Author Archives: Sari McConnell

Local Funding Makes all the Difference

You may already know that California state funding for public schools is poor. But you may be surprised to learn that our state ranks 45th in the nation in state funding per pupil, and provides $3,500 less per student than the national average.  

The good news is: we as a community can come together to make up the state’s shortfall. Our school district depends on BCE funds to help pay for credentialed curriculum specialists in math, science, music, art, technology, PE, and library resources, and fund robust professional development for our teachers just to name a few  

In short, your tax-deductible BCE donation is critically important to your child’s quality education in Burlingame.

We only have a few days left to raise the final $360,000 of our $2 million goal to both sustain our existing programs and hire a Director of Innovation to oversee these incredible STEAM resources our grant helps fund.

We are grateful for every donation we receive. Every dollar makes a difference. If you haven’t yet made a donation, please do so before the last day of school to help us reach our fundraising goal for the next school year.

And if you’ve already  donated to this year’s campaign, I thank you deeply for your partnership in helping our kids…together. 


Creating a Vibrant Learning Community

Manny Navarro, District Librarian.

Manny Navarro, District Librarian.

Haven’t made your annual campaign donation to BCE yet? Silicon Valley Gives Day is the perfect time to do it, and our district librarian Manny Navarro is yet another a great reason to donate. 

The 2015-16 BCE grant helps fund a specialist of Manny’s caliber in our district, enriching our children’s education in vital ways. On a macro level, Manny focuses on the important job of getting our kids excited about going to their school library. He’s recently had a key role in designing the new BIS library space so it inspires the kids, promotes free thinking and collaboration.

Sari McConnell, BCE VP of Marketing, recently caught up with Manny to find out what it means to be a school librarian in this day and age…

S: Manny, it’s great to meet you in person and find out more about you and your role. Tell me about it.

M: I oversee all libraries in the district including the library staff in the elementary schools.  While I’m primarily based at the BIS library, I check in on all the elementary schools on a regular basis. I am also lucky enough to decide which new books to order and I work with the principal of the five individual schools on the library budget.

S: Why is it important to have a district librarian?

M: Our part-time library aides are generally very busy with the day-to-day work: checking out books and interacting with the kids. The district role is important if the schools want to introduce new online research materials and tools and then teach the students how to use these tools. I also manage the book reading program where I run organized book clubs and BCE Read-a-thon coordination, as well as the new digital citizenship program.

S: I can see how online research is an area you must be deeply involved in with our kids. Tell me more about the digital citizenship program.

M: Superintendent Maggie MacIsaac and Ashley Sullivan (Integrated Technology Specialist) asked me to build a curriculum on digital citizenship, using the Common Sense Media Program for Educators. The cool thing about the Common Sense program is that it is tailored for each grade level. We adjust some of the programs that we think are not quite on point for our kids, but for the most part it works well for the grade levels. This is the first year we’re rolling this out. I gave my first lesson at Lincoln with librarian Brandy Fleming earlier this year so it’s really fresh. It was interesting that the students were already way more aware than I thought. They were fifth graders and basically knew not to use their real name on the internet.

We have two main goals for the program: 1) privacy, security and safety — kids can learn how to be more responsible online, and conscious of what they are doing on the internet. We’re also giving them tools to recognize cyberbullying.  2) Information ethics — how to research online, how to cite research they find online and how to know if they’re plagiarizing. I’ll be teaching the program to the library aides for the elementary schools and I teach the class directly to BIS students.

S: Where are you from originally?

M: I’m from Weed, California, right by Oregon border near Mt. Shasta, population 3,000. I’m a small town kid and love nature, naturally! After school I went to Chico State. I’ve always loved the Bay Area — my dad is from Oakland — the weather, the people, the Raiders, the vibrant lifestyle — but funding and jobs for school librarians are hard to find. I’m really lucky to be here in Burlingame. I got my first librarian job at Napa Valley Unified, but they didn’t have the funds to sustain that position the following year. So then I found a job at Burlingame School District and this is my third year. I’m really lucky to be here.

