Nobel Learning Communities, Inc. (NLCI)
Interview with:
George H. Bernstein Jr., President and CEO
Business News, Financial News, Stocks, Money & Investment Ideas, CEO Interview
and Information on their
151 schools in 13 states consisting of private pre-elementary, elementary, middle, specialty high schools, and schools for learning challenged children clustered within regional learning communities.


Cover Story

CEOCFO Interview Index

CEOCFO Current Issue

Cover Story Archives

Future Features

Analyst Interviews

Corporate Financials

Archived Interviews


Contact & Ordering

This is a printer friendly page!

Nobel Learning Communities, Inc. (NLCI) is focused on children’s education, wellness and preparation for advanced education as well as preparation for life

wpe66.jpg (4335 bytes)


Nobel Learning Communities, Inc. (NLCI)

1615 West Chester Pike
West Chester, PA 19382
Phone: 484-947-2000

wpe6A.jpg (6741 bytes)

George H. Bernstein Jr.
President and CEO

Interview conducted by:
Walter Banks, Publisher
December 2004

George H. Bernstein, Jr. BIO

George H. Bernstein.
 Mr. Bernstein was named President and Chief Executive Officer in August 2003.  Between 1997 and 2002, Mr. Bernstein was employed in various positions within divisions of Cole National Corporation.  Between 2000 and 2002, Mr. Bernstein was President of Pearle Vision, Inc., an 840 unit operator and franchiser of optical retail stores.  During parts of 1999 and 2000, Mr. Bernstein was Executive Vice President – Strategic Planning and President of Vision Operations for Cole Vision.  Between 1997 and 1999, Mr. Bernstein was the Senior Vice President and General Manager at Things Remembered, an 800 store chain of personalized gift stores.   Mr. Bernstein started his business career as a consultant with Bain and Company, a leading strategy consulting firm.  Mr. Bernstein earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Bucknell University, and a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School.

Company Profile:
Nobel Learning Communities, Inc. is a leader in the for-profit education industry.   It operates 151 schools in 13 states consisting of private pre-elementary, elementary, middle, specialty high schools, and schools for learning challenged children clustered within regional learning communities.

CEOCFOinterviews: Mr. Bernstein, will you tell us how long you have been with the company, what attracted you to Nobel Learning Communities, Inc. and what changes have taken place since you have been there?

Mr. Bernstein: “I have been with the company since August of 2003. The company is in the private education business. We are a leading provider of infant through eighth grade private education through schools and learning communities. We support the educational, enrichment and wellness needs of students and their families. We have become an education resource for parents, in terms of their children’s wellness, preparation for advanced education, and preparation for life.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Do you have brick and mortar facilities?

Mr. Bernstein: “We run 151 private schools; it is a bricks and mortar business at this point. We educate children in learning communities where we try to cluster three to four preschools around an elementary school, so we can provide a continuum of education and curriculum for parents as their children grow and need different educational products.”

CEOCFOinterviews: What is your revenue model?

Mr. Bernstein: “The vast majority of our revenue is private tuition.”

CEOCFOinterviews: When you look at your revenues, how is that balancing with the cost of running the schools and covering the costs of your facilities?

Mr. Bernstein: “We predominately lease our facilities. One of the major focuses of this company is to provide an alternative to the public school system for middle and upper-middle America. We believe that we offer exceptional value in terms of priced educational outcomes. Our standardized testing and our educational outcomes are significantly better than the public school system. We offer this program at a cost that is somewhere between the elite prep schools and the free public schools. We think we offer a significantly better and broader product that not only includes the typical educational products of reading, writing, arithmetic, and science, but also wellness programs, physical education, and arts programs, as well as social activities and sports programs. We also support a broader variety of family needs. Our customers have a need for their children to become educated and enriched during the school day; for working families we also fill this role in the morning prior to school starting and after school. We try to become one-stop shopping for our customers.  We can educate their children during the day and enrich their children before and after school through arts programs, cultural programs, sports programs or academic enrichment programs, so that parents have a safe and nurturing school that cares for their children during the day when they are at work.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Would you benefit from the president’s school voucher program?

Mr. Bernstein: “Yes, we would benefit from school vouchers.  However, we are not currently in many areas where there are voucher programs. One of the benefits that we have gotten through the current administration is under the ‘No Child Left Behind” program. It has opened the door to viewing the accountability of the public school system. Our belief is that the more education companies and public school systems are held accountable, the better it is for our business because we have tremendous educational outcomes through our curriculum and teaching methodologies.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Being a for-profit educational system, before you go into a new community, what efforts do you take to make sure the community has the financial background to accommodate a learning center like what you offer?

