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Thoughtful Schooling at Prentice

Civic Warriors Episode 26 with The Prentice School.

"We really need to pay attention so we can help them as early as possible"

As the Chief Financial Officer, Caroline describes the amazing population of students and parents that The Prentice School serves and what makes this school structure so unique. She dives into the programming and financial tact used behind keeping the school operating and families succeeding. What does good, thoughtful, transparent financial decision making look like? Check out this episode to find out more about how Prentice gracefully combines thoughtfulness into their day to day operations.

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This podcast was transcribed through a third-party application. Please disregard any misrepresentations.

Joe:
Okay, Caroline, thanks so much for joining us today. Um, we, uh, we love doing podcasts of all of our clients and, uh, you guys are a special school and we really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and chat with us. Um, kind of start off. Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and, uh, how you found yourself at Prentice School? Yeah.

Caroline:
Yes, of course. Um, so I started, um, I did my masters in accounting there, um, to kind of just round off my undergrad and entrepreneurship and finance. Um, it was really nice cause it was like a one-year tag on, and that was really nice to kind of catapult me into public accounting. So I started off at KPMG, um, from KPMG after staying for a few years there, I went to a real estate company, uh, and Irvine, which was a MIG real estate Mirage Family, kind of like a really big name in Irvine. And I got a really good chunk of experience there just, you know, with acquisitions and kind of learning everything ground up. Um, from there I kind of left and started doing more of my consulting and more starting to really need to niche into schools and into kind of child centric focused posting. So I had a couple of kids along the way, but I took a CFO role at St. Anne’s school. Um, and from St Anne that kind of evolved, um, into really honing in on really only wanting to spend my time in those types of environments. So from St. Anne, I tagged on orange Lutheran high school. I did Sage hill school. Um, I’ve done a little bit of Waldorf school, so I’ve kind of just really become really passionate about schools, which makes sense. Cause I’m a mom and, you know, it’s, it’s something nice to do with our background. It’s nice to be able to find a way to use our accounting and finance knowledge, but really make it close to home. So I kind of landed at Prentice.

Joe:
Nice. Yeah, actually. So for all the, all the listeners and our friends on the, on the east coast as well, can I give you some contacts St. Anne’s orange Lutheran, Sage Hill are some of the top private and charter schools around our orange county area in California. Um, Sage is kind of one of those places where you look at it and it almost looks like, like a private college has got pretty unbelievable resources and facilities and you drive by like on this toll road that goes by Newport Beach. And I always look at it and think, wow, it’d be great to have kids that go there. I’m sure that it’s not some medication in St. Anthony orange, blue, then the same, just really high quality educational institutions and then Prentice school. I’m obviously a little bit different than those, those ones are a little bit more traditional environments. Can you tell us a little bit about Prentice school and kind of uniqueness of it and who you guys serve?

Caroline:
Absolutely. So Prentice is a really special place. It’s, uh, an orange county north Tustin area. It’s a smaller school we serve um, since my I’ve been here anywhere from 130 to about 150 at a time, but it’s super specialized and we really try to target and help kids that have any kind of learning differences. So that could be anything from dyslexia, which is kind of what our reputation is, but we’re more than just a dyslexia school. We help kids with ADHD add and actually most commonly having both of those things at the same time, ADA add and ADHD together, which is hard to find and diagnose. Um, and obviously it takes a lot more specialized, smaller group sizes. So when a typical school that I’ve worked at has been like one to anywhere from one to 25 or one to 12 teacher, child ratio here, you know, we have groups and cohorts that are like one to four.

Joe:
Hmm. That’s great. Um, do you, are most of the parents just local or do people kind of drive in from all over the place to, that’s

Caroline:
A great question. Um, that was something I was very, as a parent, I was very surprised to hear, but it makes a lot of sense. We have parents that commute literally 60 to 90 miles to get their kid here every day. And, um, that’s, you know, ranged from parents sitting in our conference rooms, trying to do some work while they’re here, because it’s not worth it for them to drive home, but when parents find us, um, they want to do everything possible to have their child here.

Joe:
Yeah, that’s great. I mean, I don’t have a personal story necessarily with a kid that goes through that, but with a parent who has a form of cognitive impairment and we had to find a kind of a specialized facility to be able to handle her and her needs. And I remember kind of, you know, even, even going through the whole beginning stages of, you know, who is right for her, how are they going to care for her and do they have the right resources and people to be able to handle somebody like her and kind of thinking, translating that into kids, right. I can’t imagine a kid or a parent having to go through a normal type of schooling system where they have some kind of a unique need and you think how, how challenging it is just for us to even communicate with our kids as they are. Right. We layer in another, uh, another challenge on top of that. Um, I, I imagine that the frustration level is higher. The teachers that you work with over Prentice probably have to be a little bit more sensitive that and soft spoken and caring just in different ways. Right. Then a typical population might be, I’m sure a lot of awesome people that work there a.

