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New Chief Operating Officer Hits the Ground Running

7/15/2010

Providing the most meaningful educational experience its students will have in their lives. Brooks’ mission statement will be at the heart of every decision new Chief Operating Officer Brett Fuhrman makes during his tenure at the school, which commenced at the onset of the fiscal year.

 

“He's an outstanding hire at a time when careful and rigorous fiscal oversight is incredibly important,” Head of School John Packard said. “I'm excited to work with him on the near- and long-term financial and operational health of the school.”

 

Fuhrman and his family — his wife Karen and their children, 3-year-old Hannah and 2-month-old Will — arrived on campus last week to slowly move into the Williams House. Karen is no stranger to North Andover or the Brooks campus: her mother, Susan Murley, is the school’s current registrar and her brother, Matt Murley, graduated from Brooks in 1993.

 

Fuhrman, a Fargo, N.D., native himself, is replacing former Business Manager Jim Pugh, who left campus last September. Holding down the fort in the interim was Teresa Kalinowsky of Account Management Solutions, Inc.

 

“We fielded more than 150 inquiries for the position, entertained conversations with 20 to 25 people, and a number of us here interviewed seven candidates – two of them twice,” Packard said. “This has been a long road to a terrific end.”

 

Fuhrman previously served as the chief financial officer of the Denver Public Schools in Colorado for 18 months, after a six-year stint as the school system’s director of budgetary services.

 

“His financial credentials and experience in both the public and private sectors and in for-profit and not-for-profit organizations positions him well to bring a host of new approaches to Brooks as we face our own financial challenges,” Packard said. “We will benefit tremendously from Brett’s energy, expertise and range of experience.”

 

While much of the job will remain the same for Fuhrman, the numbers will be dramatically smaller at Brooks than in the Denver Public Schools. There are 351 students at Brooks versus 78,000 students in the 150 schools within the DPS system; the operating budget at Brooks is $18 million versus $800 million at DPS.

 

“In the Denver Public Schools, I learned that there’s a delicate balance between running the system as a business and supporting the needs of academia,” Fuhrman said. “That’s very different than working in the corporate sector where businesses are primarily concerned about the bottom line. Every decision I make, I always ask myself, ‘Is this best for the students?’”

 

And while leaving Denver was a tough decision, Fuhrman hopes through the newly created role of COO he can add value to the school’s educational mission. Fuhrman hopes to create an inclusive environment in which staff, faculty, parents and trustees are all contributing ideas on how best to fulfill the school’s mission. His aim is to identify the best financial and operational practices that will enable the school to meet its identified goals five, 10, 15 years from now.

 

“The subprime crisis in 2008 forced a lot of business to make decisions in a reactive nature and, in most cases, these decisions were made for them without much choice,” Fuhrman noted of the current economic climate. “I want Brooks to be positioned to make pro-active choices moving forward. Some examples of how I see us doing this is researching debt restructuring opportunities or asking ourselves, 'How can we be more efficient and economical while keeping services in place?' I’m hoping to instill a new level of trust and accountability at Brooks.”

 

While Fuhrman has lived all around the country, as well as experienced brief stints in Ecuador and the Netherlands, this is his first time residing in New England.

 

Raised in Fargo, N.D., Fuhrman graduated from Des Moines’ Drake University in 1998 with a B.S. in Business Administration with a major in accounting. Shortly after his graduation, Fuhrman worked for four years as a senior analyst in corporate restructuring and senior auditor for Arthur Andersen in Atlanta, Ga.

 

Nearly all Fuhrman’s relatives are certified public accountants, except one brother who’s an actuary. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when Fuhrman followed suit and became a CPA in the state of Colorado, as well as a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Colorado Society of CPA’s.

 

And while he’s stayed in the family business, Fuhrman’s never actually worked with a family member before. He looks forward to developing a professional relationship with his mother-in-law, as well as personal relationships with co-workers who also reside on campus.

 

“To see your office from your home: what an opportunity to have deep relationships and be a part of a community,” Fuhrman said of his new on-campus residence.