VAPA in Burlingame Schools

Sometimes it’s hard to know what kind of education is best for our kids when the world is changing so rapidly. The Burlingame School District (“BSD”) has been thinking long and hard about how to best adapt our schools in preparation for the future. As parents, we may be familiar with BSD’s mission of implementing the necessary 21stcentury skills and 4C’s (Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking) into our schools’ curriculum. But many parents, myself included, may not know that the visual and performing arts (VAPA) also play a critical role in these necessary 21stcentury skills.

What Is Arts Integration?

Parents of a certain age may remember art in school as a regular class taught by a credentialed art teacher.  California’s passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 and the ensuing decreased funding for schools, however, has now made hiring full-time credentialed art teachers very difficult. 

In the last decade, the provision of art in Burlingame public schools began to vary from site to site depending on specific school interest, parent volunteers and PTA funds. Understanding the importance of VAPA and interested in the model of implementing art through an arts integration curriculum, BSD began working with Arts Ed Matters, a non-profit arts advocacy organization.  Arts Ed has now been helping design and implement arts integration in each of the Burlingame schools for the past three years.

“The goal was to provide consistency and standardization in the ways teachers integrate art into the curriculum and to also provide a sustainable way to implement VAPA at each school,” says Michelle Holdt, the founding executive director of Arts Ed Matters. Holdt, a passionate advocate for arts in the schools, is an arts integration specialist and theater educator who is also the VAPA Coordinator for the San Mateo County Office of Education.

So instead of piecemeal programs that differ from school to school, the goal has been for all Burlingame schools to receive consistent and standardized arts integration into the curriculum.  Arts integration utilizes arts skills and techniques throughout the teaching of various subjects. The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts defines arts integration as “an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form.  Students engage in a creative process that connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objects in both.”

Arts integration helps your child in ways that go beyond discrete art skills.  The Association of American Educators believes arts integration “has been linked to across the board achievement and retention increases… Research suggests that the link to increased retention is due to the fact that each time a student uses information in a new and different way, they embed the information slightly more into their brain.”1

How Is VAPA Integrated in Burlingame?

Arts Ed Matters has been using both a teacher development model and a coaching-based guest artist model in its work with BSD. Arts integration specialists from Arts Ed have worked with teachers and administrators throughout the year in developing curriculum and providing professional workshops, guest visits and coached classroom lessons.

You may have met someone from Arts Ed Matters at one of the three annual Family Arts nights run by Arts Ed Matters at your elementary school. Topics this year included creation of personal family symbols, working with shadow puppets, dying fabric and the study of light and Indonesian culture. This year BSD also participated in the STEM Fair and Arts Expo by showcasing over 200 pieces of art from Burlingame students.

Other interesting projects that have been happening in BSD include a 4-week camp in which different teams attended VAPA workshops and culminated in a school-wide play.  In another school, fourth graders worked with Arts Ed Matters to research people from historical periods being studied in class. They used theater techniques to embody those characters in movement, thought and belief system and then interviewed and answered each other in character.  Just imagine Paul Revere interviewing Anne Frank!

Is Art Really That Important?

For parents focused on STEM classes or the priorities of traditional core classes, art may feel like a “nice to have” but not a “must have.”  But skills in VAPA have been increasingly found to have tremendous importance in the kinds of skills needed for the future.

Artist Justin Timbrook advocates the idea that creativity is one of the most valuable skills education should foster in these changing times. “Technological advancements will always outpace the offerings of the traditional classroom, making it entirely purposeless to force memorization of knowledge that may become irrelevant before children even graduate. Instead we should hone the skill that best ensures adaptability and resourcefulness during times of constant change.  It’s time for the creative classroom.”2

The skills that VAPA impart have everything to do with how a person will survive in a world that is changing almost faster than we can keep up. 

“Research shows that this kind of integrated learning will better prepare kids for the job market,” says Holdt. “Industry and business in the future will not be in boxes. It will be cross disciplinary and kids need to be learning in a way that is cross disciplinary and integrated.” It make sense that in a world where the only thing we know for sure is that things will change, job seekers will need to show flexibility and creativity. In fact, an IBM survey of 1500 CEOs did rank creativity as the most important leadership quality they are looking for in workers.3

I’m In.  How Can We Get More Art?

