Finance Focus Group Report, 2011-2012
Finance: Sound financial practice
That’s the type of financial practice CAJ strives to have—sound financial practice. Why? Because that’s the kind of financial practice CAJ needs to equip students to impact the world for Christ.
Strengths and Growth Areas
- CAJ has well-established processes defined for developing an annual budget (which includes input from all staff) and for conducting an annual audit.
- CAJ does an effective job of acquiring and maintaining instructional resources.
- Information and help is easy to find as the business procedures and policies are published and as assistance request forms to maintenance and tech staff are easily accessible.
- CAJ has almost no debt and a campus that is in very good shape.
- Many classes are completely full, and overall enrollment has been high for quite a few years.
- Not all teachers and staff have a chance to see budget worksheets or understand how the process applies to them.
- The combination of computer software being used in the Business Office is not operating efficiently yet.
- The Resource Master Plan is incomplete and unavailable to staff.
- Staff salary/benefits are too low for a family where only one parent is working.
Summary of Findings
- For the most part sufficient resources are available to sustain CAJ’s program and to effectively carry out CAJ’s mission and achieve the student objectives. Decisions about resource allocations are based on classroom and program needs in an effort to optimize student learning.
- CAJ has well-established processes defined for developing an annual budget and for conducting an annual audit. We conduct business according to generally accepted accounting practices.
- CAJ does an effective job of acquiring and maintaining instructional resources.
- CAJ has adequate resources available to hire and nurture a well-qualified staff
- Some direct hire staff have concerns about raising funds through a mission or JCAA.
- CAJ does not have a completed Resource Master Plan, but has many of the components of a long-range plan in place.
- CAJ does not have a completed Resource Master Plan, but has the intention to use research and information to form it.
- Primary stakeholders are involved in CAJ’s future planning, while secondary stakeholders are not given much input into CAJ’s future plans
- There is strong evidence that the Board of Directors and Leadership Team are involved in informing the public and appropriate governmental authorities about the financial needs of the organization.
- CAJ has three strategic areas related to marketing which support the implementation of the development program. These areas are: advertising, fundraising and community relations. At this point there does not exist an effective means or method of verifying the efficacy of these efforts. We have a sense that we are functioning adequately in these areas.
1. For the most part sufficient resources are available to sustain CAJ’s program and to effectively carry out CAJ’s mission and achieve the student objectives. Decisions about resource allocations are based on classroom and program needs in an effort to optimize student learning.
Curricular standards: Teachers use their curriculum to assess needs for the coming year. Staff feel that they have the resources to do their job (2011 Staff Survey, 72).
Mission: Empirical evidence linking CAJ’s mission completion in individual student lives to resource allocation is difficult to find. According to the human resources database, 33% of current staff are CAJ alumni or spouses of alumni. This is anecdotal evidence that CAJ alumni have chosen to “impact the world for Christ” by serving at CAJ as adults.
Student achievement of the student objectives: The student objective indicator (SOI) summary demonstrates a 90% or above proficiency in all but one SOI for all departments during the second semester of 2010-2011.
Process: There is a specified process for the creation of an annual budget. All staff provide input to department heads or designated staff who complete budget worksheets. Department heads review and revise their requests and give the worksheets to the principals and headmaster for approval. The headmaster, working closely with the business manager, prepares a final budget that is presented to the Board for approval. The final budget is also submitted to the government as part of the annual report to maintain our legal status.
Sixty-two percent of CAJ staff who completed the 2011 staff survey understands the process of resource allocation as listed in SOPHIE (2011 Staff Survey, 70). Nearly all (96%) of those same staff feel they have the necessary resources to do their jobs, but they don’t know why. Not all teachers and staff have a chance to see budget worksheets.
2. CAJ has well-established processes defined for developing an annual budget and for conducting an annual audit. We conduct business according to generally accepted accounting practices.
Budget: CAJ has a well-defined process for development and oversight of an annual budget. Staff input is combined by department heads and sent to division principals for consideration. The headmaster, working closely with the business manager, prepares a final budget, which complies with board policy and is presented to the Board for approval. The final budget is also submitted to the government as part of the annual report to maintain our legal status.
Audit: An audit is carried out every year by an outside accounting firm, in accordance with board policy. This firm not only looks at financial reports but also reviews accounting practices and makes helpful recommendations. Audit findings are made public to the CAJ community after acceptance of the audit by the CAJ boards.
Accounting Practices: The Business Procedures Policy shows the standard procedures of accounting practices, including protection against mishandling of funds. The requirement of signatures by an appropriate supervisor in order to be reimbursed for expenditures is an example of this policy.
Since April 2010 we have been using new accounting software recommended by our Japanese auditing firm to prepare for our legal status change from zaidan houjin (social welfare organization) to gakko houjin (school corporation). Due to this switch we have made extensive changes in account numbers, report formats, etc., which will ultimately result in improved accessibility to financial data by those responsible for budget control.
