Conferences & Workshops

 FAQ about Registration

Business Affairs Conference 2019

Date: Wednesday - May 01, 2019
Time: All Day
Location: Mohonk Mountain House

New Paltz, NY

Wed. May 1 - Fri. May 3, 2019

Speakers: Kathy Pearson, Mark Lauria, Caryn Pass, Michael Brooks, and others.

Exhibitors - Click here for information and

registration for the Exhibitor Showcase

Exhibitors - Click here to SPONSOR (Pre-Requisite: Exhibitor Table)

Click here to submit a workshop proposal

Attendees from Schools - Conference Registration Here

In the schedule below, sessions designated with will be live-streamed. You can watch live, or click the logo to view all of the NYSAIS archived sessions from past conferences.

All meals in the Main Dining Room


2:30 - 3:30

Sunset Lounge

Informal Chat Group: New Business Officers and those who are attending the Business Affairs Conference for the first time.

4:00 - 4:30

Registration Desk opens. Tea in Lake Lounge.

4:30 - 4:45

Welcome - Conference Committee

4:45 - 6:00


Session 1 – Keynote Address – Keep Your Head’s Head Above Water: How to Help Your Head Avoid Costly Mistakes
Caryn Pass, Venable

The key to the overall health of an independent school is a productive working relationship between the head of school and the business officer. Business officers are well positioned and well equipped to identify trouble spots for the school, but how do you respond when your head of school starts to approach dangerous ground? In this session, we will review some key areas that need to be on your radar as a business officer, when and how to challenge your head’s instincts, how to prepare them for tricky situations, and if needed, how to make your case for an alternate approach. Using real-world examples, we will unpack the issues – from school personnel to students to alumni – that carry the most liability exposure for independent schools today.” 

6:00 - 6:30

What's New in Albany? 
Mark Lauria, Executive Director, NYSAIS


Cocktails in the Main Dining Room


Dinner and introductions (Assigned tables) Welcome - Late night networking in Carriage Lounge



Continental Breakfast available in Carriage Lounge

7:30 - 8:15

Buffet Breakfast

8:30 - 10:00

Session 2 - Managing Uncertainty:  The Need for Strategic Agility
Kathy Pearson, Wharton School of Business

Today’s business environment is no longer described as having an “ebb and flow”, but rather a permanent “whitewater” condition, particularly for independent schools.  This increased speed of change has made the traditional strategic planning process inadequate and in need of more dynamic planning. This session presents the business case for strategic agility and provides a pathway to building the capability to be nimble in the strategic planning process.   

10:00- 10:15


10:15 - 11:00

Session 3 – Concurrent Workshops


A.  Tools and Actions to Build Strategic Agility:  A Practical Application
Kathy Pearson, Wharton School of Business

This breakout session describes best practices in building adaptability in the strategic planning process, including key leadership behaviors.  It also provides tools to overcome barriers to agility and to build the organizational ability to dynamically respond to rapid changes.


B. The New 403(b) Pre-Approved Plan Documents; are they right for you?
Gary Mauger, Managing Partner, New Pinnacle Consulting Group, and Evan Giller, ERISA and Employee Benefits, Boutwell Fay LLP

403(b) Retirement Plans

For the first time ever, the IRS has issued pre-approved 403(b) retirement plan documents. What does this mean to you as a plan sponsor? While adopting the new document will take a little bit of work, it is an opportunity to ensure your plan is in compliance both in form and operation. In this session, we will discuss the process and benefits of adopting a pre-approved 403(b) plan document and how it can help you keep your 403(b) plan in compliance. We will give practical tips on how to make the transition to the new document as painless as possible and how you can avoid common pitfalls at the same time. We will also discuss a special one-time offer from the IRS if you adopt a pre-approved document by March 31, 2020.


C. Financial Statement Presentation: Challenges Under the New Accounting Standards
Joseph Blatt, Partner, BKD (formerly Loeb & Troper)


This session will review the new financial statement model and the challenges private schools will face with the implementation this summer. The session will give in-depth examples of the required note disclosures and changes to the financial statement exhibits.


D.   Is a Health Savings Account Right for Your School?
James Sidford, President, Austin & Co., Inc.

Insurance / Human Resources

Schools are increasingly interested in Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and other lower premium plans to help battle the continually rising health care costs. While lower premiums are significant, there are multiple issues to consider before implementation. This session will provide important considerations for your school, faculty and staff; lessons learned from your peers; and best practices for a successful roll-out. Attendees will leave with resources and checklists to assist with their own HSA evaluation and implementation.

