Preschool-12 Bilingual Education in
Two Locations in the Bay Area

Board Members Legally Represent, Establish Strategic Direction for GISSV
Board Members Legally Represent, Establish Strategic Direction for GISSV

In recognition of the extraordinary service that the Board members provide.

Author: Liliana Castañeda de Rossmann, Ph.D., PA VP

In the year 1999, the Articles of Incorporation of the "German School of Silicon Valley" list six Board of Directors: Michael Fischer, Waldemar Gottschalk, Christian Kaiser, Thomas Schares, Jennifer Stadtmiller, and Jürgen Wolf. Their pioneering task was to blaze a trail for a new school that offered instruction in German and English and would eventually fulfill requirements for the German Abitur and the State of California High School Diploma. Almost 20 years later, their legacy continues as last school year's marked the 10th anniversary of the first Abitur.

In recognition of the extraordinary service that the members of the Board of Directors provide to our school, this month's Volunteer Recognition is dedicated to select members of the team that not only legally represents GISSV, but also establishes the strategic direction for the school. While it is impractical to recognize every parent who has ever served in this capacity in the past, this article features a selection of past and current board members. Visit each profile to learn more about that person and her/his family's unique story of arriving at GISSV, their volunteer journey to the Board, challenges they encountered and achievements, as well as their advice for other parents considering providing this high-level volunteer service to our school.
Prepare to be inspired by their dedication to fulfilling the school's mission "... to ensure students reach their full academic potential in a nurturing environment that fosters critical and imaginative thinking, a passion for lifelong learning and an appreciation for cultural diversity."

> Click here to learn more about the current GISSV Board of Directors.


Rachel Scott Beckert
At GISSV since 2008, on the Board since 2013

German language and culture became part of Rachel Beckert's life after she met her husband, a German national working in the Bay Area during the Dot-com boom in 2001. When their daughters were beginning their K-12 school journey, attending GISSV was a natural choice for them. And what a big impact that decision has had in their lives, with her elder daughter currently enjoying her 3-month exchange with the Marie-Curie-Gymnasium in Dresden.

Having grown up in Berkeley and lived in San Francisco as a young adult, Rachel felt a kinship to all three GISSV campuses. With three years as Parent Representative under her belt, and co-chairing the first GISSV Holiday Market held in Downtown Mountain View, Rachel made a general impression as being "Board material." The requests came in, even encouragement from the Administration and she heeded their call. "The MV campus was facing a facilities crisis, as we had an 18-month termination clause in our lease with no viable options," she explains. Despite feeling discouraged after a first-run loss, she agreed to run a second time. "Recruiting efforts are very important!" she laughs. "Sometimes it's not really appreciated how important it is to seek other members and recruit them to provide this important work."

This recruitment is vital because potential candidates need to know that, although they will face many challenges, the school's vitality and stability depend on Board deliberations and decisions while working in concert with the administration. In Rachel's time on the Board, some of these challenges included "addressing the financial reality of the cost to make seismic upgrades to the Berkeley Hillside facility, which led to what felt, at the time, like a tear in the fabric of the GISSV community. Nobody was happy with the situation, regardless of which one of the three campuses you were from," she recalls.

With considerable deliberation, many of those challenges become informed decisions, such as the phasing out of the East Bay campus, and the creation of the East Bay German International School. "A new Head of School and a new Board President - those leadership changes are expected challenges," observes Rachel. "We have worked hard to create processes for those transitions." She notes that the early departure of Mr. Koops as Head of School presented a particularly interesting challenge, as the Board tried to balance its legal duties with the community's desire for transparency. "The community was at odds with each other and with the Board. But the process of finding our way through the turmoil and a healing path forward [has been] very rewarding," she reflects.

Less controversial but nonetheless impactful was the process of navigating the Mountain View-Whisman School District Board and the public school parents' opposition in securing a long-term lease for GISSV's Mountain View campus. Being part of that team as well as providing legal support to the SF Facilities team with their effort to find an alternative to the Presidio have been a source of pride for Rachel. "The school has reached a state of stability in the facilities department." However, she adds, "we must seize this moment of stability to secure a long-term perspective for a modern facility in Mountain View."