3. CAJ does an effective job of acquiring and maintaining instructional resources.
Both parents (2010 Parent Survey, 15) and staff (2011 Staff survey, 72) agree that CAJ’s materials are of high quality and are substantial.
We have a sufficient number of textbooks. Some students are able to receive two textbooks so they can keep one at home. Students with defined learning limitations are given higher priority for a second textbook. Teachers fill out a textbook request form when new textbooks are needed. We have a staff member whose sole job is to order, bar code, maintain, and distribute textbooks. The textbook rotation schedule outlines the plans for future purchases.
We work to acquire and maintain current and appropriate audio-visual and technology equipment. CAJ has a technology request system for teachers and staff to use. When teachers need new audio-visual or technology materials (such as power cords, cables, remotes, phones, or computer adapters), they can let the tech staff know through this system. Three staff members are available to assist staff and students when technological issues arise and are available through the technology request form and the phone numbers listed on the same form. This system is efficient and helpful. New large technology purchases occur in April. Needs are supplied first, then wants are looked at, and finally approved by the headmaster. Every staff member has been provided with a laptop or desktop computer. Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, every senior was given a laptop for use in class and to bring home. For other classes, laptops are available for checkout. During the summer of 2011, four new projector and speaker systems were added to classrooms, adding to the nine classrooms already equipped.
The elementary and middle schools are well equipped with math manipulatives. Teachers are generally satisfied with the materials they have (2011 Staff Survey, 72). If there is a need, supplies can be ordered from a variety of catalogs, such as School Specialty, within Japan or the United States. The middle school science classes are adequately supplied with resources. If supplies are needed, teachers may order materials from catalogs.
According to the head of the Science Department, physics is adequately equipped. However, chemistry is lacking lab materials and chemicals to keep up with modern scientific advances. CAJ has three science labs for both middle school and high school classes.
In our school library, a variety of materials are available for reading, viewing, and listening. Parents believe that CAJ’s library offers a good variety of resources (2010 Parent Survey, 16). The Library Collection Policy covers the procedure for selecting new material as well as weeding obsolete or material in disrepair. We have two separate libraries—one for elementary and another for middle school and high school. There are 19 computers available for students to use while in the library. The library has subscribed to external resources (including EBSCO) to augment the collection.
4. CAJ has adequate resources available to hire and nurture a well-qualified staff.
CAJ recruits staff who have a commitment to Christ and meet the board-defined qualifications. The headmaster (or a representative) makes recruiting trips, if needed. Expenses for these trips are budgeted annually.
CAJ first tries to recruit staff that are already affiliated with a Christian missionary group based in Japan. These potential staff members bring with them additional self-generated funding and access to member care. They tend to have a longer commitment to stay in Japan. Word of mouth is CAJ’s primary means of recruiting new staff. The employment website provides additional exposure to other people who are seeking an international teaching job.
Two web pages post internally and externally CAJ’s open positions. These web pages are tied directly to the HR database. MissionTeach, a division of ACSI’s website, the CSI website, and an RSS feed all advertise open positions. Many mission organizations have their own recruiters that can assist CAJ in their search for staff.
Potential staff members, while in the process of applying, read a document that explains CAJ's salary. CAJ's legal status requires (Board Policy 184.108.40.206) the school to provide pension and health care payments for staff working 75% or more of a full-time job, as required by board policy (Board Policy 2.9.6). Another benefit CAJ provides is ¥40,000 (or more) each year to support ongoing staff development, in accordance with (Board Policy 2.6.6). CAJ staff members believe that there are adequate resources to help them grow in their fields (2011 Staff Survey, 71).
Other benefits include: an early contract signing bonus, a longevity allowance, childcare allowance, and a one-time relocation allowance for those coming from overseas and for those moving within Japan. There may be additional stipends for supervising a co-curricular activity. CAJ provides social events, staff meals, airport pickup, staff-day travel (sightseeing, Tohoku trips), memberships in associations, interpreting, doctors assistance, local knowledge, etc.
5. Some direct hire staff have concerns about raising funds through a mission or JCAA.
According to CAJ's website, "CAJ's salary is enough for a single person [and not a family with one or more children] to live on, depending on lifestyle choices, but we do suggest that our employees solicit additional financial support from friends, family and churches. ... Staff not affiliated with a mission agency may choose to enter a fund-raising agreement with Japan Christian Academy Association (JCAA), the offices of which are located in Wheaton, Illinois, in order to channel any additional financial support raised."
Before signing a contract, direct hire staff are made aware of the CAJ's salary level and CAJ's suggestion to raise funds through a mission or JCAA.
Challenges direct hire staff may face in augmenting salaries by joining a mission or JCAA include:
- Joining a mission may not be feasible before arriving in Japan, and joining a mission while in Japan may involve short-term or long-term leave from CAJ.
- The amount of time between signing initial contract and arriving in Japan may not be sufficient for significant fundraising.
- JCAA is US-based organization, which poses challenges for non-US direct hire staff trying to raise funds.
- Doing fundraising from Japan is not as easy as doing fundraising in their home country.