11:00 - 11:45

Session 4 – Concurrent Workshops


A.  Tools and Actions to Build Strategic Agility:  A Practical Application
Kathy Pearson, Wharton School of Business

This breakout session describes best practices in building adaptability in the strategic planning process, including key leadership behaviors.  It also provides tools to overcome barriers to agility and to build the organizational ability to dynamically respond to rapid changes.


B.  Control Concerns: Don't Get Left in the Dark
Rob Cordero, Partner, PKF O'Connor Davies


Among the many responsibilities on their plate, independent school business officers are typically tasked with the design and maintenance of a robust system of internal controls. Vitally important for any business enterprise, internal controls — if designed properly — provide reasonable assurance of meeting objectives relating to a school’s operations, reporting and compliance involving financial reporting. However, internal controls if not structured well or modified on an ongoing basis can expose the school to potential risk, particularly when it operates in an environment of rapid change. How should you keep up? What are other schools doing? How do you avoid being left in the dark? Our experts will host a fully interactive session which evokes input and discussion from the group.


C. New York Employment Law Update
Michael Hekle, Principal, Jackson Lewis P.C.

Human Resources

With the increasing complexity of employment law regulations issued by both federal and state legislatures and related agencies, Jackson Lewis Partner Mike Hekle will examine those items that directly affect school communities. This will include a review of recent court decisions as well as federal and state Department of Labor regulations involving handbook policies, contract enforcement and employee leave considerations.


D. Considerations and Best Practices When Others Use School Facilities
Michael Brooks, Executive Vice President, Austin & Co., Inc.

Bob Brody, C.P.A., B.A., Director of Finance, Rye Country Day School

Legal and Risk Management

What factors should be taken into account when deciding to rent or loan school space? Is there opportunity to expand your cultural footprint in the community? Is there capacity to accommodate groups, sporting clubs or other organizations? If so, how often and under what circumstances? What about faculty and employees using the school after hours for tutoring or other instruction? What should you charge? What should you require in terms of insurance and contracts? We’ll take a look at lessons learned from past experiences and best practices to make your school available to outside groups.

12:00 - 1:00


1:15 - 2:15

Session 5 – Concurrent Workshops


A. Debt Financing for Independent Schools
Dan Froehlich, Senior Vice President, D.A. Davidson & Co.

Capital Financing / Debt Refinancing

Independent schools have many debt financing options available to them, including bank financing and bond financing and tax-exempt and taxable financing structures. In our discussion we will focus on the latest trends in debt financing for schools, including changes in the bank financing market and considerations for schools that have or are considering attaining credit ratings for their bonds.


B. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Issues Impacting Tax Exempt Organizations
Marie Arrigo, Tax Partner,  EisnerAmper LL


Discussion relating to the TCJA 2017 and how it relates to the NFP industry, including the ability to use 529 plans to pay for K-12 education costs, and other significant impacts.


C. Benefits - H S A Plan Implementation
Janet Bernard, HR Manager, Grace Church School

Human Resources

This workshop will introduce a few examples of how Grace Church School implemented H S A plans,  and how it was successful and what we could have done better.


D.  Strategic Approach to Tax-Exempt Financing - Critical Planning and Partnership between School, Lender and Placement Agent to Ensure Success
Andrea Kantor, SVP/Group Head – Education, IDB Bank
Rochelle Powell, Managing Director, Prager & Co.
Richard Bernero, CFO, Metropolitan Montessori School

Strategic Planning; Capital Financing / Debt Refinancing

Overview of financing options and execution, how to prepare to seek financing, key factors to consider. How to pick your partners, what to expect along the way. Pros/Cons of placement agent, bank to assist CFO/HoS


E.  Is Your HR Technology Working for You? A Guide to Finding the Right Partner
Lisa Johnson, HR Technology Consultant
Hope DeRocha, Director of HR Consulting, Austin & Co. 

Human Resources

Your payroll, benefits, time and attendance, onboarding, and recruiting systems should seamlessly manage all of your data. If it’s not, then it’s time to look for a new partner. But how do you determine the right solutions for your school’s efficiency, productivity, and cost effectiveness? This presentation provides lessons learned from your peers, best practices for success, and a guide to find the right HR technology partner. Who knows, you may already have the right partner, but aren’t taking full advantage of their system. Attendees will leave with a HR technology scorecard and an HR technology evaluation guide.