Next year, Arts Ed will be collaborating with BSD Director of Innovation Bruce Duncan’s Innovating for Impact Initiative to develop VAPA elements in the innovation programs being implemented in our schools. (For more information on BSD innovation programs, see

In the future, parent committees that provide support and receive training to support arts at each school site may be set up at each school and with more funding, more guest artist visits and programming could be possible.

The public schools in California rank near the bottom of the country in per pupil spending.In an environment of tight budgets and tough choices, many school districts sacrifice VAPA and music.  Burlingame has been a leader in the Bay Area in its commitment to its music and arts programs and that has been made possible by the additional funding BSD receives from the Burlingame Community for Education Foundation (BCE). 

BCE is funded primarily by parents so our rich arts and music programs exist because of you!

1Pratt, Melissa. (2013, January 18). “The Benefits of Arts Integration”[Blog Post]. Retrieved from

2Timbrook, Justin. (2015, February 15). “Want Your Children to Survive the Future? Send Them to Art School.” Retrieved from

3IBM (2010). “Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the 2010 IBM Global CEO Study.”  Retrieved from

4Nichols, Chris (2018, January 17). “Mostly True: California ranks 41st on per student spending but No.1 per prisoner.” Retrieved from:


Burlingame Kids Make Beautiful Music

The Burlingame School District (“BSD”) music program offers music education from transitional kindergarten through 8th grade. Every child receives weekly general music or choral instruction through fifth grade while 4th and 5th graders can elect to participate in instrumental music instruction. Burlingame Intermediate School (“BIS”) offers a variety of elective choral and instrumental music classes at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels as well as a musical theater program. BCE is essential to the survival and growth of these programs.

Read on to discover why your kids need music more than you think.

–Written by Jay Larlarb and Elisa Lee

How Burlingame Does Music

When your child mentions music or choir or band in school, do you ever wonder exactly why or how much music education they are getting? The BSD music program is carefully made up of 5.3 full-time credentialed music teachers who teach over 1200 students from TK-5th grade in weekly music instruction. These teachers also teach over 400 students at BIS that are now enrolled in music elective classes; approximately double the amount from five years ago. The music teachers of the BSD music curriculum are experienced and passionate music advocates who describe music as a “universal language that has been shown to help students academically and socially regardless of the field or profession they may choose beyond high school.”

Your child benefits from a core music curriculum that has been comprehensively designed from a transitional kindergarten foundation to culminate, for those who choose, into advanced choral or instrumental instruction at BIS. All BSD students from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade receive 25-30 minutes of music or choir every week. In addition, 4th grade and 5th grade students can also elect to participate in band and instrumental lessons. Band meets once a week before school begins for 50-55 minutes and instrumental lessons are once a week for 25-30 minutes. All BSD elementary school students perform in at least 1 musical showcase each year.

Once at BIS, the music program is no longer mandatory but elective and includes diverse offerings like several levels of concert band, jazz band and choir. BIS students are given musical instruction for 5+ hours per week, with a minimum of 2 performance concerts each year.   Additionally, musical electives classes offer highly beneficial travel opportunities to compete and learn outside of Burlingame. There is also a robust musical theater program that performs one show a school year.

Can Music Make You Smarter?

The BSD has committed to this high level of music education because studies have shown that the benefits of learning music for children can go far beyond having a musical skill. In kindergarten through fifth grade, all BSD kids are introduced to the auditory, visual and kinesthetic aspects of music. Studies have shown that singing and music education at an early age has benefits that extend far beyond the music itself. A new study conducted in 2016 by the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute highlights the importance of music in the early grades because it increases skills needed for school readiness. By developing an internal steady beat or pulse through music instruction, children increase their language development and overall literacy.

For young children, music can also have a profound effect on reading. A study by Sheila Douglas and Peter Willats in the Journal of Research in Reading suggests that there may be a relationship between musical ability and reading ability and more specifically that learning music through singing leads to better reading skills. And believe it or not, music may even increase your IQ. A study by Toronto researcher Dr. Glenn Schellenberg showed that children who received music lessons had increases of IQ almost 3 points higher than children in a control group with no music lessons.

