How an Educational Institution Improved Its Finance and Accounting

Gateway School is an educational institution in Santa Cruz, CA. It offers classes for students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. The primary goal of the school is to encourage children to focus on living a life of purpose and staying compassionate throughout all areas of life. Whether students are on-campus or learning remotely, Gateway School aims to provide strong educational values. With their main focus on education, the insitution realized they needed a solution to streamline finance and accounting functions to remain focused on education.

Business Challenge – Need Improved Finance and Accounting

Recently, Gateway School hired Shawn Padilla as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Padilla quickly recognized that the school needed to improve its finance and accounting duties. This included its entire system and processing features. Handling simple functions, such as managing payroll, was taking too much time. This created several inefficiencies.

For the last 25 years, Gateway School had only one bookkeeper handling daily financial and HR duties. All of the intellectual property had connected to one person’s past experiences. This created significant risk to conituity. For example, they wouldn’t have a replacement if that one person became sick or left the organization.

Their main need was creating a more efficient and reliable accounting system. So, Padilla began searching for a new partner. With the help of current technology, they were searching for a solution to help the school modernize its entire accounting system.

Finding a Technology Solution

Gateway School partnered with Armanino LLP. This partnership helped to enhance accounting systems and processes with modernized design. Armanino is one of the most extensive independent consulting and accounting firms in the United States. The consulitng company works with many schools, such as Gateway. Outsourcing with Armanino gave Gateway much more scalability for staffing. It also provided professional expertise for handling all types of accounting challenges.

With experience in working with other school districts, the team at Armanino played an essential role in building credibility. Additionally, it helped in bringing others along to accomodate these accounting changes. This was true even if they were initially hesitent with the modifications.

Gateway School began the outsourcing process with Armanino by implementing Sage Intacct. This company offers management for finances and account solutions based on the cloud. They also provide ongoing accounting services every month. Once Sage Intacct was implemented, Armanino conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the accounting processes and procedures within the school. This included finding any areas in need of change as well as using software to fill any deficiencies to place the school for future success.

By creating a balance between being professional and friendly, Gateway determined that working with Armanino was an excellent cultural fit. According to Padilla, working with Armanino feels like another aspect of the Gateway team. So, this was a win-win situation for everyone.

Final Outcome

Even with the uncertainty from the pandemic, the partnership between Armanino and Gateway dramatically improved their finance and accounting operations. Padilla credits the professional expertise of the Armanino team with helping to sustain momentum and obtain his original goals. For example, payroll is now completed within one day, rather than taking over a week. Even better, the payroll isn’t solely dependent on the experience and availability of one individual.

Another significant advantage is the timely and more reliable monthly monetary reporting system. Previously, they had no access to up-to-date financials. This would lead to bad decisions and even create the potential for committing fraud. Now, Gateway School can access its finance reports within the last couple of weeks at the end of the month, which reduces the room for error and potential for fraud.

The partnership with Armanino provides Padilla peace of mind, while also providing a solid support system for handling an unpredictable future. Gateway School is a small institution, but Armanino provides the necessary resources and the readily available expertise of numerous professionals. Due to this partnership, Gateway School can do things now that used to be impossible. Padilla and other administrators can relax now. If anything happens to a system or person, it won’t result in a catastrophic scenario.

Outsourcing these accounting processes and services allow Padilla and his team members to focus on more critical tasks, such as helping the school make better decisions during the pandemic.

Because of the lingering uncertainty of the pandemic, Padilla believes they couldn’t have started working with Armanino at any better time. It allowed the school to pivot swiftly in an ever-changing environment.

Future Steps

Armanino offers Gateway direction and assistance on other issues, such as staffing and safety procedures, helping families with adjustable tuition payments, and making decisions on remote learning. Without Armanino, Gateway would face even more challenges in trying to navigate an uncertain future. Gaining additional perspective from these professionals is extremely helpful for employees at Gateway.

Aside from overcoming the challenges of the pandemic, Gateway plans to continue to partner with Armanino for other activities. For instance, they’re partnering on areas such as increasing its revenue, creating capital operations, and building financial resources for the future. The initial return on investment with Armanino has become incalculable. It has allowed Gateway to advance in other areas that weren’t previously possible.

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