Caroline:
Hundred percent.

Joe:
Very cool. Um, so, so you guys a typical learning environment then, like you said, uh, maybe like, even like a small one to four ratio still takes place in a typical classroom setting, um, where your script curriculum and, and I think, uh, are you able to talk to some of the success stories that you guys have had of students who’ve kind of gone on and done some pretty amazing things? Yes,

Caroline:
Yes, absolutely. So, so of course, you know, I’m in the business office, so I tried to see as much as I can, um, and try to put myself out there and really meet some of these kiddos. But, you know, I touched base with our, um, director of marketing and growth, and I was like, Hey, tell me about some of these kiddos. And I’ve seen a lot of it kind of comes through through our giving side because we have a lot of donations that come in with specialized stories and things like that. But our kiddos go on to our goal is to take them, put them in this environment and give them skills to, to learn and succeed outside and outside world that might not be as possibly forgiving. Right. So they need to learn how to have those skills to co-exist and do all those things in the normal environment. But our kiddos, when they leave here, we hope that they get into high school and they go to a traditional high school. And then we’ve had kiddos do everything from, you know, military to medical, to, uh, finance world. I mean, definitely we have the most success stories. And because I think these kids have gone through so much, they actually have picked up and learned some things that you might not even get in a traditional school, these life executive functioning skills that they get from here.

Joe:
Awesome. Yeah, that’s pretty, yeah. I remember going into your, your gala last year and hearing some of that and, and I think there’s been some entrepreneurs or they’ve started some pretty large companies and been extremely successful. And so that’s another unique thing about the population is, is it’s not the type of population that needs just kind of maintenance and kind of the minimum to get by a life. These are kids who really have a high level of skill sets and just need a little bit of extra guidance and a different type of education to be able to make them ultra suspect successful in life in some cases as well. Exactly. Very cool. Can you tell us a little bit about kind of the financial structure management that you guys have gone through even like kinda thinking pre COVID, um, is, is, is this the type of school that, you know, a lot of our nonprofits, right. They it’s, it’s a lot about really trying to find kind of current ongoing operations. Um, how does Prentice school kind of see that? Are you guys continually doing that, trying to raise money to fund operations or, um, is there a strategic plan in place maybe about kind of growth and what you guys want to kind of do long-term strategically in the future?

Caroline:
Yeah, great question. So I started at Prentice about, it’s almost exactly two years now and when I came on, um, I was coming in at a time of, you know, seeing all the different trickle effects of a lot of change that had happened. I mean, Francis really being a small school, you know, and our tuition is around 30, 30 to $35,000 per student. So if you lose one or two or three or four students that has a huge financial impact, right? So there is a little bit of instability as far as trying to smooth out that revenue that we’ve kind of tried to work through. And when I came on, they had faced quite some quite negative years. So, you know, we’re a nonprofit, obviously our goal is to try to break even, but they had like, you know, um, more than half a million negative, uh, deficit in a couple of years prior to, you know, kind of trying to bring that down to a smaller deficit. But when I came on kind of everything started shifting because they did a lot of restructuring, you know, they tried to be really thoughtful, you know, some schools I’ve worked at or, you know, have come into kind of just do some, some bloodshed, right. They just go and they just cut some, some off the top just to try to like, get the numbers. Right. But here it was very thoughtful. They really kind of looked at what was going on and they promoted within, um, for instance, our head of school. Now she was in the admissions department, enrollment and admissions, and she’s so passionate, so amazing, so on fire. And I think she’s a great part of our success. Um, and she was kind of a by-product of a lot of the restructure, right? So when the restructure happened that obviously brought us to a little bit more of a solid place and a little bit more stable. So we were able to turn around from being negative half a million plus to sweeping up and, you know, kind of hitting that break even a positive 40,000 or so, and then really started to get some momentum because we started really saying, okay, you know, I had board members telling me, like, now that we have money, like where are we going to put it? How are you going to use it? I said, just calm down. Let’s like, let’s get a couple of years of positive, you know, bottom line here until we start worrying about these reserves, we’re going to set up, but, you know, let’s kind of just try to stabilize. So we really focus on that. And we, we, you know, we reached about breakeven positive 40,000 then, um, you know, we reclined from there and really are starting to have a little bit of a positive income and we are now starting to be more strategic. Right. So we’ve gotten to this goal of like, okay, we feel like our enrollment is doing okay. We’ve gotten, we’ve been really thoughtful about tuition setting every year. And it’s time to really think about planning and strategy, right? So, you know, past year and a half, I’ve really been working with the board to say, listen, we need, we are an older campus. Like we need to have a property plant and equipment reserve. And, you know, we have a really good board, but some people were super familiar with that. Some people had no idea. So we are now starting to set up these reserve funds, a scholarship reserve, a plant reserve, and really trying to be big picture strategic.