Since BSD has one of the area’s highest music education participation rates with over 75% of 4th and 5th grade students taking advantage of elective instrumental music instruction and band, our elementary students are getting smarter by the minute!

Music Is Not Just For Little Kids

In a crowded auditorium on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, the din of quiet conversation turns suddenly into a collective hush. Mr. Simon, the BIS Jazz Band leader, snaps his fingers in time, while every member of the BIS Jazz Band watches intently. He whispers “One, two, one – two – three – four.” Finally, the last beat of the count-in. The band starts. The sound is amazing and the quality is professional. The parents in the room swell with pride. The kids, deep in concentration, are in the moment, experiencing the music, together as one.

This moment occurred for BIS Advanced Jazz students at the Reno Jazz Festival in April 2017. All of the BIS participants in this competition had music and choral instruction through 5th grade and most took the elective band and instrumental options in 4th and 5th grades. At BIS they were then selected for the highly sought after Advanced Jazz elective. We can see how the cumulative effect of learning music from kindergarten through 5th grade comes to fruition for BIS students who choose to do jazz band, concert band, choir or the school musicals but the benefits continue for beyond just music. Strangely, they may even help with math! A 1999 UCLA study by James Catterall followed more than 25,000 American secondary school students and concluded that students with consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years showed significantly higher levels of math proficiency. The same study showed an array of higher competencies from students involved with music that carries into scholastic achievement in non –music high school classes.

But the benefits for all kids, even those who don’t continue with music after elementary school, continue whether it is cognitively, socially or creatively. Music in the district lifts all kids. Through gradual and steady music learning, week by week and year by year, Burlingame students are building on cumulative learning that crescendos to peak academic success.

So How Else Does Music Help My Kids?

The Burlingame music team has long believed that what they teach helps prepare students for the real world far beyond learning how to sing or play a song. By participating in chorus or band, students learn the value of community and teach important skills like critical thinking and team building. From a social aspect, participation in these programs teaches problem solving, empathy and how to accept learning differences. And studies backup these beliefs.

A 2013 German study by Adrian Hille and Jurgen Schupp found that adolescents who learned a musical instrument between the ages 8 and 17 score more than one fourth of a standard deviation above other children in a cognitive skills test. These positive effects on cognitive skills make sense when you realize how music and speech are related. Although they are distinct in purpose, they share many common elements in terms of auditory and cognitive processing. At the auditory level, music and speech both use pitch and timing to convey information and at the cognitive level, the brain uses the same memory and attention skills for both music and speech.

How is Burlingame Music Ahead of the Curve?

Did you know that not every Bay Area elementary school offers general music for TK-5 grades or a choir program at every elementary site? And not every middle school has jazz band electives or a robust musical theater program. Unlike Burlingame, neighboring school districts to Burlingame do not have instrumental programs until 5th or 6th grade.

During the economic downturn, the BSD struggled to keep the “nuts and bolts” of its music program in place while neighboring districts, including Millbrae, San Bruno and South San Francisco were unable to do so. Because of their efforts to keep the program alive during every economic downturn, BSD has one of the longest, continually running music programs in the state of California.

How does the BSD continue to do this? The BSD music program is 95% funded by BCE, meaning that the generosity and hard work of the parents who support BCE are what keep our music program thriving. Remember that music education builds from kindergarten on so budget cuts that take place years before will show the consequences by middle school. Because BCE was able to help the BSD keep the basics of their program in place through the lean times, now entire classes of children are moving through upper elementary and middle school with solid music exposure.

Parents, Let’s Make Some Music

Demand for music and drama offerings for BSD students is growing. Enrollment is increasing for the elective music offerings in 4th and 5th grades and at BIS. Parents of both elementary and BIS students are hoping for offerings in schools like the return of an orchestral strings ensemble, strings instruction, and more band and choral elective offerings at BIS.

But maintaining even the “nuts and bolts” of a music program requires a constant budget to address staffing, classroom space, maintenance and replacement of equipment, and curriculum material. And maintaining the program of an ever increasing student body means the budget never stays still. Of course, this all requires a prioritization of money and commitment.