Mr. Bernstein: “We look for communities where the average household income has enough disposable income to invest in their children’s education. There are communities that are appropriate for our product, and communities where our product may be appropriate for the population, but economically, the product may not make sense based on other factors that those families are facing whether they are just meeting their day-to-day living needs or whether they have different alternatives to support their educational needs.

We look for the appropriate demographics and growing population. We need a certain density of school age children, but we also look at the value the community places on education generally, as well as on higher education. We look for a high density of adults in technical and professional occupations. We also look at the public school system to understand how well the public school system is meeting the needs of our potential customers. In high-growth areas where school systems may be over crowded or under performing, we see an opportunity to meet a need the population has that the public school system may not be able to meet.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Who does this research?

Mr. Bernstein: “We do this research both internally as well as through the use of an outside firm. We also track inquiries we receive through our website to see where there seems to be demand.”

CEOCFOinterviews: I imagine when you show up in a community it is a good sign for other companies!

Mr. Bernstein: “The word community is very important to us because our product, we believe, is to provide learning communities to a market. By learning communities, we are talking about our clusters of preschools, elementary schools and middle schools that allow children to continue within one curriculum from the time they are very young, to the time they get out of elementary or middle school. These communities allow students to continue in one educational system with a consistent teaching methodology and a sense of security from a long-term relationship with their teachers.

Parents, are comfortable with our methodologies and our teachers. They are comfortable that when their child moves from preschool to one of our elementary schools, that child has already spent a number of days in our elementary school while they were attending the preschool.  In this way, we get them ready for the next step in their educational journey. When they go from one of our elementary schools to one of our middle schools, they have spent time in our middle school, with our middle school faculty and curriculum beforehand so they are comfortable as they go from their elementary school experience to their middle school experience. Companies love being in an area that has an affordable alternative to the public school system because it creates a stable employment base.”

Our schools are part of the community. We offer year-round programs and camps that are open to our student population as well as open to other members of the community who may not utilize our school services during the school year. We hold community meetings and try to become part of the community by supporting the local businesses. We make sure that the community remains stable by giving the population an alternative to the public school system.  Great schools help stabilize and grow a community.”

CEOCFOinterviews: How do you attract good teachers and are your salaries competitive?

Mr. Bernstein: “One of the attractions to our schools is that as a private school, we are free from many of the administrative requirements of a public school system and that gives teachers additional freedom to be creative in their teaching methodologies. We do not teach to standardized tests, which under the “No Child Left Behind” program, many of the public school systems are doing. They are teaching to standardized tests so they can pass the average yearly progress requirements to keep their funding. We teach to prepare students for their high school and post secondary education as well as to prepare them for being good citizens. We also have a more well rounded curriculum than some of our competitors and many public schools, where we are able to teach to a well-rounded child as opposed to just the specific reading, writing, arithmetic and science.

Our wage levels typically are at the lower end of what a teacher can earn in a public school system, but we have additional benefits, which bring us to parity. For instance, we have a tuition benefit for our schools; to the extent that a teacher has school age children, this is a very valuable benefit. It is not just an economic benefit for teachers; it is a benefit for our product in that we attract very strong teachers who want their children in this type of an education system with our curriculum philosophy and teaching methodologies.”

CEOCFOinterviews: What attracted you to the company?

Mr. Bernstein: “I was attracted to this opportunity because it combines two of the things I am very interested in. One is multi-unit retail. It is what I did for fifteen years prior to coming to NLCI. We offer a service that impacts the most important things in people’s lives, their children. It is very similar to my previous experience at Pearle Vision, where we sold a product that impacted the second most important thing in a person’s life, his or her health. I grew up in an education family and I still guest lecture every year at my Alma Mater. I am very interested in education, I love to teach, I love the multi-unit retail business and this is a combination of both of them.

Another element that attracted me to this opportunity is it was very clear that we had a differentiateable product. We straddled two different industries. We straddled a preschool business and the elementary and middle school business. In a big picture view, many people view the preschool industry as childcare and the K-8 industry as the education industry. We have competitors in the childcare business and competitors in the education business, but very few, if any, straddle both businesses.

I knew that we could differentiate this business from the childcare business because we are curriculum based, we assess and test many of our students at the end of their preschool career, and we know that our curriculum provides us with excellent results.   Our kindergarteners have skills and a knowledge base that puts them somewhere between first and second grade. We also knew that we could differentiate ourselves from our education competitors because we believe that the value of our educational outcome vs. the price, is better than most of our school competitors.  In addition, we have the preschool component that begins at infants, which most of our education competitors do not have. The ability to differentiate in the private education business that is growing double-digits a year was one of the things we used to attract our management team.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Tell us about your management team.