Joe:
Excellent. That’s great. Well, one thing I’ll say is that, so, so we’ve gotten to work with, with Carolina at a couple of different, uh, nonprofit organizations. And, and generally the idea is that that, um, she’ll go in there. And not that I wouldn’t say, I want to see a turnaround situation, you know, but, but, uh, but some challenges and, uh, usually, uh, when, when she’s, when she’s kind of done with her project, uh, organizations a lot better than when it started. So because it’s due there and that’s great to hear that from the is doing well. Um, so yeah, for sure. I know, obviously, you know, and we’ll talk about some of the challenges you guys have faced over the last year and a half as well from a financial standpoint and even just a curriculum standpoint. But, um, but you know, in, in California, here in orange county, in particular, we didn’t have early on the same kind of crazy level of COVID infections that we had across the country. And so did a California allowed, um, schools, mostly private schools, public schools could also apply for a waiver to stay open. Um, after that kind of initial shutdown happened in March, went through April, may, June, and then kind of the end of that school year. Um, but then to reopen for that next go around. Can you, can you kind of tell me a little bit about that process and for you guys, I guess, as we’re kind of shifting into some of that discussion, um, and, uh, and how, you know, how that impacted your finances. You’ve been a little bit of story about your experience with the lockdown and then the reopening.

Caroline:
Yeah. So, so obviously in March, you know, we got that locked down order and our strategy, you know, obviously, you know, I’m in the business office. So, um, I was working with admin and our head of school and our, you know, our curriculum group, but what they really did is they decided to take three days off, they shut down campus for three days and said, we need to put a plan together and figure out how we’re going to go forward. So they literally took three days and they completely modified and shifted all of the scheduling and everything possible to get on remote, online Prentice at home. And we basically somewhat did like a soft brand of Prentice at home curriculum and it was a remote learning and we used pretty much the technology we had, you know, we are not, uh, we’re not like a Sage hill where we just have, you know, all this extra reserve money to throw at technology, but we really, for very, very small amount of money, got everything ready for remote learning and we’re up and running in three days.

Caroline:
So we did their moment and we got that going to get us through the end of the year. Um, and that was pretty good. That was our first version of, you know, Prentice at home and parents truthfully like being a parent. I think people, parents were pretty forgiving. You know, they were there, they knew that this was new unchartered ground and we were all trying to kind of figure it out together. But I think they were pretty impressed with how quickly our administration could push this out and how our teachers could support it so quickly. Um, that’s a little bit, I’m going to remote. Let me know if you want me to get into, like, when it opened up and started going for the waiver or if you want to chat about that a little later.

Brad:
Um, I’m just curious as far as when you went through, because my, I have a similar to you and I’m not sure the age of your children, but I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old and, uh, they were two and four when the pandemic started. And, uh, they, they, you know, they go to school and their school was basically like, oh, we’re going to do a remote. And, you know, that was, um, not, not, not easy, um, you know, keeping their attention. So, you know, from your perspective, what were some of the things that you think worked out really well that you may keep doing? Uh, as far as keeping, you know, children’s attention, as well as, uh, you know, that remote aspect that worked really well, what were some of the things you gleaned and maybe you’re going to continue to do?

Caroline:
Yeah, no great question. So my children, um, to kind of just touch on that, I have three kids under eight, and so when they’re now eight, six, and almost four, but when pandemic and lockdown happens, I similarly had a two and a half year old, a four year old and a six and a half year old. Right. So personally, I mean, it took me like two months to, to just have like my husband shake it out of me that you’re two and a half year old is not meant to be in front of a computer. Like you you’re trying really hard, but like, he’s not gonna want to sit in front of the zoom call. So maybe we need to rethink what we do with him. You know? Um, my pre-care a little note to her teacher saying, thank you so much. I love you. I’m so sorry. I didn’t do any of my homework. That was her take. And then my oldest was doing everybody’s homework because she just needed more challenge. Right. So that was us on a personal, crazy level at home. Now here at Prentice. Um, we’re first through eighth, so our kids are a little bit older, but our kids have, you know, different needs, right. We are multisensory learners, right. Our kids. So I know that, you know, had a school and the group put together, um, take home packages that were more of like all the manipulatives that they would need to like the things that they use in class to help keep their energy and to help keep them focused. So we sent a lot of that stuff home, which I thought was super, you know, that was great because my school personally, which was great as well, you know, they were telling me like, go get your glitter and your pompoms out. And I was like, I don’t, I don’t have glitter. I don’t have any of the, that you guys are asking me, send me some things to like, to do school. You know, like I’m not equipped to do school. Whereas at Prentice, I think we really knew that these parents needed us. I mean, they relied on us, their kids, the tools, like the physical tools and things that they needed. So we sent a lot of that home. Um,

Brad:
You know, like care packages or you, you, you like, you organize activities?

