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Letter from Pat Caulfield and Christian Sullivan: January 2, 2023

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Letter from Pat Caulfield and Christian Sullivan: January 2, 2023

Dear Bullis Community,

Pat Caulfield and Christian Sullivan

The first days of 2023 are peaceful and bright on the Bullis campus; let’s hope the coming year is metaphorically similar, both in our community and throughout the world. This winter holiday has seen brutal weather with tragic consequences hitting large parts of the US; we fervently hope that your vacation has been joyful and safe.

Even during the break, Bullis closes only briefly. Our winter track, wrestling, and basketball teams have been very active, and all have been successful. Our incredible maintenance team, under the leadership of Bob Butland, has kept up with everything and made sure that we are ready for faculty professional development tomorrow, January 3, and the resumption of classes on Wednesday, January 4. Professional Development tomorrow will be spent on DEI work (faculty will choose from 13 one-hour workshops run by our own teachers and administrators), preparation for the Middle School Discovery Days, and further development of our Portrait of a Graduate. In the afternoon, we will work on curriculum review related to our strategic plan.

Bullis School Governance

As we begin the year, we want to (re)introduce the Board of Trustees to the community and discuss the role of the Board at Bullis. While the beating heart of our school consists of the students and faculty, Board leadership is essential. Good governance results in excellent experiences for our students. A non-profit board has three broad functions. The following is derived from Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of the Nonprofit Board by Richard Chait, William Ryan, Barbara Taylor (2007):

  • The first function is fiduciary. In this mode, the board’s purpose is the stewardship of tangible assets and general oversight of operations, resources, legal compliance, and fiscal accountability. This does not include day-to-day operations. The most simplistic of a board’s functions, this is where many average-performing boards spend most of their time.
  • The second function is strategic. A strategic board takes the long-term view and partners with the senior management to set strategic long-range priorities and direction. This is illustrated by an institution that carries out a strategic planning process and executes on it.
  • The third function is generative and is the highest form of governance. A generative board cognitively assesses the school’s mission and “discerns challenges and opportunities.” In this problem-solving mode, the board acts as a think tank and “probes assumptions, logic, and values behind strategies.”

Bullis’ Board consists of a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 26 trustees. Currently, the Board consists of 25 trustees: 15 current parents, 10 past parents, 7 alumni, and Christian. (These numbers do not add up to 25 because some trustees cover multiple constituencies.) The Governance Committee identifies prospective candidates for the Board and presents finalists to the full Board at the annual meeting for ratification.

The Bullis Board strives to succeed in all three functions. Our governance performance can be assessed through the successful oversight of the fiduciary aspects of the school. While not wealthy in terms of endowment or reserves, Bullis has recently been able to redirect more resources toward the student experience. The operational success since and throughout COVID has been widely acknowledged. Second, in the midst of the pandemic, the Board, senior leadership, and many community members created a strategic plan that is now being deliberately implemented. Finally, our Board and its committees are engaged in problem-solving to ensure, as we enact our strategic plan, that there are no unintended consequences, that we turn challenges into opportunities, and that we take advantage of all mission-appropriate possibilities.

Tuition Increase for the 2023-2024 School Year

While the Board does not handle day-to-day budget operations, it does approve the annual budget presented by the Head of School, and through this mechanism, controls any increases to tuition and salary. As Christian mentioned in his letter of December 17, here are the tuition rates for the 2023-2024 school year. As you will note, the Board restricted tuition increases to approximately 60% of the rate of inflation. This same percentage of tuition increase will be applied to faculty salaries. There is a natural tension between tuition increases and salary increases; we strive to keep both going in the direction that each constituency would prefer, a generative challenge to which the Board pays long-term attention.

We are hyper-aware that families have many excellent educational options in the region. Bullis strives to provide an extraordinary value-added experience for students and families, and no matter how successful the school is in terms of increasing applications, full enrollment, and student outcomes, we commit that the Board and staff leadership will never become complacent.

Timeline for Re-enrollment Contracts

As previously announced, if you would like your child(ren) enrolled next year (and we hope you do!), it is essential that re-enrollment contracts are fully executed by the deadline of February 10. Students whose contracts are not returned by the February 10 deadline will lose their guarantee of a space and may be placed on a waitlist for next year.

  • January 2: Tuition announced for 2023-2024 school year
  • January 13: Re-enrollment contracts sent to all eligible students
  • February 10: Deadline for fully executed re-enrollment contracts to be completed

And finally, we hope that this letter was not so concentrated that it discouraged reading! The modern habit of hewing towards brevity sometimes leads to subjects not being dealt with substantively. Governance at independent schools is important, and it is also important that the community knows who is on the board and the approaches being taken.

We believe that the year ahead is full of promise for our students and the school community. We hope everyone is returning from the holidays rejuvenated and ready for an especially full calendar. As ever, thank you for your support, and do not hesitate to get in touch with Christian if he can help with anything.


Patrick J. Caulfield, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Christian G. Sullivan, Head of School