 2:15 - 2:30  Break

2:30 - 3:30

Session 6 - Concurrent Workshops


A.  Using Credit Rating Criteria to Inform Financial Planning
Kevin Quinn, President,  Wye River Group

Financial Dashboards

The lending community, post-recession, has considered every loan request and credit profile through a more comprehensive prism than in the past.  In addition to financial indicators, strategic alignment to mission, competition, business model, leadership and composition of Boards are just a few of the factors affecting a borrower’s credit profile. Selecting and collaborating with the right partners -- Financial Advisor, bank relationships, etc. --  is critical to a successful financing. We will discuss strategic planning, anticipating issues and setting the stage for future financing, cultivating relationships with partners, and how all the dynamics come together during the stages of execution.


B.  Institutional Strategy +Economics: An Integrated Approach to Program, Population & Philanthropy
William Kummel, Principal
,Rational Partners

Institutional Economics

Fifteen years from now, will your institutional choices be (i) more and better, (ii) comparable, or (iii) fewer and worse? Large forces challenge the traditional economic model of independent schools. For many schools, the current trajectory is likely to be "fewer and worse." Why is this?

Join this session to

  • Investigate actions to take in the next five years to ensure future choices.
  • Appraise market position, comparative advantage and financial performance.
  • Optimize market, educational and financial dynamics for near and long-term performance.
  • Explore full-pay domestic as keystone to program, population and philanthropy.
  • Examine 15 board-level institutional health indicators

Apply methodology and metrics to understand and secure for your school a near and long-term operating strategy and sustainable economic model. Session includes benchmark data from 750+ independent schools.

William (Bill) Kummel Is a Principal of Rational Partners, a New York-based management consultant in institutional economics and enterprise benchmarks to independent schools and colleges. The work measures and evaluates near and long-term institutional market position, comparative advantage and financial sustainability.


C.  Retirement Plan "Check Up"
Geoffrey Finkel, Group Account Representative, Mutual of America

Annuities and Retirement Funds

Given today’s market volatility, a retirement plan “check up” could help a school determine if their current providers are keeping up with the market changes. Specifically, does the school have a robust plan for attracting and retaining quality staff. A check up could help to satisfy fiduciary responsibilities with the DOL. The following areas could be addressed: How are the current providers holding up to the market and regulatory changes? What is your fiduciary responsibility for comparing providers? How are you measuring investment performance for the investment menu relative to peers (Morningstar ratings? Menu diversification / Prudence relative to DOL requirements? Do you have too few or too many choices for staff) Do you know the “total plan fees” and are they competitive? Are you receiving compliance and regulatory support (is testing an issue or is your plan subject to “refunds” for certain highly compensated staff?)? Are the DOL Fee disclosure notices addressing all the plan fees and services? How is employee participation? Are employees saving enough for their retirement (ie: Auto enrollment options)? Are employees making good investment choices? Is your plan document compliant and serving your needs? A “Check Up” discussion will help school managers to ask the right questions about their retirement plans, to make sure they are getting the best value relative to the market changes.


D.  Taxable and non-taxable Fringe benefits - Life Post-TCJA
John Toscano, Partner
Thomas Lanning, Tax Partner

Lori Rothe Yokobosky, Tax Partner

Human Resources / Taxation

Use of Section 529 distributions up to $10,000 per-student for private school tuition (distributions made after December 31, 2017)

  • State laws must be reviewed prior to making such distributions
  • Moving expense reimbursement benefits are repealed for 2018 forward
  • Employee achievement awards -very limited items may be given tax-free
  • Excludes cash, cash equivalents, stocks, bonds, vacations, meals, etc.
  • On the Horizon – provisions NOT in the final Law
  • Housing benefits (sec. 119): No limitation on exclusion for employer provided housing
  • Tuition remission (sec. 117(d)): No repeal of tuition remission or related benefits
  • Employer-provided tuition assistance (sec. 127): No repeal of exclusion for educational assistance programs from taxable income (up to $5,250)

3:30 - 6:00

Free Time Afternoon Options
Enjoy the excellent trails, lake, new Mohonk Spa, tennis and golf (weather permitting). Details at Guest Services Desk

6:00 - 7:30

Vendor Showcase & Complimentary Cocktails in the Main Dining Room


Dinner and Raffle - Wine courtesy of Austin & Co., Inc


Late night networking in Carriage Lounge



Fun Run / Walk / Hike - Rain or Shine! [or other activity]
Meet in Lake Lounge. We are departing at 7:00 sharp so arrive a little early. You can get coffee at the hotel desk. Sponsored by Lands End School.

