Our School


One hundred years ago, Katherine Delmar Burke founded her school to fill an obvious need: young women who wanted to be educated enough to attend college faced often-insurmountable barriers. Schools like Burke’s, founded by a remarkable generation of women, provided what the next generations needed in order to rise to positions of responsibility.

The women who founded schools for girls were beginning a process of education that would, before the end of the century, lead to something like a level playing field in business, sports and the arts. In the case of Miss Burke, a determined effort was made to ascertain what would be necessary for her graduates to enter the colleges open to them. At a time when “finishing schools” were the norm, Miss Burke was an innovator of the most important kind.

Katherine Delmar Burke’s original vision informs the school of today – a school that continues to value the ways girls learn. Burke’s commitment to the individual girl, its emphasis on developing confidence and responsibility and its balance of tradition and innovation place it at the forefront of girls’ schools.

Milestones 1908-2014

  • 1912 – First graduating class at Miss Burke’s; school accredited by University of California
  • 1914 – Middy and blue skirt adopted as school uniform for Upper School
  • 1920 – Barbara Burke appointed assistant to Katherine Delmar Burke
  • 1926 – First Pansy Day
  • 1929 – Katherine Delmar Burke dies in Egypt; Barbara Burke becomes Head of School
  • 1929-39 – Acquisition of property at Sea Cliff
  • 1931 – First October Festival
  • 1936 – First new building completed at Sea Cliff campus for nursery school and kindergarten
  • 1945 – The Katherine Delmar Burke School is established as a nonprofit corporation
  • 1949 – The Lower School is established at Sea Cliff; the plaid jumper is adopted
  • 1960 – Barbara Burke retires; Olive Balcom becomes head; Alumnae Association founded
  • 1970 – David Fleishhacker becomes Head of School
  • 1975 – The high school closes its doors
  • 1982 – Burke’s is the first local independent school to provide a comprehensive after-school program
  • 1995 – Jessie-Lea Abbott becomes Head of School
  • 2008 – Burke’s celebrates its Centennial; Second Century campus renovation completed; Kim Wargo becomes Head of School
  • 2011 – Lila Lohr is appointed Interim Head of School for 2011-2012 school year
  • 2012 – Michele Williams becomes Head of School
  • 2014 – Burke's launches its four-year strategic plan: Our Community. Our Campus. Our Commitment.

-Excerpted from All Hail With Joyous Voices: A Century at Burke’s by David Fleishhacker
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.

Katherine Delmar Burke School

An independent K–8 school for girls
7070 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: 415.751.0177 Fax: 415.666.0535
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