“Music is a priority for our district because the community provides unwavering support for it. This support is evidenced by the overwhelming enrollment numbers in both band and choir at the elementary and middle school levels, as well as the enthusiasm from parents and the community. Part of the reason BCE has so many gracious donors is due to the community’s support for the arts,” says the Burlingame music team.

The BSD music program gets 95% of its funding from BCE. With private music lessons at a cost of $30-50 a week, many students in our community would never have the opportunity to try and play an instrument, be in a band or sing in a choir without the exposure from school. “I guess we wonder what wonderfully talented BSD student singer or instrumentalist would never be given the opportunity to reach their potential in the performing arts if music ceased in BSD. If one interviews most of the great performing artists of the past several decades they quickly realize that most got their start in their school’s [arts and music] programs and classes,” says the Burlingame music team.

Burlingame parents rise to the expectations we set for our students and we have consistently shown that music is a value we understand. Please continue to support BCE and spread the benefits of music to all the children of our community.




Will Robots Take All the Jobs?

The Burlingame School District Innovation Initiative, launched this past September, is a multi-year program for BSD teachers focusing on professional learning and support for innovative instructional strategies. The Initiative is in the beginning stages of accomplishing its goals for the school year. We look forward to circling back with them to see what cool changes they end up executing in the classroom.

Read on to discover why your kids need the Innovation Initiative.

Will Robots Take All the Jobs?

We live in a time of disruption: technological, social, economic, and political.  It has never been more apparent that, for good or for bad, the old ways of doing things are radically changing.  For modern parents, the changing landscape can be a bastion of anxiety. In this global world, our kids will be competing for jobs not just with people from countries with renowned school systems but may also be competing with non-humans for jobs rapidly going extinct.  This competition and complexity of required skills mean getting a job is a whole lot harder than it used to be. And to top it all off, apparently, the way our kids have traditionally been taught is no longer sufficient.  

Phil McKinney, former CTO of Hewlett-Packard and host of the nationally syndicated radio show and podcast Killer Innovations, writes on his blog that when he was hiring for his highly skilled workforce, he didn’t particularly like what American public schools were producing. He wanted people who had “the skills to solve problems we don’t even know exist using technologies that haven’t been invented yet.” According to McKinney, students who know only how to “memorize yesterdays’ answers using yesterdays technologies will not be the workforce for tomorrow’s innovation economy.”  

But if science and technology are driving us (in self-driving cars no less) towards an unrecognizable future, how do we prepare our children for what we ourselves have no idea how to anticipate?

Not the Old Readin’, Ritin’, ‘Rithmetic.

Twenty-first century skills. Design thinking. Innovation. These are the new approaches to education that experts say our children need to prepare for the future. They may sound like buzzwords but make no mistake. What’s happening in education is not a fad but a new world order. This sea change is being driven not by the whims of government or educational fashion but the global economy.  Today and tomorrow’s economy is what drives the need for change in education, and schools around the country are looking for ways to keep up.

Fortunately, in Burlingame, we live in a forward-thinking school district and one that has been firmly ahead of the curve. One of the early school districts on the Peninsula to formally address this need for innovation, the BSD launched the BSD Innovation Initiative this past September to help ensure Burlingame schools are preparing our kids for the future.

Wait. What Skills Do My Kids Need to Beat The Robots?

In addition to knowledge of core subjects and STEM, today’s employers value skills that until recently haven’t been focused on in most school curriculums. Skills like empathy, creativity, communication, collaboration and team building. Computers will eventually be able to solve most problems that can be solved with data and information so it is widely believed that humans can’t expect to compete on that front (no matter how fast your kid can recite the multiplication table).  So creative problem-solving abilities that go way beyond routine question and answer methodology are necessary. “Humans are much better at solving problems [than computers] when we have no idea what we need to solve the problem and no idea what the output is supposed to look like,” writes Justin Reich on Education Week’s EdTech Researcher Blog. Clearly, our kids require a resourcefulness not bound by the parameters of learned situations but by what our generation used to call  “thinking on your feet.”

