Wednesday February 13, 2013

WESTMINSTER -- Kurn Hattin Homes for Children will now be guided by co-executive directors as part of a team leadership model unique in the world of non-profit organizations.

Connie Sanderson and Thomas Fahner officially began sharing certain responsibilities on Monday, Jan. 11, and will split Kurn Hattin's administrative duties. Sanderson will be in charge of business operations and institutional advancement while Fahner oversees residential and academic life.

Kurn Hattin has since 1894 provided a safe home and education for boys and girls, ages 6-15, whose families are experiencing a time of personal or financial need. It is entirely funded by charitable contributions.

Sanderson, who also serves as director of development and public relations, is in her 25th year at Kurn Hattin, and Fahner has been there for 22. Both are excited about the new model and the responsibilities they will share.

"Tom and I say, ‘Isn't it wonderful to be able to concentrate on the areas we have the most expertise in and have the time to make really good decisions?'" Sanderson told the Reformer. "We're both very involved in decisions on both sides of the fence."

Fahner said the transition went very smoothly, and he is happy with the joint collaboration.

"It plays to the strengths of both of us," he said, adding that it will allow him and Sanderson to better meet the needs of families of the 21st century.

He said children today, more often than in the past, come from families whose welfare, fuel assistance or important school programs have been cut or trimmed down. He said there also are more cases of attention deficit disorder and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder nowadays, and the new leadership model will make sure those in charge take care of "the children and families that have been entrusted to our care" and "can provide it in a charitable way."

Fahner joined Kurn Hattin as school principal in 1989 and became director of residential and educational services in 1993.

Sanderson, who called the new leadership model cutting-edge, said she has already noticed a difference and thinks staff members are pleased to have two experienced people at the top with a long track record at Kurn Hattin. She had been the interim executive director until Jan. 11. She came to the organization as a development officer in 1988 and has held the position of director of development and public relations since 1990.

She also learned there is a bit of a movement in the corporate sector to have co-executive directors, but the idea is still unique to Kurn Hattin as far as non-profit organizations go.

Charles Kelsey, president of the Kurn Hattin Homes Board of Trustees, announced the new organizational structure in a letter to all staff.

"It aligns our resources to focus fully on each service entity," he said in a statement, "as well as ensures that the core business of Kurn Hattin is protected and thrives in the coming years."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.