Caroline:
They actually have, like, I don’t know, is there like called manipulatives, like things that the kids actually use in class, like probably like widgets and things that keep their brain like focused. We sent those types of things home. So we, I think, I think what they did was like prepare the packets and ask parents to come pick up or, you know, we, I mean, our parents, our teachers are great. I think we even dropped some packets off at local parents homes, but the key was like, these parents’ homes were not equipped to necessarily have what we have here. Right. Our kids are special learners, they need special, extra things. So we went above and beyond in that sense. And I, and I could see that in comparison to like my own personal kids and you know, what my school tried to do for my kids. It was hard, everybody was learning, but I think Prentice really went above and beyond in that. And we have a smaller population too. Right. So our can, we had about 130 kids at the time. So possibly it’s more doable for us, you know, we’re very customized. So we were able to do that. You know, probably I think as far as like a takeaway from that, I’ve heard that parents have actually told us that, you know, while I was home on lockdown with my kids and had my kid next to me, trying to do like their online school I’m working, I never had really understood or appreciated my kid’s real learning disability because at school, like, obviously teachers could see it, but I had never seen the real struggle. Right. So I think that’s a type of takeaway and actually like an appreciation, you know, that our parents might now have for our teachers and really kind of, um, I can imagine as a parent, you know, there’s gotta be that moment, that, that time of a little bit of denial, right. When you’re told your child, your child needs a little extra help or whatever it is to help them learn and succeed. I think that kind of really snapped a lot of parents out of possible disbelief. Right. Because they actually got to see it at home next to them for a period of time. So I think that’s probably a takeaway that goes with them forever.

Brad:
Sure. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that, that that’s, uh, and, and this is, uh, a New Jersey guy saying this, but his kiddos, uh, uh, California term, or a school term?

Caroline:
Good question. I think I picked that up at St. Anne. I don’t know, like, you know, when I’m, when I’m…

New Speaker:
Joe says it all the time.

New Speaker:
It’s a way to talk to parents about their kids, right? Like, you don’t want to say your kid or your student, you know, your kid, like they’re part of our family, but it’s a little bit less formal, you know,

Brad:
I like it. I might start, I’ll start a trend over here.

Caroline:
Okay, good. Yeah.

Lauren:
I use that when I talk about the kids in my personal life, but, you know, because there are so many of them, that’s just, you know, multiple of it, not in any type of endearment.

Brad:
Staff one in the office of the kiddos.

Lauren:
And we don’t mean that with any negative connotation.

Joe:
Um, on the, uh, on the financial side of things, then, you know, did you guys have to make many changes to kind of your structure, your outlook for, you know, those first couple months, especially once we, you know, everything was kind of unknown. How did you guys kind of respond? Um, and did you have to do extra reporting or were you losing, you know, families at that point in time? Or what did you know, what’s your experience been on the financial side of things? And you said you’re strong now, which is excellent, but it’s been a long year and a half. So can you kind of walk us through that?

Caroline:
Yeah. It’s been a scary year and a half, I would say, um, you know, for, for all of us. So I think, you know, when lockdown happened, our first reaction I think, would be similar, you know, to like your own personal budget, right. You kind of stopped spending stop spending. We don’t, there’s certain things we don’t need to spend right now, obviously we’re, you know, saving on like some utility in some of those extra things. So obviously no extras. Right. Um, but you know, I was, there was a little bit of luck because I had started, you know, lockdown happened in March. I started here around July prior to that. And so that was my first budget cycle. So I came in and the previous CFO had created a budget, but the board wanted me to kind of like re-look at it and revamp it. So we kind of started from scratch and I told the board, you know, we’re always very transparent. I told the board, listen, I have about, um, $40,000 in this budget. That is a Caroline doesn’t know what she doesn’t know line because I don’t, you know, I didn’t have too much confidence in the prior budget. It wasn’t very detailed. So I did, I did have a contingency in there. And when lockdown happened that contingency that we hadn’t used kind of became our COVID contingency line. And we just said, you know, we don’t know what we’re going to need. We don’t know we’re going to spend, but we’re going to try to put it all in this bucket. So we can at least quantify it in hopes that, you know, we might get some government reimbursement or something in the future. So we started using that. It, you know, it was made up of the plexiglass. We had to put up and the obviously like the extra mass and the sanitation sprayers, all that kind of stuff. And obviously like some technology, but really, you know, we’re pretty frugal, but we wanted to make that technology experience the best it could be, but we probably didn’t spend more than like $20,000 on specifically those kinds of crazy, extra things that we needed right away. Um, and we did it very thoughtfully because, you know, we had to be thoughtful about that because we were coming from many years of deficit. So we were scared, you know, we didn’t feel rich yet by any means. So we were kind of still traumatized and very frugal. And I have a head of school that is wonderful because she really relies on me to really educate her, but she really wants to make good, thoughtful financial decisions. Like, you know, every line item she’s very involved, but she trusts me to tell her like, it’s okay to spend the money here because we’re going to save it here. So I think just that the transparency between me and the head of school and the board was really critical. Um, but we, we made it, I mean, we were totally okay because there was some things I got cut back. Right. We were pretty good, not laying off too many people. We didn’t, we had to like maybe furlough a couple like lunch aides, um, for a very short period of time, we communicated it with them. We got them right back when we could. Um, so we were pretty fortunate that it didn’t take too much of hit now, of course, first thing, right. It was like March 17th, I think was locked down. And we had probably just collected. We had like one or two more, um, tuition payments for the year. Right. Cause our parents pay monthly a majority of them. Um, so we were kind of like on pins and needles. Like every time we would see that, that money hit our account to make sure that everybody was paying, we were really on top of any payers that we thought might be struggling and might be a little bit lukewarm, but the remote learning. Cause that’s, you know, that’s our biggest lever is our enrollment dollars. Right. So we were on top of every person that we were worried about and we proactively offered them emergency financial aid. Um, because we did have some money left in the financial aid budget. So we wanted to keep as many of those families as positive as possible to really not interrupt those kids learning. Right. So it wasn’t horrible.

