goes, Hey, what do you think about redoing the account codes? And I'm like, oh, let's do it. So I was just thankful that he asked me to be involved in the process. So I helped him, you know, very little, but I help but I gave him some input on how things should, should be. And we sort of adopted it for the whole school. And so I went from three budget codes to 10. And we're still evolving that a little bit. So that's one way we were able to take, you know, sort of the chaos of budgeting and COVID and make some changes in the middle of it so that when we come out of it, you know, we have a new system in place that we can we can move forward with. You know, procurement, as Kurt said was awful. It's still awful. I'm trying to buy equipment that they're telling me six to 12 months out. And so you just scramble, scramble scramble. I'm paying a premium for some things. This isn't necessarily something you have to work with your business office on, at least at the Madeira school. But it's something I have to be fully aware of. If I'm overspending for something, I better be able to balance that out in other ways. And that's where the sun setting that Kurt talked about early on is really, really important. Before COVID I still had one computer lab, believe it or not with 16 computers in it. As soon as COVID hit I dismantled it and sent those five years old computers and they're gone. When everybody came back, they're going well where's the lab I go now it's no more and nobody's missed it. So that was one way to really get some savings and to leverage COVID for that way. The phone system I was able to ditch our on premise Cisco very expensive phone system, sent it out the door because everybody got so used to video chat and using their computers for communication. We went with the full zoom phone system I went from 126 handsets down to 25. And those are only mostly for emergency and 911 purposes. So the money that we had set aside to replace the phone system this coming fiscal year, they let me have early and I ended up only spending about three quarters of it because I didn't need as much equipment. So the process was just really smooth and easy. So that gives me more savings moving forward, which has been really nice COVID exposed weaknesses throughout the entire school, not just in the technology realm.

One of those, of course was our phone system. You know, for the for the 12 months that we all were at home doing hybrid teaching and hybrid learning, I had a very expensive phone system sitting not being used, because there was nobody here to make phone calls. So people were making phone calls off their personal phones. The other weakness that was exposed here was a firewall, believe it or not it the firewall was only three and a half years old, I should have been able to get a little more time out of it. But once we got everybody, once we got half our kids back in campus, and we were doing full hybrid. With every teacher running video conferencing at the same time, my firewalls came to a screeching halt. And so we had to really move fast and replace those firewalls. That's why I went over budget last year because of the firewall expense. And that that was one one of the few big surprises out of COVID, I expected those to hang in there better. The other weaknesses that we found were in personnel. And, you know, and this isn't to be mean. But folks who didn't get technology or didn't care to learn technology, or I don't need technology in my classroom, all of all of a sudden found themselves that they needed technology to be able to teach. And many, many teachers rose to the occasion. And that was just awesome. And one of the things that that I made up my mind we went from where we really wouldn't buy you a lot of things to us personally, like all the extra little things, we give you a computer we give you, you know this and that's it. But because of the stress, everybody was over, I couldn't nitpick, it's like you want a good headset, I'm gonna get you a good headset, you want a good webcam, I'm gonna get you a good webcam. So we just kind of threw things at people. Again, I had the full support of the business office, because they were kind of in the same boat too. They all wanted good stuff, too. But now that we're coming out of COVID, I've got to rein that back in a little bit, because I can't just spend all this money on stuff for people just because they wanted a new webcam or a new desk. So that's we're still sort of tiptoeing around that a little bit. Post COVID now that we're kind of hopefully coming out of it, we are playing a lot of catch up, we're playing a lot of cleanup, both in equipment, both in budgeting, we're still trying to figure out how things are going to go. Kurt mentioned AV all of a sudden the expectation around campuses that we're going to stream everything to everybody all the time from anywhere. And that requires equipment people training and and I'm actually going to get a meeting on the books with my CFO to talk to him about coming up with a solution for this because it is going to start to really eat into my budget because I'm having to buy things that we just never needed before. So that's that's, that's been another one of those issues. But again, you know, for those of you that might be new to this, get as much training and talk to as many people as you can about this. I love budgeting I love numbers. If I had to do it all over again, I think I might get into accounting, I'm not sure. But I really enjoy it. Go to conferences where you can get that information, I'm sure Liz could could give us a an idea of a great conference to go to to learn about how business officers work. I found that going to conferences outside of your expertise, always still go to Atlas. But if you can get to NBA if you can get to tabs, you can get to NIS go to those sessions that you're like, you know, I don't know that much about budgeting, I don't know much about business office, go to those sessions and get that under your under your belt. It'll really, really help you in your career and, and moving forward. And I don't I don't know, if I hit five minutes or 10 minutes, Susan, I was a little bit over.

Susan Davis 43:48
But that's all right. That's okay. Um, and I love that you talk about the conferences and the learning that both sides could do, you know, we would love to have more business officers at the Atlas conference, and I'm sure that MBA would love to have more tech people at their conference. This is really a crucial relationship that needs to be nurtured in all kinds of ways. So that's wonderful. We're gonna move on to Jimmy, he's gonna dig into one particular piece of the budget and help us think about some ways to get it under control.