S: What do you love most about your job?

M: I love talking to kids about books, the themes and morals in books. We have a very accepting culture here in the Bay Area and it’s rewarding having conversations about these life themes. I have never worked at a school that is so open-minded and accepting. We are very driven as a district…it’s definitely a learning culture. I think this is why you don’t see the problems that the other schools see.

S: So, how do you get kids excited about using the school library?  

M: We want to motivate kids to visit the library and read, so I like to make sure it’s a fun and happening spot. At the BIS library I’m always approachable and we have a few laughs – that way they’re more likely to visit again.  hey don’t need to be quiet in the library – they aren’t in college yet. We now have over 100 kids showing up over recess and lunch when the library used to average 30!

The library is the one place on campus where everything they learn in their classes comes together. The library is also a safe place and it’s fun: kids get together, let loose and don’t feel judged. We talk about our successes and our frustrations and the things that make us happy. If the kids didn’t have that, I don’t know where they would go.


VP Marketing Sari McConnell Inspired by the “We” in BCE

Sari McConnell, BCE Vice President of Marketing.

Sari McConnell, BCE Vice President of Marketing

As the Vice President of Marketing for BCE, Sari McConnell leads a diverse team of writers, photographers, graphic designers, website and tech experts, social media and marketing aficionados, who influence a great deal of what you see and learn about BCE in our community. This year, we are particularly pleased with the BCE annual report, which was mailed out earlier than ever before to acknowledge 2014-15 annual campaign donors whose donations are benefiting our kids right now. Watch your mailbox for your copy, which should be arriving soon.

“What always impresses me about the annual report is seeing how many people are donating to BCE,” Sari said. “It’s pages and pages of family names, and over 300 business who made our record-breaking $1,795,000 grant possible. We’re lucky to have a great organization like BCE that converts this community’s values into reality – ensuring that Burlingame kids have the best education possible.”

So why Burlingame?

We’ve lived in Burlingame for seven years now. When we moved from New York, we did a lot of research about moving into a good public school system. We liked Burlingame because not only did they have a good public school system for the lower grades, but we would be able to keep our kids in great public schools all the way through high school.

Why did you become involved with BCE?

When we moved to Burlingame I was working full time, but trying to find opportunities to be involved with my kids education. I was involved in the PTA for several years. Then a dedicated band of us at Roosevelt got together to create the Bike Warrior Challenge which is now run by the district to promote bike skills and safety. Those volunteer experiences were especially meaningful not only for their positive impact, but by the quality of the people I was meeting and the great feeling of “community” I felt for the first time. My neighbor was instrumental in getting me involved with BCE. It was easy to say yes and get involved. To have such a big impact is really rewarding…the $1.795 million grant kind of blows my mind.

I love how BCE is truly our organization. It’s not some distant institution. Every parent, every student, every donor is part of BCE. I cannot say enough how phenomenal the people are in this community, enabling BCE to function at such a high level.

What makes your school special?

I have a 7th grader at BIS. The leadership there is fantastic. The principal really gets middle schoolers, and has created an environment my son really thrives in. There’s something for everyone at the school, which gives kids the opportunity to explore different things and be successful in a safe environment.

I also have a 4th grader at Roosevelt, which is a great school community and the teachers can’t be beat. It’s a small school with a big heart, and awesome diversity. My preschooler can’t wait to go there.  Continue reading


The Sound of Music in Our Schools

The musical talents of our students are in the air. That’s the sound of our BCE dollars at work!