Joe:
That’s good To hear. Yeah. So enrollment then, um, because of some of your efforts, preemptively, as well as families apparently doing okay. And seeing the value in the education that you guys offer, um, your enrollment didn’t really fluctuate much. Um, at that point in time, people didn’t pull back and leave the school or anything like that.

Caroline:
Yeah. We were really fortunate. Um, I think if anything, maybe like a couple like literally like one or two, but we really maintained everybody pretty well because they knew, I think they trusted us that we were doing the best that any school could do. Right. I mean, we, and we turned on in like three days. Right. So there wasn’t downtime. They, we had an offering for them right away. It was of course different, but we had something for them.

Joe:
Great. That’s excellent. Um, yeah. And, and, you know, you met you, uh, plexiglass and masks and I think it was probably similar across the country, but to California, had you put together like this, like almost like 25 point checklist to be able to get the waiver, to stay open, come the fall. And it included things like plexiglass, Ang, it included things like fogging machines and included like access points of entrance and exits, you know, you had to have like a kind of flow of, of, of people movement and that sort of thing. Um, cohorting, there are a bunch of things that you guys had to kind of put into place there to, to do that. And a lot of private schools kind of these similar things to be able to stay open. Um, did you guys see enrollment going up at all because of some of those efforts kind of, you know, turning to the fall or, um, or is, is your population pretty well known and kind of moves along with you, you know, without too much fluctuation of families year to year?

Caroline:
Um, we’ve seen an increase in enrollment and primarily because of what, as, you know, you know, the public schools were not offering in-person education. So we, I think that really got us out there. Our name got out there that we were in September, we were back on campus. So when that turning point happened, after getting through summer, when September hit, we were ready to go on campus right away with our cohorts and everything. And we have got that waiver. So our enrollment has actually increased. I think we had ended the prior year at around like 128 to 130, um, exceeded that. And we’re going into this fall year, um, at around 145, which is great Prentice. Hasn’t been there for a long time. So we retained those families that came from public too. We didn’t like lose them. Now that opened, which was, you know, I’m seeing a lot of private schools from the boards I’m on and things we got, they got the public students, but they could lose them right. When public schools. So we were able to those. Yeah.

Joe:
That’s great. That’s great. That’s a good, that’s a good story. Success story.

Lauren:
Did you maintain a hybrid, you know, opportunity for families that didn’t feel comfortable say they had immunocompromised, uh, individuals that they lived with or reasons that they couldn’t be in person, even though it was offered? Is that the hybrid option still there?

Caroline:
Yeah. Great question. So we did offer it of course, through, um, a good portion of last year because of, um, kids that were still uncomfortable. Kids who had, you know, a more either they had a family member that lived with them, that they were more worried about that could possibly be compromised, or if they themselves, you know, the parents didn’t feel comfortable bringing them onto campus yet. So we maintain that through last year. And of course also to accommodate kids that have quarantine, right. So we have to have that option when we were having to quarantine a cohort or whatever. Um, but this year, I mean, we were coming this year hoping that we wouldn’t have to do both. Right? Because if anything is harder than, um, having the online learning, it’s having to do both, it’s having to have the in-person, you know, running as well as accommodating those online learning kids. So I think that hybrid version is the most challenging. Um, and we did try to stress to our parents. You know, we completely understand if you, um, are worried about actually, you know, have being COVID positive, um, or if you have a family member or something like that, but, but remote learning is not just because your kid has a cold that day, the kid, if your kid has like, you know, like the sniffles that day, they need to just take a rest day, just try to like sign up for like online school or, you know, we did discourage parents from saying, you know, it’s kind of inconvenient for me to come today because I’m going on a trip tomorrow. So we’re just going to do today, online learning, you know, we really tried to heavily discourage that because it’s a lot of effort to put that product out. So we really tried to make that very clear and our parents, I think understood