Jimmy Cudzilo 44:22
All right, thanks. Um, so like every other school tech leader that I've spoken to, and I was entering the Atlas Leadership Institute, when, when I moved into my position, I've been at Miami Country Day School for 10 years now. But I moved into this CIO role just before COVID hit. So this was a lovely present, but I was also joining a lie so I got to meet a ton of people and we all got to go through it together. But every single one said the same thing where Our faculty and our staff asked, and Jeff, you just sort of mentioned this too, we answered and that meant we bought a lot of stuff. And, and so many companies were doing great promos, oh, we're gonna we're gonna give it to you for free. And worried about it later. And so we asked our faculty at the time, we had a, a software and services catalog, where we had about 40 approved applications across the school. And we're a PK three to 12 school. So 40, officially blessed applications. And after sort of going, going remote, which thankfully, we had, we already had zoom accounts set up and as part of our, our emergency response plan, being in Florida, we're always prepared for hurricanes. And that was part of our plan, but never for a sustained amount of time. So we really hadn't contemplated, okay, well, what does a wind instruments band class sound like? On zoom? What? What does? What does pottery look like on zoom? We just knew we had zoom, and we could talk to the students, and they could talk to us, as long as we had internet. And we're happy with that. And very quickly. We came back online after a day to transition everyone and sent home a whole bunch of iPads. And we we've asked our faculty, Okay, what else do you need, and our catalog of 40 quickly blossomed to over 90, not counting the iOS apps, I'm not even counting iOS apps, just 90 applications and online services that are out there. And I wish I could say that I vetted each and every one of them to make sure we didn't have any redundancy in the catalog. But we were in an emergency response mode. Someone came to the table and said, I need this, I really need this to teach my four year old or my four year olds XYZ. Okay. All right. Let's get it through. Let me read my my data protections. Let me let me read everything that I need to, okay, yes, go on. And so, you know, year goes by, and we sort of start moving off of an emergency response mode, and to living with mode. And that's sort of where we are now. And, unfortunately, so during, during our COVID response, we actually had a special budget, that all of our COVID response, expenses went into. So I knew if it was technology related, because it went to one of my accounts, but it went into that project ID in our system. And then all the trials and freebies under two. And that COVID emergency response project budget that ended two and so all of those, excuse me, services and software so that we got as a free trial when we went remote, started sending invoices. And the faculty member said I still need it, I still need it, I still need it in our hybrid model. And now we're fully back on campus and I have

I have bloat. There's no other way to say I've got bloat in my catalog. And I need to figure out what I need to cut. Because I definitely didn't anticipate more than doubling our services per student. So we actually made a decision that we would move from the free clever application. I'm sure plenty of you are aware of what that is. It does rostering from our si es into some of our third party applications. It's free, but no big bells and whistles. And we moved to a platform called classlink. And it does that but it also gives me data. And I love data. And so now we launched on classlink at the beginning of the school year, so August 23. And I can already see how much time my students are spending in each of the applications and services that we have. So Now I'm beginning to have the conversations of Okay, you told me that we still needed to have this application, and I'm paying for it this year. But my budgets gonna be due before winter break. And I can see that we only have one hour of usage. And two students have logged into this application. Do we still need it? Is this part of your regular cycle? Right? So it's opening conversations between my Information Technology Services team and the departments? And the individual teachers who have said, Yes, I need this, I need this, I can only succeed with this tool to say, okay, you have the tool, but I don't see anyone's using it. And the other thing that I'm loving is that, that lets me put in my cost on for each license of each application or service. And then I can get an average cost per student, which I can then use. Because having moved into the my role, mid year, I, I inherited the budget. So I don't know what went into saying, well, this is how much we need per student for software and services. Now, I actually have cold hard numbers that say, Okay, this is how much on average we're spending per student in software and services, which before like I said, it was sort of adopt it was it was inherited. And I'd say, Okay, how much can I bump the budget this year, at least bumpit. it but I didn't have any data to support that. So I'm able now to have those conversations with the teachers, the department chairs, the division directors, and and my CFO, when I go for budget to say, Well, no, we still need this. And this is what my total number is per student in current expenses. And so hopefully, we don't have too many difficult conversations of one person using just one piece of software. But But I'm looking forward to those conversations, because like I said, Now I actually have the data to support those conversations and, and reach out to the faculty members.

Susan Davis 52:41
Well, that's great. And I know that we have heard from so many people in the Atlas community about that particular problem, especially from all the free apps. And so we talk a lot about it from a safety, a cyber safety perspective. And a, you know, being able to make sure that all the teachers are you sticking with all the kinds of protocols and rules that they need to be following, for what, which children have access to that app, but you bring up an equally important point, as you talk about the impact the huge impact on the school's budget. Okay, so we're gonna open this up to questions, I think we have exactly eight minutes, I am now going to make it so you all are able to unmute, and I'm going to right now, I have changed the settings so that you can also show your video. So we would love to hear questions, feel free to add them to the chat. And we'll get as many as we can in or just on mic and come on screen and ask your question. We've got a lot of great experts here. We want to hear from you.

