Dear Burke's Community,
A year ago, in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, we dispensed with our customary annual update from the Board of Trustees to instead announce the formation of our Racial Justice Task Force and our commitment to graduating students who view it as their personal responsibility to dismantle systemic racism in all parts of our society. Today we are reporting on the Board’s efforts in this important, ongoing work as well as other school priorities with which we have been engaged.
While there has been a modicum of justice done in Mr. Floyd’s case, the overall state of racial equity in our society hasn’t seemed to have improved very much, if at all in the past year — Black Americans continue to die in encounters with the police; we have seen many well-publicized instances of horrifying racially motivated violence against members of the AAPI community; and we are experiencing a rising wave of sickening anti-Semitic attacks. We unequivocally condemn these heinous acts everywhere and we stand in solidarity with our BIPOC, AAPI, and Jewish community members. While these social justice problems may seem far removed from our campus, often they are not, and a school like ours has an important role to play in addressing them as we help train the next generation of leaders. Your Board of Trustees has been working in partnership with the Administration to help develop a strong ethos of anti-racism among our students and to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion for all. The Board’s work in this area has taken two forms to date – internally focused work to improve its own competence in matters of racial equity and inclusion and work focused on supporting efforts across the school community to advance these causes.
The first aspect of the Board’s internal work has been the composition of the Board itself. In prior years, well-intended selection criteria, including prior financial training and minimum giving levels, limited those who could serve as Trustees, creating more homogenous groups. Borrowing from the school’s maxim of “400 ways to be a Burke’s girl”, we have abandoned those prior limiting criteria and have focused on a more holistic Trustee recruiting process which has already borne fruit. Today our Trustees bring perspectives that reflect our evolving school community, and the diversity on our campus. Our Board is 60% female and over 40% of Trustees identify as people of color and include a range of family structure perspectives including adoptive, divorced, LGBTQ+, and single by choice. Twenty percent of our members serve as leaders in the broader San Francisco community bringing added philanthropic, educational, and social justice knowledge, and more than 10% participate in the school’s Financial Assistance (FA) program.
Representation isn’t the solution to equity and inclusion, but it is an important building block that complements other changes we have made. Since 2018, Equity & Inclusion training and discussion have been on over two-thirds of Board meeting agendas, larger than any other education or governance topic with which the Board engages. Almost half of our Trustees have served on the E&I Committee to bring an equity lens back to the other committees where they lead and work. This year all Board members engaged in Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr.’s 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge and we dedicated our January retreat to honing our focus on equity and anti-racism. Finally, this spring, Trustees attended the Pollyanna Conference sponsored by Town School in order to learn alongside administration and faculty. This inward-focused work will never be completed, rather it will always be ongoing.
Our community-facing work was aimed at supporting Burke’s commitment to building a racially just and inclusive school culture. The Board of Trustees partnered with the Administration to advance several important initiatives to further this objective. The E & I Committee launched an equity Dashboard that will help us understand our community, measure our successes, and learn where we need to improve a sense of belonging in our community and embed action and accountability in response thereto. Trustees also dedicated new funds to enhance a culture of belonging and endeavor to attract and actively support/retain BIPOC faculty and families and support the social justice curriculum in all classrooms. The Board also made a massive investment in FA resources to help make a Burke’s education more accessible to a broader group of families in our region -- our 2021-2022 budget includes an approximately 33% increase in this vital tool for inclusion, bringing the total Financial Assistance budget to nearly $3 million.
In addition to this important work on racial justice and inclusion, the Board was also busy this year supporting the school’s work to navigate the global pandemic and continue offering a Burke’s quality education in remote, in-person, and hybrid models. The Board partnered with the Administration to devise multiple budgets and scenarios to ensure adequate funding for technology, equipment, enhanced cleaning, additional personnel, and reinvention of our campus configuration. Trustee committees worked remotely all year focused on both the long-term financial health of the school and ensuring progress toward our mission to educate, encourage and empower girls. In case you missed it, a snapshot of how Burke’s handled the incredible task of re-evaluating nearly every aspect of its operations and educational practices was included in Burke’s Magazine.
We want to once again express our gratitude to the faculty and staff who went far above and beyond the call of duty and definitely out of their comfort zones in order to develop and deliver a brand new educational experience for our students. They were a model for the resiliency we are always seeking to instill in our pupils, and we are grateful for their heroic efforts this past year.
We close by noting this is our last time addressing you all as leaders of the Board and we want to thank our fellow Trustees that are also completing their service. We believe the school is well-positioned coming out of the pandemic to continue its journey on its mission to be the very best girls’ school around. It has been our very great privilege to work with Michele Williams and such a talented and dedicated group of Trustees these last few years and we can’t wait to see what they all accomplish next!
Adrian E. Dollard
President, Burke's Board of Trustees
Stephanie Jones Bailey
Vice President, Burke’s Board of Trustees