Are these the kinds of skills that can actually be taught?  The answer, if you look at the literature in the educational and business fields, is a resounding yes.  Although not “taught” in the traditional sense of the word.  You can’t exactly teach how to “think on your feet” in a lesson plan but teaching strategies can be changed to develop these kinds of skills. And the Innovation Initiative is designed to do exactly that.

How Are Our Schools Teaching These Skills?

Maggie MacIsaac, BSD Superintendent, had been thinking about how to implement the 4C’s of creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking into the Burlingame Schools for a while now.  She saw that innovation had been percolating throughout the district but in a way that varied teacher by teacher and school by school.  It didn’t help that the various methodologies that promote innovation have no standardized metrics or commonly recognized training and were thus difficult to apply consistently at a large scale.  Sometimes what felt intuitive to one teacher felt foreign to another and while one school may have had an active maker space, another had one that went unused.  

MacIsaac knew the district needed a more formalized approach that could accomplish the following goals: 1) Research and select the best innovative strategies for the district’s goals; 2) codify and standardize these innovative strategies for all BSD teachers and schools to execute; and 3) optimize adoption of these policies by both new and veteran teachers. Thus, the Innovation Initiative was born.

The Initiative is a multi-year program of professional learning and support designed for teachers to implement innovative approaches that will help our kids develop the skills they need for the future. The Initiative’s inaugural year will culminate in August of 2018 with a week-long immersive professional learning and training program for Burlingame teachers to be sponsored by BSD and known as the Summer Innovation Institute.

Codifying and standardizing teaching strategy across a district the size of Burlingame is no easy task and MacIsaac knew a good administrator would be needed to fill the role of the new Director of Innovation, Teaching, and Learning.  The district chose Bruce Duncan, an administrator whose prior work with the San Mateo County Office of Education gave him the experience of working with multiple school districts on instructional technology. Duncan had also been involved with various pilots and implementations to bring innovative practices into different districts in San Mateo County, including personalized learning, project-based learning, and design thinking.  

It’s a few months into the job now and Duncan and MacIsaac have been busy researching and pulling from a variety of methodologies to see what they think will work best for Burlingame.  These include design thinking from the Stanford and the Nueva Design Institute as well as research-based instructional strategies from the Right Question Institute to name just a few. All of the methodologies MacIsaac and Duncan are studying have in common a creative and inquiry-based approach to problem-solving that goes beyond the traditional question with one answer format of teaching.  Once they settle on the best, they’ll be working to standardize the strategies in ways that teachers can implement through projects and inquiry-based teaching.  Teachers will be able to practice these new strategies through training, online toolkits and good old trial and error through a supportive environment that can share in the results.

Can This Initiative Really Help Teachers Teach This Stuff?

Research on innovative practices has shown that many of the concepts of innovative learning cannot easily be “taught” to teachers. Rather, teachers need ongoing specialized professional learning and support to provide the knowledge and skill necessary to weave the 4C’s throughout the curriculum.  In order for teachers to teach innovation, they need a culture of innovation of their own in which they feel supported and free to try new strategies that may not necessarily feel intuitive.

Because a culture of open and consistent collaboration among teachers is key to innovation efforts, Duncan’s first goal for the Initiative has been to launch an online presence that he envisions as “a professional learning portal which will be an online hub to serve as a scaffold and support for the ongoing professional learning of our teachers.” The portal will provide online toolkits, coaching and other aids to implementing new practices and Duncan expects that the portal will also serve as a base of communication for the larger school community.  Also, an Innovation Team of tech mentors at every Burlingame school has already been spread across the district. The designated tech mentors at each school are teachers who are invested in helping their colleagues implement new innovation strategies. “Passionate teachers have always sought to improve their own teaching and their students learning, often in very creative ways. They’ve also collaborated with colleagues to expand the scope of impact from their efforts. But these efforts may remain localized. By ‘planting the innovation flag’ district-wide, BSD will engage all educators in our community to participate in creating,” says Duncan.

The Future of The Innovation Initiative

Through a one-time grant and some crafty budget manipulation, the BSD found a way to launch the Innovative Initiative and hire Duncan this school year but sustainability for the future remains a question.