Mary Kay Markunas 53:53
Susan, can I jump in real quick? For the apps for the ones that only one teacher uses, and only two students have used all year. Ask them if they'd be willing to transfer the amount of the app to your budget. If they're willing to transfer it, then you can justify spending it you know, that sort of thing? Because Oh yeah,

Susan Davis 54:12
I worked out. Well, it actually came out of the budget for the department. You have to Yeah, so I actually understand that from a teacher's perspective. But it's also similar to printing right? Sometimes schools are sort of stuck with the printing, the tech office is stuck with the predict for the whole school. Well, no, we didn't have a whole lot of printing last year. So that's kind of all on the table.

Jeff Dayton 54:39
Yeah, that was one COVID change I loved there was no printing down and I was hoping it was gonna stick but now it didn't. We very quickly went back to business as usual with the branding.

Curt Lieneck 54:52
But I think too, you have to be careful with you know, I'm a firm believer in doing pilots for apps for teachers, when they want to try something new. But once it's like formally adopted, like any other tool that the division head would use, I think, you know, that's part of their thing. You can't, you know, you can't keep on adding more and more and more and more apps and your IT budget, it's got to get pushed out to division heads budget.

Jeff Dayton 55:26
Yeah, a lot of times what I'll do if they want to test something or try something off sort of pay that initial, let's let's test it out cost, letting them know that if it becomes something that is only department specific moving forward, and they want to keep it then and then we'll transfer it over to their budget.

Susan Davis 55:47
Other questions, we'd love to hear from you. So we're hearing from the chat inflation is at 5%. are folks increasing renewals by that factor?

Unknown Speaker 56:06
Good people, this is Dave, out in Oakland at every school. Nice to see you all. For those that are saying that they're moving some of the department's specific software sorry, on with the sick kid making lunch for those that are moving costs of a department specific software to that department's budget? How are you keeping track of the amount of software that's being used on campus as a whole? And not just bloating in all of these pockets throughout campus, as opposed to having that centralized view in the tech department? Thanks.

Jeff Dayton 56:41
That's a great question, because and that was one of the issues I had when I first came up with your I would ask how much are we spending in a year on software and things like that, and I couldn't get a number, because it was being spread out. And because our budget codes were so limiting, everybody just threw it in other. And so that was one of the things we wanted to do. When we redid the budget codes. Everybody has tech line items in their budget. So now we can get the reports and see how much the school is spending, not just the IT department. So that's one way that we've been doing it. Before that I'll be honest, we I couldn't have told you I had no idea who was buying what, because we were all had our own credit cards around budgets, and they didn't cross over.

Susan Davis 57:25
Right? And you get a lot of duplication that way, too.

Jeff Dayton 57:27
That's Yeah, we ended up with two full page zoom accounts on COVID started.

Jimmy Cudzilo 57:33
Yeah, and I'll be the dissenting voice on this one. So we we do keep a centralized, all it expenses through our primary it s budget, we just have different account codes. So if it's going to one of my three academic divisions, or if it's going to administrative or athletics. So we just, we, unfortunately, have a plethora of account codes that we can hit. So I just have to like, okay, is this lower school, okay, it has this account code extension at the end of it, or my middle school.

Mary Kay Markunas 58:22
And this is also sometimes where your your CFO or your controller can help because if they're processing the credit card statements, or things like that, they may happen to notice that, you know, Jane Smith and john doe are submitting the same, the same expense on a monthly basis,

Jeff Dayton 58:39
that well, that's how we discovered the zoom accounts. Because not only did we have the two full paid zoom accounts, we had a lot of individuals who had signed up for paid zoom accounts. So it was actually our general ledger person that caught it and brought it to our attention. So then we were able to combine everything into one and the zoom was pretty good about you know, refunds and things like that. So that was kind of nice.

Ashley Cross 58:59
Sounds like the CFO controller could be a really essential partner in that vetting process. You know, if that's not really something that you have in place, maybe a good conversation to have.

Larry Kahn 59:10
Yeah, I just want to throw out this is Larry from Trinity Valley, that one nice thing about having everything kind of run through us for the purse is that also means it runs through us for privacy, it runs through us for cyber security, it runs through us through for everything else, whereas there's not that end run happening. And we've learned that we have five pieces of software, you know, people going out buying stuff so so from that standpoint, I find that helpful.

Susan Davis 59:43
Well, and I just want to connect that to what Mary Kay said said earlier about how often they come across some things that are tech related in the budgets, and the tech team may not know about it. So you know this is just goes back to that relationship that the The the CFO and the finance office can be your eyes and ears for tech related stuff. Sometimes when it doesn't come through you whether it's an app or is that furniture or that extra piece of tech equipment that you know you didn't realize is going to be on the network, all of those things. Okay, we are at three o'clock. I am excited for everything that we heard today. And we're going to be working to get this available to people who have signed up for the for the session and available to Atlas members for free and then it'll be available for a cost if others want to see it later. So we'll be in touch soon. I hope to see you at a future summit. And thank you to all of our guests today. You contributed to a really great conversation. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you guys. Bye