Cardinal Eminence

As we celebrate 50 years of women at Govs, Jana Choe looks at three women who keep The Academy running.

Jana Choe, Editor

Ms. Batastini, Ms. Dickey, and Ms. Fanikos (Communications Photos)

The 2021-2022 school year marks the 50th anniversary of the Academy’s permanent transition to co-education. In 1971, the board of trustees finally decided to admit girls to The Governor’s Academy, then Governor Dummer Academy, with the eligibility for a full-fledged diploma. To commemorate the historic change that the school adopted 50 years ago, The Governor interviewed three women who hold important positions in managing the Academy, but are not as well known to the student body: Ms. Cynthia Fanikos, the Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Lindsay Batastini, the Director of Marketing and Communication, and Ms. Leslie Dickey, the Director of Advancement. 

What is the role of your department?

Ms. Fanikos, the new Chief Financial Officer, describes her role to be “shepherding the school’s financial resources.” The department is in charge of handling the financial aspect of the school, such as student billing and invoices. But it’s not just about the money, she says. “It’s also about our resources, our people.” Ms. Fanikos, as the academy’s CFO, takes care of faculty and staff when it comes to their pay, as well as their benefits such as health insurance and retirement. “Our biggest resources that we spend on are going to be our people — our faculty, staff, and their benefits,” remarks the Academy’s CFO. 

“The second biggest area,” Ms. Fanikos continues, “is this huge campus.” Allocating the budget for the maintenance of facilities and operations of these facilities every year also falls under her responsibility. “It takes a lot of organizing.” Given the stewardship of the school’s financial resources, she continuously tries to find the “balance of allocating [the Academy’s] resources to meet its mission.” 

“We have a wide variety of responsibilities, across all aspects of the academy,” remarks Ms. Batastini, the director of Marketing and Communication. “But the number one responsibility is being the stewards of The Governor brand.” She emphasizes the importance of authenticity and also consistency in telling the story. “We’re using that same color red [cardinal], we’re using the same fonts, we’re using the same brand voice.” 

In her office, Ms. Batastini also continuously explores the way to talk about the Academy to different audiences. Among the long lists of things her team handles, are The Lieutenant Governor (the alumni newsletter), The Archon (the community magazine), the school’s website and the associated news stories, and the social media. They also manage the letters and emails sent out from the school — “think about the admission viewbooks, or the campaign case statements, or the commencement invitations,” Ms. Batastini comments. “It’s a wide, wide variety of things.” 

Ms. Dickey, the director of the Advancement Office, summarizes the responsibilities of the Advancement Office as three things. “One,” she lists, “we are responsible for what we call the engagement of alumni and parents.” By offering different kinds of events and programs, the Advancement Office strives to secure the connection of the alumni and the parents with the school. Second, the office handles much of the communication that is related to the interaction with alumni and parents. In working in a close partnership with the Office of Communications, Ms. Dickey and her department manage the relations between the alumni and the school. Third, her department is also responsible for all of the fundraising efforts. This includes both capital campaigns, as well as the annual fund, which is a “more annual sort of effort” to raise money, which helps facilitate the daily operations of the school. 

“Really, though,” she adds, “the most important reason for the Advancement Program to exist, is that the future of the school really depends on the engagement and support of alumni. Fast forward, you know, 50 to 100 years, and Governor’s is still here, right? And still going strong. That will be because alumni and parents support the school in ways that extend beyond tuition. So without that support, and that investment in our future, we truly couldn’t be the school that we dream about being that we are and that we continue to dream about being.”

How do the things that your department does impact the student body?

All three departments, while perhaps not directly interacting with the student body all the time, are often involved in making decisions that would affect the entire school community. 

“We work very, very closely with the Office of Admission,” says Ms. Batastini, “in terms of looking at those kinds of print materials and digital communications about prospective families.” She believes that, by providing an authentic representation of the school to the next group of students who will be coming in, the Office of Communication takes an important role in shaping the school community. 

 “And then,” she continues, “there are even simple things like making sure that your parents know what’s going on.” The Governor’s Call, for instance, the school’s weekly parent newspaper, is largely managed by Ms. Lynch, a member of Ms. Batastini’s team.

Her team also works closely with the Advancement Office on some fundraising opportunities that would enhance the student experience here at Govs. Some efforts are more tangible than others, such as the renovation of the student center or the construction of the coastal research center by the Parker River. “What’s less obvious,” comments Ms. Dickey, “is that we also raise money for the endowment.” The endowment can be considered as the academy’s savings account. The school invests in the endowment, which, from a long-term perspective, grows and yields income. “It’s a permanent and really important source of financial operations at the school,” says Ms. Dickey. “So these fundraising elements contribute, in addition to tuition, to basically run the school financially. Without The Governor’s Fund [the school’s annual fund], we wouldn’t be able to do all of the things that we do every single year.”

As the Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Fanikos is in control of allocating the school’s budget, which means that she communicates with other faculties and staff about everything that falls into the school’s budget. That includes the weekend events planning to curriculum development or the construction of new buildings. “My goal,” she adds, “is to try and figure out how to build [great ideas] into the budget so that they continue. To understand what’s needed, and then figure out means of funding that need for the students.”

What do you like the most about your position?

“There’s loving my job, but there’s also loving philanthropy,” comments Ms. Dickey. “And I really love philanthropy. I love the idea, that people give money to the things that they care about.” She finds value in discovering what people care about and matching that with what the Academy needs, which she calls the “beautiful marriage” between the donor and the school. “If the gift is meaningful for the donor,” Ms. Dickey reasons, “chances are, it’s going to be their best gift. You’re going to be able to earn their best gift.”

“Well, I do love numbers, they won’t lie, it always comes back. So I love that, you know, sometimes it’s fun just to build a budget,” Ms. Fanikos reflects. “But I really do love being able to work with people who have other talents.” Given her position, she says, there’s many opportunities to meet and work with brilliant people that she otherwise would never have gotten the chance to work with. “They all have amazing skills different from my own, right? So then I’m learning from them.” She also appreciates the atmosphere of the school. “I love the people, students — I have found them so amazingly friendly and helpful. And then the people I work with, I think, have that same really warm, helpful, loving attitude — just like why we’re here is all for the same reason, to build this community. We collaborate, we work together because we have one common goal.”

For Ms. Batastini, it is her team. “Honestly, I like the people I work with the most. I feel like that’s such a cliche thing to say, but I really like the team I work with.” She also indicates her gratitude to the members of the community and the environment of the Academy. Especially in regards to the faculties and staff, she finds herself “always inspired by how committed they are to the students, and how dedicated they are to their job and making the Govs experience something that’s just really, really impactful.” 

“I like that people here are really brought into being part of this community,” Ms. Batastini adds. “Oh, and of course, the seven-layer bars. That, too.”