Joe:
Excellent. Um, on the, uh, kind of stay on the financial side of things a little bit, you know, for you guys, you’ve got your service, these basically your educational dues, right. That, that, that parents and families pay, um, then there’s also subsidized by a certain level of giving, right? From the, from the general public and from, from, from donors that love the school. Um, how have you seen, what, what’s your trend kind of done analysis for the giving? Has that, has that dropped off at all or has it gotten better even with the, with the stock market going, you know, I’m going gangbusters for the last year? What, what have you seen? Well,

Caroline:
We were very fortunate, you know, we, we are our big, huge donors and supporters stood by us, you know, even though we had to, our gala was scheduled for April, right. So, um, we had to quickly turn that into a virtual event and we had very low expectations for how that would turn out. But, um, you know, to your point, some donors were really feeling like we needed the money more than ever, right. To keep our doors open. So I would say that we, um, we felt a little bit below what we had originally budgeted if there was no pandemic, but we were very close. We didn’t take this huge hit and that, you know, it’s about 10% of our revenue. So it could definitely have a huge impact in T and turn us negative right away. Um, so we were definitely on top of it, but our virtual gala was pretty successful that first spring. And then we just had our second, we did opt to do another virtual gala this spring. Um, and that was pretty successful too, that, that exceeded what we had set as a goal, knowing that it was a virtual gala. Um, but we didn’t quite meet like what we needed for the full budget, but it was still very close and we were very fortunate.

Joe:
Great. Thanks for that. Um, yeah. You know, kind of just again, thinking through where you guys are at now, um, like Brad kind of asks you what, you’ve, what you’ve learned, um, financially as well, you know, from kind of covering from a learning standpoint, have you, have you now had some efficiencies that you guys have kind of built in? I mean, are you guys going into the off, I know you’re in the office today. How are you guys generally going into the office? Have you cut down on space for admin staff? You know, what, um, what efficiencies have you kinda seen on the, on the financial side of things that have kind of come along with pandemic?

Caroline:
Um, I think here, especially because our kids, you know, have, I think more needs right in the learning environment, we, our goal in our head of school’s goal has really been to get these kids back on campus with their teachers. Side-by-side learning. I mean, that’s our ultimate goal, right? These there’s nothing that can replace that, you know, as a, as a mom of traditional learners, like they need that more than anything, you know, but especially here, our kids need that. So I think the biggest efficiencies would be that everybody has been forced to be very technologically savvy. We all know how to use everything we need to know now. Um, we could, you know, snap our fingers and completely go virtual. If we have to, um, our admin, you know, we have our remote access set up. We have our even like for awhile, we totally had to shut down. We had to change the way we received mail because we wouldn’t have anybody on campus. So we had to like create like a physical locked box outside to make sure we were, you know, all those little things that nobody thinks about. You had to totally change your, your frame of mind and the way you do things. So I think we’ve all benefited from that knowledge. And we’re definitely, um, much tighter technologically here, um, technically, but I don’t think, I don’t think we’re going to necessarily carry on that stuff if we don’t have to. Right. We want our back traditionally learning here. Right.

Joe:
Very good. Um, so, so during the pandemic, obviously, you know, cares act offered a lot of different types of funding, new funding sources, right. For both for-profit nonprofit organizations. Um, I know you guys mentioned, you still did. Okay. During the pandemic. Um, how much of that was, you know, I guess your financial stability now was attributed to some of those funding sources. Were you guys able to get people like PDP loans? I know even the last couple of days we’ve been talking about employee retention credits and whether or not new, he may be qualify through, through a couple of maybe partial or full shutdown types of orders that are out there. Um, so what have you guys kind of done on, on the cares act side of things?

Caroline:
Yeah, so, um, our, you know, of course our like all hands on deck, the first priority was to try to get our hands on that PVP loan. Right. So that was like just a frantic rush. We worked with our bank, we bank with first Republic and they were honestly amazing. I think they were one of the leaders out of the banks to really get us partnered with a third party that helped us with that process. So, um, we were very happy to get that in very fortunate and we really did need that PPP loan because we just, at that moment, we had no idea how enrollment would do right. I mean, we were literally, like I said, we were watching the bank account, making sure that our revenue was hitting when it was like, you know, um, tuition collection day. Right. So we were just like going minute by minute. So the fact that we got the PPP loan, which was, you know, um, gosh, it was approximately about $600,000. Right. And, um, that was able to really give us like peace of mind. Right. So without that, we probably, we don’t have, you know, we’re not a school that has this endowment or these huge deep reserves. We have really wonderful, strong, supportive donors, but we don’t, we’re not, like I said, like, we’re not like a Sage where we can just rely on somebody to swoop in and save us. Right. So, and we were just coming out of all these deficits. So the PPP loan truly allowed us to kind of take a sigh of relief and know that we have this cushion and know that we can really focus on giving our kids the best quality education, because if we needed to have a surprise COVID expense, like we had money right there that we could use. Um, and again, like I said, like if we dropped 10 kids, that’s like half a million dollars, almost half a million dollars right there, 10 or 15 coats, that was a very likely scenario. And we had all of our worst and best case scenarios set up. So we were very fortunate.