7:30 - 8:15

Buffet Breakfast

8:30 - 10:00

Session 7 – Unconference

You set the agenda! Topics that are of-the-moment and vital to you. 

10:00 -10:15


10:15 - 12:00

Session 8 - Cyber Risk Management for Independent Schools
Michael Brooks, Executive Vice President of Austin & Co., Inc.

A strategic discussion of the Cyber Risks in a school environment, and the Best Practices to address those risks.  We will learn from some actual cases, with the goal of equipping school business officers to more effectively define, control, and transfer Cyber Risks. The briefing will include a discussion of insurance, outsourcing, internal controls for schools.    

12:00 noon

Buffet Luncheon
Box lunches available – order at dinner Thur. night. For pick up at Guest Services if not doing Buffet Luncheon.

Kathy Pearson, Ph.D. is a strategist, Systems Thinking expert, and authority in decision making. She is President and Founder of ELS, a firm focused on the executive development and learning across industries. Kathy is also a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and has served as an adjunct Associate Professor in the Operations and Information Management Department at The Wharton School, both at the University of Pennsylvania. In this academic capacity, Kathy taught operations management courses in the MBA program and Executive Masters of Technology Management programs as well as Probability and Statistics, Simulation Modeling, and other courses for the department and the University. An award-winning educator, Kathy works extensively with mid- to senior-level executives, where she teaches on a variety of topics including Executive Decision Making, Strategic Agility, Change Managing, and Execution. 


Caryn Pass has represented independent schools for over 25 years. As chair of Venable’s Education Practice she advices over 200 schools nationwide on a wide range of legal issues while tracking trends specific to independent schools.

Ms. Pass works with schools on legal issues raised by students, parents, employees, trustees, donors, alumni, neighbors, and vendors by establishing policies, procedures, and strategies that promote positive working and learning environments while limiting potential liability exposure. A problem solver and strategic thinker, Ms. Pass helps avoid liability in a manner consistent with school culture.

Ms. Pass works on documents utilized by independent schools, including employment, enrollment and contractor agreements. She advises on the proper use of technology and social media, wage and hour compliance, employee and student discipline, admissions, investment and financial issues, FMLA, performance evaluation design, and employee termination. She conducts investigations involving students, employees, and other members of the school community. In addition, she reviews employee and student handbooks, develops emergency preparedness plans and works with experts in the assessment of campus security. Ms. Pass designs and reviews by-laws and governance policies and works with boards to establish good governance.

Michael J. Brooks, CSRM serves as the Executive Vice President of Austin & Co, Inc.  He oversees the Commercial Lines, Claims and Personal Lines Departments, with responsibilities for product management and carrier relationships, while maintaining a client base of scores of schools.  He has been an integral part of Austin & Co, Inc. for 20 years, serving in a variety of management and client oriented positions.  Michael draws upon over three decades of risk management experience, with an extensive background in Not-For-Profits. Michael began his insurance career as a school / education underwriter for Utica National Insurance, as a specialist in their public school district practice.  Michael is notably credentialed as a Certified School Risk Manager (CSRM).


Registration is a 2-step process. Be sure to do both.

1. Reserve your room with Mohonk using one of the following.

  • Click here to reserve online
  • Click here to download the Mohonk Residential Reservation Form (room and board)
  • Click here if you will be a day guest at Mohonk (meals only)
  • Reserve by phone: 800-772-6646
  • Need car service? Please give the Mohonk 24 hours notice, or call a local taxi.

2. Conference Registration and Credit Card Payment

Regular Registration Fees apply within 2 weeks of the event

    •    NYSAIS Members - $425.00

    •    Non-members - $465.00

Early Discount of $50.00 will apply until 2 weeks before the event.

Late fee of $20.00 will apply within 2 days of the event.

Questions about the program? Email

Questions about registration? Emai

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© 2013 New York State Association of Independent Schools

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17 Elk Street (First Floor)     Albany, NY 12207     Tel: 518-694-5500     Fax: 518-694-5501

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