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Providence Financial









MONTHLY NEWSLETTER:  JANUARY 2006 ISSUE

GET A GOOD NAVIGATOR
BY BRENT VAN ALFEN, PROVIDENCE FINANCIAL COMPANY, INC.


Most of you have heard of an aviator named "Wrong Way Corrigan," but let me refresh your memory. In doing so, I will quote from the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission website.

"On July 8, 1938, Corrigan left California for New York. His official flight plan called for him to return to California, and on July 17, Corrigan took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York. He took off in thick fog and headed east because airport officials had told him to lift off in any direction except west since there were some buildings at the western edge of the field. They fully believed Corrigan would turn his plane around and head west toward California once he cleared the airport's airspace. To everyone's surprise, he kept flying eastward. Corrigan insisted that his visibility was so poor that he could only fly by using his compass and claimed his compass indicated he was heading west.

Approximately 26 hours into his flight, Corrigan claimed to have finally dropped down out of the clouds and noticed that he was over a large body of water. Knowing that it was too early to have reached the Pacific Ocean, Corrigan looked down at his compass--and because there was now supposedly more light to see by--suddenly noticed he "had been following the wrong end of the magnetic needle." Within a short time, Corrigan was over Ireland. He landed at Baldonnel Airport, in Dublin, after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight."

Although there is some question as to whether Corrigan really made the "mistake" he became famous for, his story illustrates a good point for all of us in life, in education, and in business. We need a good navigator or navigation system to keep us on the right track. Without having a well defined direction and a system in place to keep us going where we want to go, nothing good happens. In my experience with many charters, I see schools that have good navigation systems and schools that could use some help in that area. Charter managers have the daunting task of navigating two major areas of primary concern. There are the "product" issues, (providing a good education and seeing that the students are making adequate progress) as well as keeping the school on a sound financial footing.

Without having a well defined direction and a system in place to keep us going where we want to go, nothing good happens...Having a “navigator” in the form of a business manager, controller, bookkeeper, or office manager is critical.

Lenders and investors are looking more closely than ever at the quality of education that a school is providing. They look at relevant State grading systems and, of course, Adequate Yearly Progress. If a school is not providing a good education and if the students are not progressing, it is reasonable to question their longevity. The best performing schools that I have observed are using a well defined and documented educational philosophy or system. It gives them the direction and standard to adhere to. They also have a good system in place to be sure that all of the faculty members are effectively using the same educational philosophy.

On the financial side, a well-thought- out budget provides the direction for the business. Having a good system in place to give timely feedback to management which compares the budgeted figures to actual results is critical. Having a "navigator" in the form of a business manager, controller, bookkeeper, or office manager is critical. Looking at the numbers and keeping them in budget is a job that few educators want to get involved in; but if there is not someone on the staff that forces attention to this critical aspect of the school, a disaster is on the horizon.

Recently, I worked with a school that was unsuccessful in getting facilities financing, in large part, because the financials were presented in a non-standard manner that reflected poorly on the school. The question on the minds of the underwriters was whether the school really understood their own financials. Especially in this critical area of school management, hire a good, strong "navigator." ?