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Head of School Community Update: June 20, 2022

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Head of School Community Update: June 20, 2022

Dear Bullis Families,

Bullis Community Update from Head of School, Christian Sullivan

It’s a pleasure to write to you my final letter of the 2021-2022 school year.

What a year. I hope it was a successful one for you and your family; I know that we live in strange times. I intend to ensure that Bullis is a pillar of stability for the community, our families, and, most of all, our students. This last year saw the return of many aspects of Bullis's school life. Performing arts and athletics were hardly compromised, and larger gatherings that evoke that spirit of togetherness – Community – were much more prevalent. And at the end of the year, it was satisfying to celebrate the year’s culmination with many ceremonies, including, of course, a return to Strathmore for the graduation of our senior class. We graduated 126 seniors and are beyond proud of their accomplishments and outcomes for college. While it is interesting to see all the colleges that a graduating class has gained admission to, it is much more telling to see where they’ve chosen to go. Here is our list. We look forward to welcoming our seniors into the ranks of our alumni and fostering the lifelong relationship I hope they will have with their alma mater.

Transitions

The joy that comes with the culmination of a successful school year is inevitably accompanied by sadness when saying goodbye to those moving on. As well as to our graduating seniors, we are saying goodbye to 4.2% of our other students, the majority because of relocation. We wish all these students and families the very best for the future. Bulldogs forever!

We are also saying goodbye to some of our beloved faculty members, seven of whom have been here for ten years or more. We send them off with our best wishes as they embark on a new phase of their lives. For the five who are entering retirement, we hope your years will be fulfilling and joyful.

  • Margaret Andreadis started at Bullis as a homeroom teacher in 2011 and 8 years ago became the Head of the Lower School. Margaret has always blended a thoroughly student-centered approach with deep care for her faculty. Under her watch, the Lower School grew from 81 to 149 students. Margaret is off into retirement, but with her three children (Blaine ’16, Cole ’17, and Kyra ’21) having graduated from Bullis, we look forward to the entire Andreadis family staying in touch.
  • Carolyn Hasfurter, our Lower School learning specialist, is retiring after 12 years to spend more time with her grandkids. Carolyn’s passion for teaching and supporting kids will be greatly missed.
  • Stacey Roshan started as a math teacher 15 years ago and is now the Director of Educational Innovation and Technology. Her work helping teachers infuse technology into their teaching to empower all learners has been extremely important. Stacey will consult with different organizations and, thankfully, will stay very engaged with Bullis; it’s not a full goodbye!
  • Lynn Kittel has led the College Counseling department for 16 years. During that time, she has not only overseen the applications and matriculations of hundreds of students into college but also mentored her associate counselors. She has done a magnificent job of both, and now two of those mentees will step into her large shoes as co-directors. Though Lynn is entering retirement, we know she will stay in touch, and not only because her daughter Taryn ‘10 will be our Director of STEM Signature Program next year.
  • Ali Elias is moving on after 17 years as head wrestling coach, MS track coach, and PE teacher. Ali has thrown himself into whatever needs doing in the athletic realm, and his can-do, cheerful demeanor will be missed.
  • Andres Parra ‘99 has been the Boys’ Athletic Director since 2009. Dre has been instrumental in the significant accomplishments of the Athletic Department during that time. Bullis teams won 23 IAC championships, facilities were expanded immensely, and many students went on to play collegiate and professional sports. Along with his wife Tara '01 and children, Sebastian, Christian, and Geneva, Dre will be moving to Sarasota, Florida, to begin working as the Director of Athletics at the Out-of-Door Academy. We wish Dre and his family well and look forward to staying in touch.
  • Finally, Anita Havas is retiring after 20 years as the Executive Assistant to three heads of school and, more recently, as the Director of the International Services and Admissions Associate. Anita joined the community as a parent in 1996, and her daughter Samantha ‘06 was a “lifer.” Anita has had an immense influence on Bullis. She is looking forward to retirement and to spending more time with her three grandsons at the Havas’s home on Lake George.

While there are transitions, there is stability too. Margaret will be sorely missed, but the rest of the Senior Leadership Team remains. We are only losing one member of the Board of Trustees; Adam Greenberg is leaving after 13 years of incredible service to the Board and the School. Additionally, the Board and I have just agreed to a five-year extension to my contract to be Head of School. I believe that we are successfully engaged in critical work supporting and developing students. And while already a great school, Bullis’s potential and the trajectory it is on are extraordinary. I needed no persuasion to re-commit for the long term – it’s a genuine privilege.

