Dear Burke's Community,
Greetings from the blue top! On behalf of my fellow trustees, I am glad to have the opportunity to highlight a few of our goals for the year and celebrate some of the incredible work going on here at Burke’s.
For our newer Burke’s community members, the Board of Trustees is the governing body of our school. Parents, alumnae, educators, and other community members serve as trustees. The Board of Trustees is charged with setting Burke’s strategic priorities, forming and supporting school policies and with long- and short-term oversight of the school’s fiscal and physical health. The Board does all this in close coordination with the excellent senior administration team. In contrast, the Head of School oversees all day-to-day operations and programs of the school. We are proud to have a strong partnership with the Head of School and it is a true pleasure (and at times daunting responsibility) to be one link in a 100+ year long train of stewardship and care for this exceptional San Francisco institution.
While much of the Board’s activity revolves around financial, fiduciary or governance-related work, there are a few key goals for this year that I would like to highlight:
- Improving safety and security on campus
While most of us were enjoying a break from campus life over the summer, the dedicated members of the Campus Security Committee (CSC), administrative and facilities teams were hard at work responding to a challenging situation in our neighborhood. Michele gave up her summer vacation to partner with trustees, parents, law enforcement and security experts to develop and implement additional security protocols for the school. The CSC retained outside experts to conduct a comprehensive safety and security review of the campus, and based on their advice, implemented appropriate additional security layers. These additions include visible changes to procedures (like visitor badging and pick-up & drop-off relocation), new personnel and other changes not visible by design. The safety and security of our students and staff is job #1 and as such is never "done", but I am grateful for all the hard work to get us where we are today. Please be in touch with any member of the CSC or the Burke's administrative team if you have any questions about this important subject.
- Fostering and advancing the principles of equity and diversity; defining and developing a roadmap for a more diverse and inclusive school
Burke's is at a pivotal point in our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work. The Director of Inclusivity and Community Building has become a full-time member of senior administration, and the administration recently made a significant policy change in the Family Handbook focused on educating our students to understand why harmful and hateful language does not align with Burke's core values. In addition, the school's Equity and Inclusion Committee is creating a dashboard to track data on inclusion and will be working over the coming months on how to measure the data in a way that will have the most impact on our work. This dovetails with a preexisting parallel effort by the administration to weave DEI principals into all aspects of their work, including hiring, admissions and decision-making. Burke's is absolutely committed to this work and seeks to ensure all our students and staff feel safe, welcome and valued, a goal which has become more challenging given changes in our larger culture.
- Developing Burke's next Strategic Plan
The 22-member Strategic Planning Committee includes parents, faculty, staff, and alumnae, and has reached out to the wider community through last year's parent survey, Parent Think Tank Sessions and individual interviews. The final strategic plan is intended to be an actionable tool to promote improvements that harmonize with community values, Board of Trustees goals, and the Head of School's vision of what Burke's can and ought to be. Our previous strategic plan had a transformative impact on every part of our school and this one will be no different. The next step in this exciting process will be Burke's Vision Day on Saturday, February 1. We sincerely hope you will bring your voice into the conversation around our key inquiry areas. We need RSVPS by January 26 to organize the working groups - I hope you will join the Board in this important work and look forward to seeing you there.
I want to close this letter with a celebration of the many accomplishments of the past year. The successful completion of Many Voices. Many Hands. All Burkes.: The Campaign for Girls resulted in reimagined classrooms, a state-of-the-art Campus Center, increased endowment and new funding for classroom innovation and inclusion programming. We could not be more grateful to the entire community for their generosity and support of this campaign. Indeed, we are already seeing the benefits of an endowment increase of $8 million in expanded financial assistance, professional development and programmatic funding. Perhaps most importantly, we dramatically increased teacher pay as part of our continuing commitment to attract and retain the best faculty and be the school of choice for teachers in the Bay Area. Last, but far from least, we extended the Head's contract for another four years. Through all of these efforts, I believe we are poised to make some great leaps forward in our goal to be the best girl's primary school there is, bar none, and I look forward to updating you throughout that journey.
Adrian E. Dollard
President, Burke's Board of Trustees