Let’s say you’re an overworked, resource-strapped nonprofit leader, struggling to keep your organization afloat and your financial house in order. Why wouldn’t you want Howard Zuckerman on your team?
Ed Rutkowski asked himself the same question and came to the obvious conclusion. As executive director of Patterson Park Public Charter School (PPPCS), a pre-K-8th grade charter school that is part of the Baltimore Public School System, Ed has found in Howard an asset beyond what he believed was possible.
There are many great ReServist stories, numerous instances of placements that perfectly align talent with need. Sometimes it goes further than that, and ReServists play major roles in capacity building that amounts to transformational change. Such was the case with PPPCS and Howard Zuckerman.
Over the course of a long and successful career as a senior finance executive, Howard accomplished most of the professional goals he set out for himself. The culmination of Zuckerman’s career was a 16-year stint in financial leadership positions with Bell Atlantic, now Verizon. The work included 3 years in Mexico City as executive vice president and CFO of a Mexican wireless carrier that is part of Bell Atlantic.
“That cultural experience was really something,” Howard said. “I wish I had done it sooner.”
Howard retired in 2003, and in 2012 moved from Montgomery County, Maryland to Baltimore to be closer to two of his sons, both of whom work in public schools. He has another son living near Philadelphia, and 6 grandchildren.
By the time he moved to Montgomery County Howard had already had an active post-retirement career, to say the least. He served on a number of nonprofit boards, including a 5-year stint as a member of Board of Trustees/ Chairman of Audit Committee of Pan American Development Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that operates programs throughout Latin America. He also served with the Montgomery County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Perfection Painting, a residential painting company that Zuckerman founded in 2003, had 40 customers in 2008, its peak year. The company’s sole employee was Howard Zuckerman. Working 80 hours per week, in between his nonprofit board responsibilities, Howard did all of the scraping, priming and painting, and taught himself how to do plumbing and electrical work.
Zuckerman wasn’t necessarily looking to work in a nonprofit when he read about ReServe in a local newspaper. He called the ReServe Maryland office, completed the paperwork, and saw a listing for the PPPCS financial advisor position. He was intrigued.
PPPCS is one of 33 charter schools funded by Baltimore City Public Schools. It is a tuition-free public school that is open to all Baltimore City students by application, and currently serves 673 students pre-K through 8th grade.
Zuckerman and Rutkowski met for the first time a week before Thanksgiving 2012. They hit it off, and after a second meeting agreed it was a good fit.
The school had previously hired a ReServist, a senior investment executive. The arrangement was successful, resulting in a new investment strategy for PPPCS, and help in selecting a new investment manager. After the arrangement ended, Rutkowski turned to ReServe Maryland again for more help.
At the time of the posting PPPCS was in a period of transition. A business manager had recently resigned, and the school was struggling to find personnel who could manage its bookkeeping and accounting requirements. The school’s financial infrastructure needed an overhaul.
In Zuckerman, Rutkowski found someone who was a very quick study.
“We were amazingly lucky,” said Rutkowski. “Howard was the perfect person for us at exactly the right time.”
Zuckerman proved to be even more valuable than Rutkowski had imagined, bringing to bear his academic expertise – a B.S. in economics from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Chicago – and focus that he learned as a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army between 1968 and 1970.
Howard was instrumental in hiring and training an internal employee to serve as staff accountant/bookkeeper, He found and vetted a qualified part-time controller. He worked with the school’s auditor to prepare financial statements and helped Ed in selecting members of the Board of Director’s Finance and Investment Committee.
He implemented reporting and compliance processes for various bond covenants; identified cost-saving opportunities in the school’s banking and investment relationships; negotiated terms of an investment advisory agreement, and streamlined the process for issuing quarterly and annual cash projection reports.
Howard acts as liaison to the Board President and Executive Director, and is deeply involved in the day to day transactional and financial operations of the PPPCS.
“We had a long list of things we needed to accomplish to be a top notch organization,” Rutkowski said. “Howard works with us to keep at them.”
It was only logical, after all that, that Rutkowski would invite Howard to serve as the school’s CFO. It was a mutual arrangement that brings with it a higher level of responsibility, but one that Zuckerman embraces as a full member of the staff.
Zuckerman currently works about 10-15 hours per week at PPPCS for a stipend of $10 per hour. A former employee of consulting giant Arthur Andersen, he knows he could command a figure in the $500/hour range on the open market.
Like many ReServe stories, this one has positive outcomes that extend beyond business and financial impacts. The two men have a good relationship built on mutual respect and trust. Howard appreciates Ed as someone who “knows what he doesn’t know,” and has the wisdom to reach out for help in the interest of serving the school’s students.
For his part, Ed trusts Howard’s judgment implicitly and knows that he will go the extra mile for PPPCS.
Howards sees ReServe Maryland as providing a formal process to help people like himself identify opportunities for serving a public need. It’s provided a perfect complement to what has turned out to be a post-retirement career as successful as the career that preceded it.
“My motivation is to work with nonprofits, meet people in new walks of life and continue to learn,” he said.