Delaware Valley Friends School welcomes our new Chief Financial Officer, Justin Wheeler. Justin comes to us from an extensive background in both finance and education. He is passionate about education reform and an area of particular strength that he brings to DVFS is the ability to demystify finance so that it can be a real strategic partner in building the school and program. Read a brief interview with Justin below:
Q: What drew you to Delaware Valley Friends School?Several things, but first and foremost I was attracted to DV’s mission of serving students with learning differences through an approach grounded in the Quaker belief that every person has inherent and unique worth. Every great teacher I’ve known over the course of my working life – first as a teacher myself and later as an administrator – has connected with students authentically, as individuals, but I’ve worked in some schools and systems where those connections occurred in spite of the culture rather than being supported by it. It’s such a powerful advantage for teachers and students to have the focus on individual worth embedded in the school’s values.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working in finance and education?
I get most excited about bridging the gap that often exists between finance and the educational program. In too many schools teachers, families and academic administrators feel distanced from or intimidated by financial information. I enjoy demystifying finances – by being transparent about them whenever possible and putting real thought into the simplest and clearest way to present them. I also care deeply about teaching and learning, and so I’m obsessive about providing great service to teachers and families.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in your new role at DVFS?
There are some systems improvements that I’m looking forward to implementing in the medium term – changes designed to improve our reporting and make more efficient some of our processes in the business office so that we’re able to provide better service to DV families and staff. I’m also excited to engage in some long-term strategic and financial planning in support of DV’s mission. But more than anything else at the moment, I’m looking forward to being a part of the DV community. Recently, I’ve worked in larger organizations where the connection to students and families was less immediate. It’s a real pleasure to be back in a small school environment.
Q: What is your vision for your role at DVFS?
I’m in the process of developing a vision for the role based on what I’m learning about the DV community and the needs within the business office – but I can tell you that I see the CFO as an involved and accessible member of the school community, whether it’s in relation to students and families, teachers and staff, or the board and external stakeholders.
Q: What did you do before coming to DVFS?
I spent seven years of my career as an English teacher in independent high schools, then transitioned to education policy and finance about nine years ago. Since then, I have worked for or with charter schools serving historically disadvantaged communities. Most recently, I was CFO of Scholar Academies, a network of charter schools serving 2,500 students in six schools across Philadelphia, PA, Washington, DC, Trenton, NJ and Memphis, TN.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at DVFS?
I like to be active – running, biking, rowing or rock-climbing – ideally with one of my siblings or kids. My boys are competitive rock-climbers, so I spend a fair amount of time driving them to and from practices. I enjoy watching them – and my daughter, who is a ballet dancer – learn to take intelligent risks and translate hours and hours of practice into joyful motion.