Check it out!  It wasn’t too long ago when Burlingame School District implemented a comprehensive TK-8th grade music curriculum with the financial support of BCE. And you’ll hear the benefits at the concerts this month:

  • December 1, 7:00 pm: Roosevelt 4-5th Concert
  • December 2, 7:00 pm: Lincoln 4-5th grade concert
  • December 3, 7:00 pm: Franklin 4-5th grade concert
  • December 9, 7:00 pm: Washington 4-5th grade concert
  • December 10, 7:00 pm: BIS Jazz Band and Choral concert
  • December 15, 7:00 pm: McKinley 4-5th grade concert
  • December 17, 7:00 pm: BIS symphonic bands concert

Did you know that BIS has seven bands and three chorus groups? Did you know that over 2300 students grades TK-5 sing weekly in chorus? Last year, 472 students in grades 4-5 received weekly instrumental instruction? All of this is under the direction of an incredible accredited music teacher staff, and you will hear the difference at the upcoming music concerts.

That’s music to our ears!

-Sari McConnell, Vice President of Marketing, BCE


Get to Know Your Lincoln Site Director, Katie Herstein

Katie Herstein, Lincoln     Site Director

Katie is jumping right in with her BCE involvement, starting as Lincoln Site Director this school year. She has a son in 3rd grade and a daughter in 1st grade at Lincoln.

So why Burlingame?

We had been living in San Francisco, and then moved to London for three years. When we were looking to move back to the US in 2008, our son was a year old. We spent a whole week looking for houses in the City, and felt overwhelmed thinking about how we were going to carry groceries and a baby up flights of stairs, park our car and all the stuff that comes with living in San Francisco with a baby. My former roommate in San Francisco had moved to Burlingame and suggested we check it out. So we looked for houses for a day here and decided this was the right move long term, especially since the schools are so good. I had never even been to Burlingame before we started looking for a house here!

Why did you become involved with BCE?

I wanted to get involved because it’s such an important cause. Lincoln is a strong BCE school because former BCE President Emily Beach is a Lincoln parent and I was inspired by the work my predecessor Cathy Guglielmi did to rally and educate Lincoln families about BCE.

What makes your school special?

Lincoln has a great community, a lot of very involved parents, and strong support for public schools. Also thanks in part to BCE, we have a fantastic staff that includes an amazing PE teacher, Mrs. Rossi, and wonderful music teacher, Mrs. Prater (just to name a few I hear the kids raving about).

What three words do your children use to describe you?

Fun, busy, snuggly.

–Ann Townsager, Roosevelt parent


Get to Know Your Franklin Site Director, Marni Fligel

marni and girls square

Marni Fligel, Franklin Site Director with her girls

Marni became involved with BCE because she believes that the best way to ensure that her 2nd and 4th grade daughters get the best education is to be an actively involved parent.

So why Burlingame?

We moved to Burlingame from San Francisco in October 2010, the Fall before Hayley, my oldest daughter, entered kindergarten. We picked Burlingame for the “urburbia” neighborhood feel, the schools, family and friends. I grew up in Dallas and frequently visited my aunt, uncle, and cousins who live just up the hill from Franklin on Atwater. Clearly Burlingame left a positive impression on me. Little did I know that my kids would go to the same elementary school thirty years after my three cousins were there. Go Franklin!

Why did you become involved in BCE?

I was always involved at my kids’ preschool and knew I would want to get involved at elementary school but wasn’t sure how. Then one day I was talking to Katie Storey (Lincoln mom and former co-worker of mine) and she educated me on BCE and the need for additional funding at our schools to support the level of education we had as kids. When Hayley started Kindergarten, I became the Kinder rep for BCE and helped educate other new families just like Katie educated me. After that, I helped with the BCE Read-a-thon at Franklin, and then went on to coordinate the BCE efforts for all new families in Burlingame School District. So it was a natural progression for me to take on leadership for the Franklin BCE team.

What makes your school special?

Franklin Elementary is a special place because of the people – students, parents, administration, and staff. And the awesome sprawling California-style campus.

What three words do your children use to describe you?

Social. Friendly. Busy!

-Ann Townsager, BCE Marketing Team and Roosevelt Parent


The BCE Basics

Sari McConnell, BCE Vice President of Marketing

Sari McConnell, BCE           Vice President of Marketing

Thank you to all of you who have already sent in your fall pledge to let us know what you plan to contribute to BCE this year. Your pledge allows Burlingame School District to better budget for next year’s programs and staff, and gives you the opportunity to fulfill your pledge during any of the fundraising events throughout the school year. 