The kind of change envisioned for Burlingame schools cannot happen as a “one and done” event.  “We need a sustainable way to provide both new and veteran teachers with this training. Practices like these can’t sustain if there is not a foundational standard,” says MacIsaac.

Ideally, the Innovation Initiative will change the institutional culture of our schools in such a way that every teacher who enters BSD will quickly be able to understand and adopt the instructional strategies and ethos of a district that is ready for a future where our kids won’t need to fear competition with the robots.

In this season of gratitude, we can be grateful that we live in a school district that is preparing our children for the future and that we have a school foundation with the ability to support the innovative plans of the school district. Please give to BCE on #Giving Tuesday and make your dollars go farther with BCE’s corporate sponsors.

Current Tech Mentors at the BSD Schools

  • BIS – Bronia Whipp & Laura Afshar
  • McKinley – Alyssa Jaramillo & Leah Scholer
  • Lincoln – Jubliee Menzies & Kirsten Hall
  • Franklin – Hannah Carney
  • Roosevelt – Sean Kuiper
  • Washington – Clarissa Vinciguera
  • Hoover – Stacey Weir

–Elisa Lee, BCE volunteer and BSD parent


McKnight, Phil.  “Here Are The 3 Skills Needed For The Emerging Innovation Economy.” Killer innovations, 30 March, 2015,

Reich, Justin. “Why Change?  Launching Innovation in Schools.” EdTech Researcher Blog. Education Week, 01 Sept., 2017.


School Is Now In Session: Do You Know Your Site Director?


It’s back to school again and your BCE Site Directors have been busily preparing for the fall season.  Your school’s site director is a wealth of information about what BCE is doing for your kids. Stop and say hello!


Malinda Pauly, BIS Site Director

Victoria Terry, Franklin Site Director

Carolyn Way, Hoover Site Director

Lisa Mudd, Lincoln Site Director

Liz Anderson, McKinley Site Director

Kristin Flenniken, Roosevelt Site Director

Margaret Burke, Washington Site Director



Ready to Run?

6th Annual BCE Spirit Run FAQ

The BCE Spirit Run is an annual community fundraising event to raise funds for Burlingame Community for Education Foundation (BCE) which supports Burlingame public schools TK-8th grade.

You, your family and the community of Burlingame.

A 10K and 5K run/walk, followed by a health and fitness fun fair including a Kids Fun Run, pancake  breakfast, games and activities suitable for all ages.

The event begins at Burlingame Intermediate School, ends at Franklin Elementary School and meanders through the beautiful tree-lined streets of Ray Park and the Easton Addition.

Labor Day, September 4, 2017 – The race begins at 8:00am
(Check-in begins at 6:45am)

Last year the BCE Spirit Run raised over $60K for Burlingame Schools. Over 1,400 runners participated and more than 400 kids ran the 5K. 100% of registration proceeds go towards supporting our Burlingame Schools.

How Do I Sign Up?
Registration fees go up on September 1 – so register today at to qualify for discounted rates. 100% of registration proceeds go to BCE.

Can I come if I don’t Run?
Yes! You can still show your Spirit and support by signing up to VOLUNTEER. It’s a great way to kick off the new school year and enjoy the event without the sweat! Pre-Race and Race Weekend slots available. We can’t do this without you! Sign-up to volunteer today!

For more information and race details please go to

Still have questions about the race? Please contact


Get To Know Franklin Site Director Victoria Terry

Franklin Site Director Victoria Terry has a first grader at Franklin Elementary School.  This year she begins her two-year term.

Why did you choose to live in Burlingame?

The community in Burlingame is very similar to where I grew up. It’s a comfortable place to be! We also liked the proximity to everything . Being close to San Francisco and San Jose makes it an enriching lifestyle for my family.

Why did you become involved with BCE?

I value education and want children to get the most from our schools. I’m also passionate about transformation and hope to see continued progress in our Burlingame schools.

What makes your school  special?

Since Franklin is a neighborhood school, it feels more like a community of families. Not just a sea of back packs.

What three words do your children use to describe you?