Mr. Bernstein: “Our entire team is new. We brought on most of our executive committee members within the last twelve months. They all have one thing in common; they all come from a multi-unit industry background. Our chief financial officer came out of the retail industry. Our chief operating officer has a wonderful background; she came out of retail and the education industry. She was with Sylvan Learning Centers, which is both a multi-unit retail and an education business. The vice president of human resources came out of retail banking and a multi-unit medical insurance business. Our vice president of education came out of a public school system with multiple schools. Our management team understandings how to implement a financial model and how to replicate and manage our services across many sites.

Of our eight publicly reportable corporate executives, five are women. It is very important to us that we match our management and our employee base with our customer base so that we understand how our customers think and we can provide appropriate service. The gatekeeper for our product tends to be mom. While it is a joint decision for both parents most of the time, the person who really does the homework and research on education tends to be mom. Our company is 95% women in part because women gravitate toward teaching and so we have tried to structure our management team to be consistent with our customer base.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Who developed this concept for what you would need in your management team?

Mr. Bernstein: “It was one of the things that we decided as we were putting the management team together; we knew we needed a wide variety of thought and style. We wanted to make sure that we had a team with styles that would work well together and challenge each other, but who also could think like our customer base.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Is future growth going to come through your existing schools or from expansion?

Mr. Bernstein: “Our future growth will be a combination of increasing enrollment at existing schools and growing our school base. As we grow our school base, the first thing we are going to do is add schools within our existing clusters. We have a strategy of opening preschools and elementary schools in clusters so that the preschools can feed students into the elementary schools, and ultimately as the elementary schools mature, they feed students into the middle schools. Filling those clusters to make sure we have the appropriate feeder schools is foremost on our agenda as we begin to open new schools. We believe we have the opportunity to grow considerably with our existing products before we need to turn to new complimentary products to supplement our preschools, elementary, and middle schools.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Are you doing much advertising and how do you get the word out?

Mr. Bernstein: “Our business is actually marketed at the local level. Our best advertising is word-of-mouth from our current customers, but the majority of our marketing is done at the local school level. Our customer does not buy our product because there is a larger company behind the local school, but because they believe in the local principal, the curriculum, the warmth and feeling of the school and learning community in their specific market.”

CEOCFOinterviews: Are there any other states where you would like to be active?

Mr. Bernstein: “There are many of them. We are currently in 13 states. As we grow and move from market-to-market, we look at where the population is growing and what kind of job growth we see in those areas. We do much better where we have professional and technical job growth. We also look at the legislative agenda. One of the things we are interested in is how will the state deal with issues such as universal Pre-K, which is where the states will determine whether or not they will be in the business of providing preschool. If so, will they provide preschool opportunities in partnership with private companies or will they do that through the public schools system? States that provide preschool opportunities in partnership with private companies, are an opportunity for NLCI.”

CEOCFOinterviews: In closing, will you address the investment community and tell us if you are profitable, what is your current financial position and why investors should be confident in your company?

Mr. Bernstein: “After our team was brought onboard, the first three things that we focused on were strengthening our capital structure, bringing in a new banking relationship and building a strong management team. It took the first eight months of my tenure to bring in capital, strengthen our capital structure, and bring in a banking relationship. Our capital structure is stable and strong. We have an excellent banking relationship and we have significantly more financial flexibility now than we had fifteen months ago when I joined the company. This was a turnaround and we are very satisfied with the progress that we are making in moving the company towards being a very good performer in our industry. I think we have many opportunities for investors.

Although we do not give forward guidance, we feel optimistic about our future and we have an excellent product. We have dramatically changed our board of directors in the last twelve months. We have nine directors, four of whom have joined the board in the last twelve months. We have brought on new expertise on our board in both education business and education law. We have brought new financial expertise on the board and we have brought new expertise in human resources and organizational development.

We talked earlier about our teachers and whether it was difficult to attract good teachers; one of the things I would like to say is that the vast majority of our employees are here because they are passionate about what they do. They are passionate about preparing children for their future. We felt we needed to make certain our board understood this and could help us nurture that passion in our employees.

Investors who want to understand our current financial position and recent trends are welcome to review our recent 10-K and 10-Q filings.”


Any reproduction or further distribution of this article without the express written consent of is prohibited.


To view Releases highlight & left click on the company name! does not purchase or make
recommendation on stocks based on the interviews published.