Here are a few more things to know about how BCE works:

1. BCE is the primary fundraising vehicle for parents and community members to help provide an excellent education for TK-8th grade students in Burlingame School District. 

2. BCE’s grant provides flexible funding, not earmarked funding, to the district budget so that it can be applied where needed. That’s why the list of what BCE funds can change year to year.

Thanks to last year’s annual campaign, this year’s record-breaking grant of $1.795 million from BCE will fund teacher salaries to help keep class sizes low, teacher professional development, district math and science coaching/specialists, TK-8th grade comprehensive music program, BIS drama productions, credentialed PE specialists, library specialists, grade 4 & 5 classroom instructional aides, and all NEW: an integrated art program, a technology integration specialist, and a partnership with UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. 

3. BCE encourages communication between Superintendent Dr. Maggie MacIsaac and parent donors regarding priorities funded on a year-to-year basis. 

4. BCE seeks 100% family participation. And our grant impacts 100% of TK-8th grade students in BSD.

5. The BCE grant helps smooth over the unpredictable state funding cycle, helping to ensure consistent school quality and staffing over time.

6. Donors who pledge in the fall (and pay later) provide administrators with vital time to make the best plan for these resources for the following school year.  

Have questions? Please contact your BCE school site director. We want to hear from you!

–Sari McConnell, Vice President of Marketing, BCE BOD (BIS, Roosevelt, preschool)


Get to Know Your McKinley Site Director, Hildur Carlen

Hildur Carlen, McKinley Site Director

Hildur Carlen, McKinley      Site Director

Even before getting involved with BCE, Hildur Carlen was passionate about funding for public schools. This fall, she started a two-year term as Site Director at McKinley. She has a 4th grader at McKinley and an 8th grader at BIS. 

So why Burlingame?

My husband is a software engineer. We lived in New York, but in 2004 we moved here for his job. After living in San Mateo for a year and renting for a long time in Burlingame, we eventually bought a house near McKinley. One of the main reasons we stayed in Burlingame was for the Spanish immersion program. Our oldest daughter was in the first Spanish immersion class.

Why did you become involved with BCE?

Even before my oldest daughter started school, I’ve been aware of the funding issues for California schools. I’m also a former teacher – I have a master’s degree in education – and knowing first-hand how badly the schools need money, I wanted to put my efforts there.

I first got involved with the McKinley PTA as the Newsletter Editor and Walk-a-Thon Co-Chair. Over the years I’ve worked to pass several ballot measures that benefitted our schools, then volunteered on the BCE marketing team for two years before taking on this role as the McKinley Site Director.

I know it can be overwhelming coming in as a new parent in the district, and I want people to know that they can reach out to me. My role is really more of a liaison between BCE and McKinley. As a member of the BCE board, I can be the voice for McKinley. People have a lot of different perspectives and priorities, and it’s good to get all of that feedback.

What makes your school special?

At McKinley, I think the school really benefits its strong community. We have great events. My personal favorites are Multicultural Night and the Harvest Festival. Since our very first days, Paula Valerio, our principal, knew my daughter’s. It  impressed me to have my kindergartener greeted by name.

At BIS, the expectations are high, and the kids seem to meet those expectations. There are some really great teachers there who clearly like working in Burlingame and are really dedicated to our kids.

For me, the fact that our kids have dedicated PE and library staff, and have the band and all of these other things thanks to BCE funding is amazing. I don’t think we’d have half of what we have, and our classroom sizes would be bigger, if we didn’t have BCE.

What three words do your children use to describe you?

Fun, good listener and huggable.

–Jennifer Colvin, Managing Editor


Get to Know Your BIS Site Director, Betsy Rosen

BIS Site Director Betsy Rosen (BIS, BHS)

BIS Site Director
Betsy Rosen (BIS, BHS)

One of the reasons Betsy Rosen and her family moved to Burlingame and became involved with BCE as a Site Director was her belief in the value of public schools. Betsy’s  daughter is a 6th grader at BIS and her son attended BIS a few years ago. 