Given all that Rachel has seen in her six years on the Board, she invites parents to consider running for at least one term and then, with the added experience, to consider reelection. "The work has become more rewarding with every year," she clarifies. "The experience you gain is definitely utilized as time goes on. It is not only easier, but the insights you gain are invaluable. You get a solid idea of the different mechanisms which makes you a better decision-maker," she offers. In her view, one should run for the Board "only if you know you must take off your 'parent hat' when you walk in the door of the Board room. Decisions may run against your own personal interests," but ultimately, they serve the well-being of the community. "You are working not only for the benefit of students today, but even more so, for the students of the future." She adds that, since the work is nicely divided into committees, "nobody is doing everything except for the final decisions - those are an all-hands-on-deck moments."

As she winds down her sixth and final year on the Board, Rachel considers her biggest contribution as "Shepherding GISSV on its path as a maturing professional organization." After her final Board term is complete, Rachel says, she will continue on her own path of deepening her understanding of German culture which is now a treasured part of her family.

Cornelia Bohle-Neubrand
At GISSV since 2004, Board Member since 2015

Single, professional, and a polyglot. That's how Cornelia Bohle came to the Bay Area in 1998, to work as Documentation and Localization Manager from Apple Munich to Cupertino. There, she met another German hi-tech immigrant: Werner Neubrand. One year later, she was married to Werner; two years later, both were homeowners in Cupertino - "together with the bank ;-)" she says. Four years later, these hard-working parents had a total of three kids. As years passed, she changed employers and roles, gaining different work experiences in Silicon Valley. "When we were two working parents, we could not always fulfill our yearly requirement of volunteer hours, so were happy to buy us off," she remarks. Experiencing what she describes as a "positive mid-life crisis at age 50-plus," Cornelia quit her job at Google and dedicated her time to family and home. Thus, she became engaged full-time as a parent volunteer at GISSV.

Since not all volunteer roads lead to the GISSV Board, Cornelia's path included being a Parent Association representative; PA Officer (secretary); adopting the Lost & Found cart; helping out at the Rummage Sale, Walk-a-Thon, and Junior Achievement Day; and nocturnal trash service at the Holiday Market (prior and in addition to coordinating the Kaffee & Kuchen booth).

While all volunteer work may be challenging at times, Board service presents parents with particular challenges. For Cornelia, this series of challenges started with "Understanding how the Board ticks and works during my first year - just like any other new job! Overall, the strain that Board work puts on our entire family" was another tough lesson. "Ceasing to be a parent like everybody else; the burden of the personal liability as a Director; the mandate of confidentiality, for instance for personnel matters" are some adjustments she has had to make.

And yet, all this pales in comparison to some of the fulfilling experiences and accomplishments that reward her hard work. Among those, Cornelia easily names her efforts as Chair of the Annual Fund Committee in 2015/16. "We increased participation to 75% and the donation revenue to almost $180,000!" In another instance, she credits Carole Niestroj's initiative for efforts to create the New Family Orientation program to help new families get started at GISSV at the beginning of a new school year. Although any parent fluent in both English and German could perform the task of handling the application process with Germany for the €2 million grant which allowed GISSV to build the Middle School and the soccer field, Cornelia's unique professional qualifications allowed her to play a pivotal role - without the benefit of a German-speaking Head of Administration. As Chair of the Election Committee in 2015/16, her team managed to motivate a fair number of candidates to run for the Board, resulting in actually contested elections. She managed this with candid advice to potential candidates: "Make sure your love for GISSV is big enough to go a lot of extra miles to, as Bruce Fielding says, donate your 'Three Ts' - Time, Talent, Treasure." She continues, "Make sure that your interest of serving on the Board is not for a personal goal but for the higher aim to build a German International school for many more generations to come – don't think of your children today, think of your and your friends' grand-children to come." Moreover, she advises candidates to ensure "your spouse and children are fully supporting your engagement, and to know the laws of the land - and if you don't, tread carefully and ask."

"Through our work on the 5-year Strategic Planning conducted in 2016, we established financial sustainability as the number-one strategic goal for the school," she emphasizes. "For San Francisco, we defined the creation of a preschool as necessary to build a healthy enrollment pyramid which then contributes to financial sustainability. With combined efforts between Board - especially the SF Facilities Committee chaired by Brett Wingeier - and Administration, we found a new location that will help our SF campus to stabilize and grow," she concludes.

She reminisces, "GISSV has been very important for our children as a school and for us parents as a community. To preserve and grow this precious value of GISSV is one of my motivating factors – here is where we can be who we are: local families and immigrants who love the vibrant diversity of Silicon Valley and its international communities, all while living and celebrating our cultural roots."

