More than seven million Germans have emigrated to the USA since the arrival of German Mennonites in Pennsylvania in 1683, and now more Americans trace their heritage back to German ancestry than any other nationality. The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in San Francisco estimates there are 30,000 German speakers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Founding of the School in Mountain View
United by a desire for a German and California accredited curriculum, six German and American families formed and incorporated the German School of Silicon Valley (GSSV) in November of 1999. Instruction began in February 2000 with 34 students. In July 2000, the school moved to the site of the former Whisman Elementary School in Mountain View and two years later, the GSSV obtained a 20-year lease with the city of Mountain View. In 2003, the GSSV officially changed its name to German International School of Silicon Valley (GISSV) to better reflect the school’s multicultural and multiethnic student body combined with a pioneering multilingual school concept with the goal of serving preschool through grade 12 with the Abitur, while also fulfilling the requirements for a Californian High School Diploma.
Berkeley Campus: GISSV's Berkeley/East Bay Campus first opened in August of 2007, after a parent-led task force identified a number of families interested in German-English bilingual education in the East Bay. The parents teamed up with the existing GISSV in Mountain View and jointly embarked on opening a Berkeley campus as an extension of the existing Preschool-12 program - starting in Kensington, the school moved to the landmark Hillside School in Berkeley in 2012. After moving to its current location in Emeryville in 2017, the school proceeds now as a locally-managed, independent school (starting in the 2018/19 school year).
San Francisco Campus
After significant interest and support from parents in the City, GISSV also opened a bilingual campus in San Francisco. The San Francisco Campus officially opened in August 2011 on its location in the Presidio and is moving to the Castro in 2020. This campus started with a Kindergarten class in 2011, with one grade being added per year to establish a full K-8 program (adding Preschool in 2020).
Currently, GISSV has more than 550 enrolled students at its two locations. Primary languages spoken at home by GISSV students include English, German, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Korean, and Chinese. Both campuses offer the same bilingual program which features an academically rigorous curriculum with quality instructors and small class sizes. It is unique in that it is one of only five recognized German schools abroad in the United States and the only one offering a High School Diploma on the West Coast. Advantages of being accredited as a German school abroad include report cards recognized in Germany, accredited diplomas (German International Abitur and High School Diploma,) and ongoing support from the German government. The fully bilingual approach helps enable seamless entry into both the American and European educational systems and offers graduates the opportunity to qualify for both American and European universities.
GISSV is a California nonprofit organization governed by a Board of Directors comprised of parent volunteers from all three campuses and operated in accordance with the California nonprofit corporation code and the GISSV bylaws.
Since its founding, GISSV has been active in its school development. It took part in several methods of evaluation (self-evaluation SEIS in 2005 and 2014, Peer Review in 2008 and 2017) and took those results to prioritize development areas. Those were used to further the quality development process.
The Mission Statement, established in 2005, describes the philosophy of the school. The core educational mandate and the social and cultural role of GISSV's international focus in the U.S. are stressed.
The Vision contains eight guiding principles which describe the goals GISSV is striving for. It was developed by representatives of students, Board members, parents, administrative and teaching staff in 2010.
In 2011, GISSV brought all the high school students and teachers as well as parents together to define expected school wide learning results (ESLRs). Those show the qualities and competencies a GISSV graduate acquires during his/her time at GISSV.
Based on these documents, the teaching staff and the administration determined the central focus areas of school development.