Dress Code

Over the last two years, I think it is fair to say that conforming to and enforcing Bullis’s uniform rules has been, let’s say, not 100%. I also heard from community members during the listening tours and other times throughout the year about uniform concerns relating to gender issues and equity. In response, I tasked Associate Head of School Tim Simpson and Upper School Art Teacher Alice Shih-Kahn with forming a committee to evaluate the current uniform requirements and propose suggested changes, as necessary, to those requirements. The committee was comprised of students, counselors, and deans from each division. After initial discussions about the opportunities and challenges of the current uniform, the committee developed surveys for parents, students, faculty, and alumni to collect data on the comfort, style, and fit of the uniform.

The resulting recommendations focused on creating a simplified uniform, removing gender-specific requirements, and providing more flexibility and comfort for students. Ease of enforcement was also an important consideration for the committee, which highlighted that it is essential for adults in the community to be consistent in their approach to the uniform with all students.

Tim and Alice will be sending a separate letter this week with details. I am extremely grateful to them and the committee for their excellent work.

The Strategic Plan

While Bullis’s primary purpose is to educate the current generation of students to the best of its ability, we must also prepare now to ensure that future students will be served similarly. Generational equity is important. The Board of Trustees and I take these two inevitable responsibilities very seriously and have been assiduously implementing the strategic plan affirmed by the Board in September 2021. Some of the highlights of this implementation include:

  • An initiation of an audit of our academic program, overseen by our Director of Teaching and Learning.
  • A new Lower School schedule, which will be implemented in September 2022, that prioritizes the core LS learning and allows for a holistic, well-rounded approach. Starting this fall, we will begin the process of building a new MS and US schedule that aligns with curricular priorities.
  • The hiring of a new Director of Wellness, who will develop a new health program to be implemented beginning September 2022.
  • The reorganization of our Athletic Department under one Athletic Director, who will be a member of the Senior Leadership Team.
  • The reorganization of our Arts Department under one Director of Arts,who will be a member of the Senior Leadership Team.
  • The hiring of a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, an introduction of affinity groups, and an initiation of our first annual DEI-related “listening tours.”
  • A review and revision of the dress code.
  • An initiation of planning for the construction of a new Lower School building and renovation of South Hall.

COVID

Of course, COVID protocols still complicated our lives throughout the year. As you know, Bullis has tested every one on campus every week since August 2020. At this point, I intend that we will now sunset regular, comprehensive testing and masking. Fortunately, we have the flexibility and capability to change direction instantaneously; I desperately hope it will not be necessary. We will require all faculty and students to be vaccinated and boosted, in line with the CDC recommendations. I am truly grateful to Capital Diagnostics, our medical partner since August 2020, as well as to Rachel Venezian, Julie Booth, and Monica Dayhoff for overseeing our response. Their spectacular work supported the health of our community, which, in turn, allowed us to be at the forefront of returning to school in September 2020. I am very grateful.

Gratitude

Finally, the only sentiment that I can express at the culmination of this year is one of gratitude. Gratitude to the parents for their extraordinary support of the school and faculty. Gratitude to the Parents Association for their magnificent efforts in so many realms of school life. Gratitude to our students; yes, I hope they appreciate the many gifts that are bestowed on them by their families and Bullis, but I am thankful to them for the way they haven’t just endured the pandemic but thrived. Offered lemons for the last two years, and they made lemonade. Gratitude to the trustees who have worked so hard – strategic planning, supporting a newish head of school, and now endless meetings executing that plan.

But perhaps most of all, I am truly admiring and grateful not only for the contributions of the departing icons mentioned above but for the entire faculty. The nature of the last two+ years has taken its toll on those who work in schools. From the outset of the pandemic, Bullis faculty have persevered and succeeded, and our students are the beneficiaries. Many were running on fumes at the end of the year, they so deserve a thorough rest over the summer. Please, if you get an opportunity, reach out to faculty members to thank them – it does make a difference.

In late August, I will write again. In the meantime, I hope you all have a safe, recuperative, joyful summer.

In gratitude,

christian sullivan signature

Christian G. Sullivan
Head of School