So why Burlingame?

We moved here five years ago from Arkansas when my son was in 5th grade and my daughter was in 1st grade. We have some close friends who moved here before us, and said the Burlingame schools are great, so we concentrated our house search on Burlingame. For us, we love being close to the city, going on hikes, touring museums and going to restaurants. Burlingame is a terrific community— the people are friendly, we have the Avenue, its beautiful, and the neighborhoods are unique.

Why did you become involved with BCE?

We came from a well-funded school district in Arkansas with small class sizes, full-time librarians, recess monitors, art teachers and other specialists. At the time we took that for granted. When we moved here, I didnt realize how little California spends per child on education. We, as a community, need to make up the difference for what the state isnt funding. It’s important to me that my children and all the children in the BSD receive a well-rounded, quality education. Living in California I have a new appreciation for what it takes our community, both financially and in volunteer hours, to ensure our children receive the top-notch education they deserve and that our teachers receive the support they need in order to provide that education.

Prior to attending BIS, my children were students at Washington Elementary. I was active in the PTA, served on Site Council, and functioned as the BCE Scholars Circle Representative. Scholars Circle represents donors that contribute $2,500 or more annually to BCE.

One of my goals as BIS Site Director is to keep our parents at BIS committed to BCE. Every donation made and volunteer hour given to BCE makes a difference and is appreciated. I’m a firm believer in the BCE tag line, “We are BCE. Together we build better Burlingame Schools.”

I donate money and  put my time into BCE for several reasons. The BCE grant funds programs my husband I care about including teacher professional development, a librarian at BIS, credentialed P.E. teachers, our district math coach, and the new partnership program with the UC Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science. We also enjoy the concerts from our student musicians and the annual Spring musical at BIS.

What makes your school special?

I think we are fortunate that were in a school district where all the elementary schools converge to one middle school. We have strength in numbers!

While BIS is a big school, our principal Pam Scott leads a team of teachers and staff who truly care about each student. It’s a physically and emotionally safe environment for students to be challenged, and to learn and grow academically and socially while having a lot of fun. I’m impressed with the teachers, their enthusiasm, creativity, and commitment.

What three words do your children use to describe you?

Compassionate, Kind, Supportive.

–Jennifer Colvin, Managing Editor


Time to Celebrate!

Today we’re celebrating BCE’s record-breaking $1,795,000 grant to Burlingame School District at all school sites. Generous donors like you deserve a day of celebration!

The $1,795,000 grant that we’ll be spending on our kids this year is the result of our 2014-2015 BCE Annual Campaign. Thanks to you, our grant will help fund the following important programs:

  • teacher salaries to help keep class sizes as low as possible (24 max in grades TK-3)
  • teacher professional development
  • district math and science coaching/curriculum specialists
  • TK-8th grade choral and instrumental music program
  • middle school musical
  • credentialed physical education specialists
  • TK-8th grade library specialists
  • 4th-5th grade classroom instructional aides

And new this year:

  • integrated technology specialist
  • integrated art program and professional development

Today is also our official 2015-2016 BCE Annual Campaign Kickoff. The moment our proceeds are distributed to BSD, we start at zero again to raise money for next year’s grant.

California places 46th in the nation in education funding per student, so Burlingame’s strong public schools do not happen by accident. Quite the opposite. BCE is the primary fundraising vehicle for parents and community members to help BSD create a rich and inspiring education for all TK-8th grade students. And this community rises to the occasion every year!

Many thanks for your continuous support year after year.


A McKinley mom thanks parents at drop-off for donating to BCE.


Washington 2nd and 5th grader help celebrate BCE Annual Campaign Kickoff Day 2015.

PSST!  Join us at the Vinyl Room, 221 Park Road, on September 21 at 7:30 pm for more celebrating at the BCE Annual Campaign Kickoff and Public Board Meeting featuring special guest speakers and a very social night!