1. CAJ does not have a completed Resource Master Plan, but has many of the components of a long-range plan in place.
The Board of Directors and Board of Councilors regularly monitor the finances to ensure that a master resource plan can be implemented on schedule. Each year both boards review and approve capital and operations budgets for the school year. Debt has been reduced and cash reserves have been built up (graph). At the end of each school year both boards approve the results of an independent external audit.
The Leadership Team is directly involved in building the budget based on input from staff, business manager, and headmaster.
Cycles for technology, maintenance, and textbooks are in place.
2. CAJ does not have a completed Resource Master Plan, but has the intention to use research and information to form it.
To write the plan, information and research will be gathered from:
- Staff, administration, board, parents, and students
- Outside expertise (possibly from non-CAJ educators and administrators, consultants, contractors, our current architect, and/or other qualified experts)
3. Primary stakeholders are involved in CAJ’s future planning, while secondary stakeholders are not given much input into CAJ’s future plans.
Stakeholders, as defined by the headmaster on September 23, 2011, are those affected by the programs of CAJ. Primary stakeholder should then include staff, parents, students, missions, Board of Directors, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. To a lesser degree, donors, alumni, former staff, PTA, Kurume Bible Fellowship (the church that meets on CAJ’s campus), other local churches, and the Japanese community are stakeholders.
All staff are involved in focus groups. In 2010, parents and students were also involved in focus group meetings. However, in 2011, only staff are involved in focus groups and professional learning community meetings and contribute to planning for school improvement.
Staff are in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), which are collaborative groups focused on specific, job-description-driven daily operations. Our academic departments are PLCs, as are groups such as the facilities team, Support Team, etc.
Parents, staff, and students have provided feedback via a survey in 2009. In 2010, students and parents were asked to participate in a survey. Staff participated in a survey in late 2011. Later this year parents will be invited to participate in another survey.
The board is responsible for long-term big picture vision (Board Policy 4.1).
4. There is strong evidence that the Board of Directors and Leadership Team are involved in informing the public and appropriate governmental authorities about the financial needs of the organization.
There is an accountability structure in which the Board holds the headmaster responsible for an annual fundraising plan. The Board has set guidelines for donations and fundraising. The headmaster works with the Leadership Team and the Development Team to implement the plan.
The Board recently updated their manual, strengthening the fundraising policy to include annual assessment of goals and accomplishments.
We notify the public of the needs of the school through electronic and printed media. A donations page on CAJ’s website, lists various fund accounts accepting donations. It contains academic scholarship funds, the general operating fund, accounts for direct-hire staff, and any current projects. Additionally, printed information pieces are mailed to CAJ’s stakeholders when there is a fund-raising project.
Founding, partnering, and associate mission organizations are made aware of financial needs through an annual Mission Representatives' Meeting. The headmaster prepares and delivers the annual report under direction of the Board (Board Policy 4.4.4).
Government generated requests for information and documentation is provided in a timely manner. The business manager stated that these reports on file and copies of the reports are found in the business office.
5. CAJ has three strategic areas related to marketing which support the implementation of the development program. These areas are: advertising, fundraising and community relations. At this point there does not exist an effective means or method of verifying the efficacy of these efforts. We have a sense that we are functioning adequately in these areas.
Advertising: CAJ advertises in a number of local publications, both print and web (EuroBiz, Japan Harvest, JEMA Directory, NLA Directory, Expatriot’s Guide to Japan, International School Services). We currently don’t have a tracking mechanism to determine effectiveness of these advertisements.
Fundraising: CAJ has completed project-targeted fundraising, and some of those projects have been huge (the gym, the academic buildings, etc). During the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years we promoted the “Lights! Action!" campaign to replace auditorium stage lighting and light the athletic field. Following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, gifts were donated for Love in Action Disaster Relief in response to emails and community bulletin notices, but without the use of a major, organized mailing to CAJ constituents.
Past practices for project-targeted fundraising included sending out brochures and response cards to our constituents (alumni, families of alumni, former staff, current families, missions organizations and friends)
As of spring 2011, CAJ has contracted with Steve Jensen ('74) as a consultant to the leadership team concerning a funding plan. The new focus of this effort is to expand our endowment fund and tuition assistance to meet the requirements for gakko houjin status.
We currently don’t have a tracking mechanism to determine effectiveness. The "Lights! Action!" campaign accomplished its monetary goal (Board Minutes, 10-11:15, “briefly reported”). The Love in Action Disaster Relief fund did not specify a goal, but has raised enough finances to support the projects that are currently planned plus possible future projects.
Community Relations: Annual surveys are conducted soliciting feedback from our current student families. Most families feel that “CAJ provides opportunities for me to provide feedback and listens to my concerns” (2010 Parent Survey, 7 and 11). Almost all parents feel satisfied with CAJ (2009 Parent Survey, overall).
Attempting to locate and analyze additional evidence indicates a need to generate data directly related to the effectiveness of our marketing. (Example: Consider using a marketing mail service, such as MailChimp, to track effectiveness.)