Afton Leads School Finance Cohorts and Mentoring for Chief Financial Officers
Afton is providing charter school leaders with cohort support on school finance matters, coupled with one-on-one mentoring for charter school finance leaders and executive directors. Our collaborative cohorts vary in composition — one brings together charter school finance professionals within the same city, and another gathers charter school organizations across the country who are of similar size and phase of their life cycle.
Regardless of cohort composition, these collaborations aim to enable cohort members to feel more confident in their roles, be better equipped to lead their organization’s finances with their CEOs and other members of leadership, and develop relationships with each other that lead to informal collaboration. To accomplish these objectives, we meet bi-weekly or monthly covering topics relevant to the time of year (e.g. budget planning in the spring) and ongoing events (e.g. school re-opening planning during COVID-19). Afton facilitates the conversations amongst cohort members, asking questions that enable rich discussions, and bringing research and data to the meetings to support the conversations.
Alongside our cohort facilitation, we support charter finance leaders and executive directors individually on school finance and financial governance matters. Our one-on-one supports include planning and mentoring sessions with finance leaders and executive directors, board training on financial governance, and financial modeling to develop annual budgets, cash flow projections, and multi-year financial projections. Ultimately, this work is meant to ensure that school system resources are aligned to priorities and fiscal health is maintained in the short and long-term.
While each network is unique, financial best practices are consistent. Afton attempts to share timely materials and facilitate of-the-moment dialogue. For example, we share budgeting best practices in January/February as budget season moves into full swing, and discuss board financial governance best practices as a new school year begins to reset expectations.
Collaboration can enhance learning and make it immediately practicable. There is much to be learned through peer networking, yet peer networking does not happen nearly as often as it should. We have that, through these networks, finance leaders can gain insight on myriad approaches to similar challenges as well as gain perspective on how to solve unique problems.
Creating space for reflection is critical for continuous improvement. Stepping back and setting aside “think time” away from the daily to-do list allows finance leaders to reflect on their goals for themselves and their organizations and develop approaches to continuously develop their finance staff capabilities and improve major financial processes.