Joe:
And then have you guys already then filed for forgiveness for PPP and gotten that? Or where are you guys in the process?

Caroline:
So, um, we were able to secure the loan pretty, you know, pretty quickly not horribly painful, but then the forgiveness to take quite a long time and our bank and our third party, you know, um, processor probably hated me because I literally would call or email them at least weekly and just say, you know, I see my, I see my portal and it says, they’re still thinking about it. You know, like the visits in this phase, there’s like six little lights and I’m on this light. Like, how do I get to this light? What do I have to do? And there was, we had a loan of about 585,000. And, and I, we had like, given them everything they needed. And there was a point in time where they were like, okay, for some reason or another, you’re probably only going to get like $540,000 back. And in my mind I was hoping for a hundred percent, but I had budgeted with the board. I had told them, listen, just in case we have any layoffs. I know we have a couple of just in case anything happens, we’re going to budget to get 500 out of this 5 85. I think that’s what I feel comfortable getting, but we got a lot for possible, not getting a whole hundred percent. So the board was like ready and we were super transparent with them, but I was really hoping to get as much as I could. So, you know, just the gosh, like literally just a couple of months ago, I got, you know, one of my responses to that weekly email was okay, well, it looks like, um, the CB, the SBA saying you’re only going to get 5 41 and I really don’t know why, but that’s what they’re saying. So, so I proceeded that week to like send them, like literally everybody, one employee at a time, all their medical benefits, all their vision. Oh, your dad’s all like line by line of all these costs that we had. Um, and I think I just like give them, I, if I could recommend anything, like just give them all the information. Cause I had nothing to hide. I was like, we have all these expenses to justify this. I have nothing to hide. And I got, I had told our head of school, listen, I think we’re going to get five 40. I think we should still be very happy about that, but I don’t know what what’s gonna happen. And then I got surprised one day and my weekly email, they told me he got a hundred percent forgiveness because of something with like the timing of when the requirements were constantly changing. So how the SBA thought that like, we didn’t qualify for the full because of the timing, but really we did because of when we got it. So it was great used to share. So we were able to get a hundred percent, but it took effort.

Joe:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, it’s been nuts. I mean, even just on the ERC side of things too, it’s almost every week, there’s new guidance that comes out and there was some news that came out just the other day on, on the interplay between PPP round two and ERC and how that all works. That was good news. It was good news. Thank God. Um, but, uh, but, but, uh, but yeah, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s been pretty crazy, um, you know, for all of us as well on the CPA side of things, trying to navigate those rules and the questions that have been coming on every, every single day. Really. It seems like since last March, um, but glad those are programs are out there and are helping, you know, our nonprofits stay afloat and including you guys.

Caroline:
Yep.

Lauren:
Was there any, uh, asking from the New Jersey side, you know, we all have our own different, um, things that can help supplement operations. Is there anything that was specifically given outside of that to the California schools that help supplement operations?

Caroline:
There was different? Um, you know, there was so much stuff cause I’m on a bunch of listservs, right? So there’s a bunch of different things that came out. Of course we took advantage of like, um, through payroll credits, like we got all the credits for like COVID time off and all that kind of thing. So we got that benefit too, of course. Right. Um, but as far as like some of the other, there was like some reimbursements that came out that I had heard about, but it was kinda mixed like from, you know, being on those lists of some of the, you know, business offices were saying, well, I want to do it, but I don’t want to like jeopardize anything. And I it’s kind of sounds like a risk. And some of the stuff I had heard about was you’d get reimbursement, but then it would technically like any equipment you bought with technically be owned by the government. It was very unclear to me. And we kind of made a strategic decision to be super grateful for PPP loan and really focused on that to get a hundred percent of the forgiveness and to kind of put our effort into that versus some of these other types of reimbursements that kind of have these unclear requirements. Um, I know, and, and maybe, you know, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about this too, Joe, like a lot of the CFOs and the business offices, you know, directors were saying I’m a little bit worried, you know, we’re making the judgment not to get the PPP loan because we have these endowments or we have these reserves, it’s not the prudent thing to do. So for us, we felt very comfortable asking for it and we needed it because we had no cushion really, but we felt like that was where we should focus our energy versus these other kind of reimbursement programs.

