Dear Bullis Community,
We hope you and your families have had safe, rejuvenating, and perhaps even fun-filled vacations. The state of the world has not made that easy - COVID illnesses, infections, isolations, quarantines, canceled flights, and general doubt about how to operate have proven extremely challenging. Christian was due to travel internationally but decided it was best to stay this side of the pond, and we are sure that many of you also had difficult decisions about travel and socializing. Truly, we hope that you were able to enjoy family and friends and feel ready to approach 2022 with high expectations and energy.
Thankfully, this letter does not primarily concern the pandemic. Rather, it is about more traditional school news. We hope it is evident that Bullis has handled the last 21 months with aplomb, but we also have pride that during this period, the school has continued to operate strategically and in a student-centered manner; it has not just been about crisis management. This is illustrated most clearly through the strategic planning process that the Board of Trustees initiated in January 2021 and the resulting Strategic Plan approved last September. The plan, at its heart, is about student welfare, and we have already begun implementing its recommendations:
- Under the leadership of our Director of Teaching and Learning, Ryann Fapounda, and the Division Directors, Margaret Andreadis, Marilyn Moreno, and Bobby Pollicino, we are engaging in a substantive review of the entire academic program. This includes the balance of core academic subjects in the Lower School, and the science program in the Middle School, including an investigation of residential Discovery Days to the Chesapeake Bay (6th grade), Key West (7th grade), and Costa Rica (8th grade). In the Upper School, we are reviewing the differentiated levels of rigor offered–on level, honors, and Advanced Placement (AP). We are also reviewing the four Signature Programs, as well as each academic department, to ensure that the curriculum provides comprehensive coverage and a broad array of academic opportunities for our students. Further, we are bringing a holistic approach to counseling and learning support at Bullis by departmentalizing these areas of school life across the divisions; there will be overarching approaches to these critical areas from Kindergarten through Grade Twelve.
- The process of hiring a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has reached the semi-final stage. Finalists will have the opportunity to visit Bullis and meet with many members of the community. This new position will have a seat at the Senior Leadership Team table.
- The Strategic Plan laid out the need for a singular, compelling vision for athletics. To that end, we have resolved to hire a single head of the Athletic Department. Both of the current AD positions (boys and girls) will be retained, and they will report to the Director of Athletics. We’ve received nearly 100 applications already and will begin the interview process in January for this additional Senior Leadership Team position.
- Likewise, while the arts program at Bullis is flourishing, strong advocacy and leadership of this realm of school life is essential. Therefore, we will be adding a new leadership position, Director of Arts. We have resolved that, in the first instance, this position will be internally advertised. The successful candidate will also sit on the Senior Leadership Team.
- Student and faculty wellness was an important element of the Strategic Plan. As we have contemplated the issues of wellness since September, it has become clear that we need a leader whose sole purpose is oversight of the wellness of our students and faculty. Initially, Christian believed this could be assigned to a current position, and it would be part of the departmentalizing of the counseling department. However, after consideration, we believe that this warrants a solely devoted, full-time position, and we will therefore hire a Director of Wellness. This person will oversee counseling, wellness and health education, faculty wellness and health professional development, and parent education. Further, this person will have a small counseling load to lessen the load on our current counselors and will work with an advisory board of external professionals – including physicians (pediatricians), psychologists, psychiatrists, epidemiologists, and health educators, among others – who can advise the school on an ongoing basis.
- The Board resolved in the Strategic Plan to embark on a program that ensures that our faculty are among the most competitively compensated in the region. To that end, the Board has approved a budget that includes an increase of approximately 6% in the salary and benefits pool for faculty. This takes into account not only the Strategic Plan goal but also the fact that our faculty have performed extraordinarily throughout the pandemic. We also recognize that inflation is a significant factor for many families and businesses at this time.
Over the past 18 months, Bullis has focused its fiscal priorities on students, academic life, and wellness. During this time, there has been assiduous financial management, and this has allowed the school to take care of its programmatic priorities and simultaneously move to a stronger fiscal situation. The Board is determined to meet its strategic goals, one of which is consistently limited tuition growth. The Strategic Plan targets annual tuition growth over the next five years between 2%-5% annually.
Tuition rates for the 2022-2023 school year can be found here. Overall, the tuition increase is approximately 4.7%. This tuition will now include the yearbook and curricular school trips, such as the Senior Class Habitat for Humanity trip and the Middle School science discovery trips (see above). Of course, this year’s tuition increase is a significantly lower percentage than the increase that will be applied to faculty salaries. The Board believes that faculty compensation must be our priority and is budgeting accordingly.
As previously announced, enrollment contracts for 2022-2023 will be emailed to families on January 14. They are due back, fully executed with deposits and all parent signatures, by February 11. If you wish your child to return for the 2022-23 school year, it is essential that you return the contract by this date. Shortly after February 11, once we know which grades have space, we will be offering places to new students. IMPORTANT: If you have not returned your contract by February 11, it is possible that your child will be placed on a waiting list rather than allowed to simply re-enroll; spaces may have been filled by students who have applied. Please, return the contracts swiftly!
College Counseling Update
After 16 years at Bullis, Lynn Kittel, Director of College Counseling, is retiring. Lynn has been a transformative leader and support for Bullis students and families, placing emphasis on finding the right fit for each individual student. She has initiated several long-standing programs at Bullis, provided Bullis families even greater opportunities to develop relationships with our outstanding college counselors, and has continued to grow our connections with college and university representatives. Our students’ great success in college admissions is, in part, due to her hard work, diligence, knowledge of the ever-changing college admissions landscape, and commitment to partnering with students and families. Lynn’s legacy will be carried on by a talented team she has curated over time, all of whom were hired during her tenure as Director.
While we are sad to say goodbye to Lynn, we are thrilled to announce that two of those team members, Valerie Miller and Philip Weisgold, will be serving as our new Co-Directors of College Counseling as of July 2022. Both Valerie and Phil joined Bullis in the summer of 2017 and have been instrumental in guiding Upper School families and students through the college search and application process. As Co-Directors, they are looking forward to continuing to highlight the strength of Bullis’s academic, arts, and athletic programs. We cannot think of two better colleagues to lead our highly respected College Counseling Office. In the coming months, the College Counseling Office will be hiring an additional counselor to join their team to support the needs of our students. Please join us in congratulating Valerie and Phil!
Start of School
As Christian mentioned in his December 31 letter, COVID testing for all students and faculty takes place tomorrow (Tuesday), results will be returned by Wednesday evening, and we look forward to the start of school on Thursday morning. As ever, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to Christian.
Pat and Christian
Patrick J. Caulfield, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Christian G. Sullivan, Head of School