Squeezy – Huggable (its a word to my daughter), Smiley and Loving



Get To Know McKinley Site Director Elizabeth Anderson

McKinley Site Director Elizabeth Anderson has a kindergartner and a third grader who attend McKinley Elementary School.  This year she begins her two-year term.

Why did you choose to live in Burlingame?

We chose to live in Burlingame because we wanted to be close to family and we were attracted to the vibrant downtown, the beautiful neighborhoods and of course the great schools!

Why did you become involved with BCE?

I became involved with BCE because I believe in its mission to enhance the Burlingame public schools. I believe all kids deserve a great public school education and I believe we have BCE to thank for that here in Burlingame.

What makes your school special?

McKinley is awesome! It is big, diverse, spirited and passionate. We are a tight-knit community despite our size. We are lucky to house the dual-immersion program and a TK class, which make our community even more interesting. I love seeing the kids run onto the yard everyday excited to learn with their friends.

What three words do your children use to describe you?

Funny, cuddly and sleepy!


Get To Know Lincoln Site Director Lisa Mudd

Lincoln Site Director Lisa Mudd has twin first graders who attend Lincoln Elementary School.  This year she begins her two-year term.

Why did you choose to live in Burlingame?

My husband and I have lived in cities for the last 20 years, so making a move to the suburbs was a big change. Burlingame was a natural fit for us because of it’s proximity to San Francisco. However, it was the quality of education and the strong sense of community that truly brought us here. The lack of fog was the icing on the cake. We love Burlingame and are so happy to have our two children at Lincoln.

Why did you become involved with BCE?

As a former teacher, I can attest to the impact that a strong education foundation can make. We have some of the best teachers in the state and creating a stronger foundation gives them and our children the support and programs that they need to continue their success. Our children deserve more than what our state can provide and it us up to us to close the financial gap for them. Having been in the classroom for over a decade, I can tell you that every dollar counts. I truly believe in BCE and it’s mission to support our schools.

What makes your school special?

Lincoln has a special place in my heart. Sending my two little ones off to Kindergarten last year was hard (on me). We were new to town. They are twins and it was the first time they were ever going to be apart. I felt a little shaky at the start, but their teachers just held their hands and wrapped them up in love. The year was not only academically excellent, but is was so wonderful to see how well their social emotional growth was supported, too. Throughout the halls you will see teachers, parents and students working together to create the warmth the school exudes. But it doesn’t end in the classroom at Lincoln – the parent community is fantastic and I am amazed every day by the dedication the parents have to helping support our teachers and students. From field trips to classroom parties and after school functions, Lincoln knows how to make a school into a second home.

What three words do your children use to describe you?

I think it might depend on their mood that day. Generally, I would say that I am present. I am spontaneous – we go on lots of adventures together. I am trustworthy.


Meet the New BCE President Sari McConnell

When Sari McConnell first moved to Burlingame from New York almost 10 years ago as a full-time working mom, she never envisioned she would one day step away from her career for a full-time role as an unpaid volunteer.

The president of BCE oversees a 16-person board, a 3-person staff, and manages over $2 million in revenues, not to mention a devoted army of passionate public school-oriented parent volunteers. It’s a job that involves being visible in the community, inspiring crowds, and evangelizing the importance of BCE to Burlingame schools.

So how did Sari end up as the new president of BCE?  

“Having grown up going to public schools in NY, it took some time for me to figure out that California school funding was so out of whack. New York receives twice the amount of per pupil state funding as California. And education foundations were a brand new idea for me. But once I understood the math, I was all in! Money takes care of a lot of solvable issues in our schools. As a parent, it’s quite a powerful feeling knowing that you can do something about it… for my own kids and my own community. Our public schools educate the next generation of leaders, and our kids – who learn side by side and come from all walks of life – deserve a great, inspiring education.” she says.

Sari started out volunteering through the PTA Executive Board at her kids’ elementary school and then took on the role of Vice President of Marketing for BCE. Inspired by her volunteer experiences, she was ready to do more.