Joe:
Yeah. And as the California reverses programs, like you said, were, they were a little bit tough to quite understand exactly what was going on with them. Um, a lot of them were geared towards, towards, um, you know, personal protective equipment. Um, like you were kind of saying, and, and, uh, and, and I think for you guys too, like you kinda mentioned, one thing that helped you out was that you really actually didn’t have to spend too much money to be able to get your school retrofitted for, um, you know, for remote learning. And then even when you did the waiver, um, wasn’t that bad probably because it was a smaller school, a smaller number of people to be able to kind of retro to the school for what you, what your needs were. And so it didn’t necessarily make sense. I think, to go after all the, all the extra California type stuff that was out there. Um, yeah, that’s great. And as we kind of wrap up here, I’d like to know on a, on a personal note, you know, Prentice school it’s a different situation, like we’d said, compared to your other, other opportunities in educational system, um, enjoying it. How, how has it been working with a special population compared to just your run of the mill private schools?

Caroline:
Yeah. Um, well, I mean, for me, I really enjoy being in a school environment, right. Like I think sometimes when we’re interviewing people, we say like, do you like kids? Because there’s a lot of kids around here, you know, like you have to really, you know, I have three kids of my own, you know, it’s, it’s, you have to like this kind of chaotic loud environment, right? So at any school, I think it’s a special place to be at Prentice. Um, all I can say is come to a graduation. I sat in on the first graduation, like, you know, back in June and I’m an emotional person, but I mean, our custodian staff, there was tears at the custodians. I mean, big burly guys were crying. It’s just so special. I mean, these kids are many times like their alternative is like a public school. That is not, you know, that’s going to try to, they’re going to maybe try to isolate them. They’re not going to get the kind of real experience learning environment that we give them. So these kids are so grateful. I mean, they’re so talented and just hearing them speak at graduation, that’s like enough said, so if you have some time next June, I invite you to come to graduation because that’s literally, for me, it was like full circle of like, this is really, it’s different to help this type of, to be in this kind of finance environment. This is different than anything else I could be doing. And these kids are going to be so successful. So it’s super that unique environment, for sure.

Joe:
Very cool. And then, you know, um, if we have some listeners out there that, that, you know, have a, have a soft spot in their hearts for the population with dyslexia and add and ADHD and others, how might they, um, find you guys and maybe give?

Caroline:
Yeah. Um, you can, of course find us online. We’re on all kinds of social media, but you can find us on our website, prentiss.org, and I can share, you know, like a general phone number here. Um, it’s a fairly small field. So if they call our general line, we’ll make sure to route you, to whoever you want to be routed to. Um, and we would be of course, so grateful and we’d love to keep doing what we’re doing. So we would definitely appreciate that.

Joe:
Awesome. You said it was Prenticeschool.org?

Caroline:
It’s just prentice.org.

Joe:
Prentice.org. Okay, great. Thank you. That’s awesome, Caroline. Um, unless you guys, you guys have any other questions for her or are we good to wrap up?

Caroline:
I think we’re good.

Brad:
I always, uh, I always do a call to action at the end, whether it’s, uh, you know, what is it, how, how can the public support you sometimes that’s donation. Sometimes it’s volunteers. Sometimes it’s other things that I hear a lot of great answers. So my only final is, you know, outside of donations, how do you feel the public can kind of support your mission as Prentice school?

Caroline:
Yeah, no, that’s all awesome. I think, um, spread the word. I think, you know, um, w there’s not many schools truthfully in the nation that offer the educational product that we put out there. And as a parent, you know, w w when you don’t know how to help your child, that’s like the hardest thing when you’re searching that path of searching is the hardest part, because you can’t control and you can’t like move forward and make progress. So, you know, if you ever comes up in conversation, let parents know that there is someplace that can really help your child succeed. And to really maybe share with those parents, like, look for signs when your kids are young, you know, make sure you’re really paying attention. Cause it’s hard as a parent, as a really busy parent coming from me, you know, it’s kinda hard to really pay attention. And, and typically we get our kiddos in like first or second grade because of that younger preschool kinder, it’s kind of really hard to see in parents. There’s obviously different levels of development, but I would urge parents to really pay attention because this world is becoming, you know, even more challenging place for our kiddos with so many, like, you know, online distractions and things are so much stuff for our kids to kind of take in. I think we really need to pay attention. Um, so we can like help them as early as possible to get them out of here, like in and out. We love to have a kid come in and come in here at Prentice and go out and go into traditional school as soon as possible. That’s our goal. And spread the word.

Joe:
Spread the word.

Brad:
That’s what we’re trying to do.

Joe:
For sure.

Caroline:
Well thank you.

Joe:
Well thanks so much for your time again and for everything you and Prentice School do and who you serve and, you know, for, uh, for all of our private school clients out there, uh, we love you guys. We’re really thankful for you. And we’re really thankful for all the teachers that are keeping our kids, uh, educated and, and safe, um, especially in this crazy world. So, Caroline, um, thank you so much for your time again, and, uh, really, really enjoyed talking to you.

Caroline:
Me too. Thank you guys.

Brad:
Hey Warriors. Thanks for tuning in. Make sure to subscribe to Civic Warriors and thanks for all your support. Have a great day.

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