Like many parents, she discovered that having children bound her more deeply into the community. “Becoming a parent felt like joining a club that I didn’t even know existed,” she says. Seeing other parents give to their schools inspired her passion to do more for the community. She describes their first experience with Burlingame public school: “When [we] moved to Burlingame in November, our oldest was entering Kindergarten.  As we arrived nervously on Roosevelt’s campus for the first time with our son, two parents approached us.  They said, ‘You must be Jacob’s parents.  Welcome to Roosevelt!’ And when we asked how they could possibly know who we were, they said, ‘well, we were expecting a new kinder today and since we know everyone else here, we’ve been waiting for you to show up.’  That story pretty much sums up our attachment to Burlingame’s schools.  I can hardly tell it without getting a lump in my throat…Still.”

Her volunteer experience paired with her previous work experience and education prepared her well for her new role in fundraising.  With a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Sari began a career in brand management and product development working for Hallmark Cards, Clorox and Leapfrog. This evolved into business development as she founded a company called Conformer Products.  Her volunteer management skills developed as she became more involved in her children’s schools.  

Our school district was the perfect training ground for what she views as the most valuable experience on her resume.  Although she eventually left full-time work, the passion for our schools burned even brighter and she saw a real opportunity in BCE.  “We have a five-year strategic plan in place that we initiated this year that is based off of three strategic pillars — sustain our programs, strengthen our operational continuity, and seek growth opportunities.  We are well prepared to hit the ground running for this fiscal year,” she says.

As president of BCE, Sari is in contact with all reaches of the Burlingame community: parents, the school district, local businesses, and community organizations. With so many stakeholders in the organization, Sari walks a fine line between making sure everyone feels heard while also making sure BCE strategy stays on target. Walking that line while protecting BCE’s dedicated volunteers is what she predicts may be the hardest part of the position. “As president, I encourage our board and our volunteers to take risks and try new things to engage and inspire our donors.  We don’t always get it right 100% of the time, even when we try to anticipate all the angles. I feel protective of the volunteers who are out there trying to do their best to raise as much money for our schools as possible.  It’s very hard asking for money…especially when they’re your neighbors!”

But it’s connecting all these parts of the community together to help make our schools great that inspires Sari the most as the new president. “The fact that we raise as much as we do every year — as a band of volunteers, as a community of parents and local businesses — is nothing short of a miracle.  I want our hard-working parents to feel a part of this miracle, and the gift we’re giving our children.”

Sari McConnell

Sari lives in Burlingame with her husband Blake and three children ages 5, 11, and 14 who attend Roosevelt Elementary School (and previously TK at McKinley), Burlingame Intermediate School (BIS) and Burlingame High School (BHS). The role of BCE President is a 2 year term.

-Written by Elisa Lee


Volunteer awards

Last week we honored our outgoing board members and recognized our Advisory Board MVP volunteers at an end of the year party. Following BCE tradition, recipients were given a “tiny trophy” symbolizing their hard work and dedication, as well as the creative and practical spirit of the BCE organization.

Outgoing BCE President Angela Dubovsky also awarded Kelly and Dave Tillman the Distinguished Service Award for their many years of dedication to BCE. Not only have the Tillmans donated generously to BCE, but Kelly also served on the BCE Board of Directors. And we certainly can’t forget the famous Tillman auction parties that have been a popular fundraising item.

Advisory Board MVPs:

  • Amanda Virani
  • Judy Gum
  • Jamie Burton
  • Kim Doren
  • Kate Reed
  • Winnie Wong
  • Alix O’Brien
  • Penny Crespo
  • Katie Ward
  • Kim Pitzer

Outgoing board members:

  • Angela Dubovsky, President
  • Fabiola Price, VP Events
  • Michele Harbin, Secretary
  • Hildur Carlen, McKinley Site Director
  • Katie Herstein, Lincoln Site Director
  • Marni Fligel, Franklin Site Director
  • Linda Shaffer, VP Site Directors
  • Quynh Trinh, VP Business Development

As we approach the end of the school year, and the close of our fundraising cycle at the end of the month, we’d like to take a moment to give a special thanks to these outstanding volunteers, as well as the hundreds of other volunteers who have donated their time, talents and money throughout the school year in support of Burlingame School District.

Incoming BCE President Sari McConnell presents Angela Dubovsky an award to recognize her three years on the BCE board and her leadership as BCE President.