Anne Hess
At GISSV since 2005, Board Member since 2014, President since 2016

The Hess family joined the GISSV Society in 2005 with kids in mind. Specifically, the 2005 Campus Beautification Day coincided with Anne's daughter, Ingrid's birthday. So, Anne took a novel approach to this particular challenge: she brought a birthday cake and shared it with the parents and children present.

In the following years, Anne's volunteer work ranged from JA Day and Theater to Parent Association Rep and PA President. As such, she was encouraged to run for the Board, but since, in her words, she "hated meetings and found them rather unproductive," she always declined. But it was the recurring issues (parking woes, anyone?) that made her seek uniquely strategic challenges. Thus, she reconsidered and ran for the Board of Directors, where she has become the first woman President and the first Board President of a family with no native German speakers. "We have a very large non-German speaking local population who come from all different backgrounds. This is what differentiates GISSV from other German Schools Abroad," she remarks.

If finding and meeting strategic challenges was her goal, she came to the right place, for the Board has seen its share during her tenure as President. "One of my most challenging moments was facing the circumstances leading to the separation of the Berkeley/East Bay campus," she observes. "There was a lot of emotion involved in that, because all the parents cared about the school," she continues. During the 2017 Strategic Planning session, the Society determined that financial sustainability by all three campuses was a primary goal. The Administration sought ways to meet that goal, with particular attention given to Berkeley. And when the news that the Hillside building was no longer a viable option to sublet or even to occupy, it became painfully clear that the campus would not be able to meet that strategic goal. "In many ventures, something doesn't always pan out," she concedes. "But building needs accelerated the conversation about financial sustainability which then led to conversation about separation." While it was stressful going through the process, Anne is happy that the Society found a way to make it amicable. "They [EBGIS] exist and we are in cooperation and doing events with them." Thanks to these challenges, Anne holds the record for highest Board meeting and Society meeting attendance. "Controversy always attracts people, but I would like for people to attend [Society] meetings just because they care about the school."

In the accomplishments side of her ledger, and strategically important for the viability of GISSV, Anne can count the satisfaction of signing long-term leases for both MV and SF campuses, which she celebrates as a collaboration between Board and the Administration in cooperation with the lessors. "Once the MV lease was secured, we were able to approach Germany for matching funds to improve the campus. We were able to say to them: 'Your investment is good!'," she quips. "And the long term lease in San Francisco will enable us to plan more effectively and reach financial sustainability more quickly." Lest we forget, it was the Board under Anne's presidency that managed to sell the Hillside property at a profit. Another upside of being President for Anne is being able to sign the graduates' diplomas every year. "As a kid, I changed schools every few years, so being in a school with so many kids coming in and out, making a welcoming space for new and old families is near and dear to my heart," she adds.

These experiences have given her an advantageous perspective from which to not just view the school, but also to explain it to outsiders, to the German government, the Mountain View community, and, more importantly to parents, specifically those considering a Board run. "The most difficult part of being a Board member is that I can't be my 'open' self because of legal and confidentiality requirements. If you are an open person who always shares everything especially with spouses, Board work will be very difficult," she warns. "We may have long, drawn-out discussions and makes no sense to share partial discussions because it may take a long time to reach a good decision. For example, on the Hillside sale, we had many offers that fell through, for various reasons. One was three weeks from closing when the buyer backed out, so we cannot share that kind of news or updates with those not on the Board or Administration."

Other things Anne insists that parents should understand about Board work is that directors are not involved operationally. In her view, the finance committee may hold Mike Nielsen and the Administration accountable, as they are privy to budget figures, "But we are not counting checks, supervising teachers, doing interviews with new teachers, et cetera. That's up to the Administration! We're at a strategic level. Our strategic goals may be often in conflict. For example, 'achieving financial sustainability' and 'providing a premier education' do not always match on the budget. We certainly do not focus on which teacher will teach which class, but rather on how many teaching hours we can provide."

When asked Anne for her thoughts about the significance of the Board's work in regards to the school, she replied with this: "Board members are the leadership on many levels, particularly in giving. Board members are required to participate on Annual Fund and give not just their time, but their financial contributions at a 'Leadership' level. GISSV is not a club; it's a nonprofit business, and the Board of Directors acts as the leader of that nonprofit business," she clarifies. "As we go into these 'young adult years' the Board will be taking a more active role in fundraising, advocating, and networking, on behalf of the school. Germany has an expectation that we will be doing a substantial amount of fundraising, and we have been working very hard to establish a culture of giving. We have a ways to go, but luckily, we're seeing some very positive results," she says with her characteristic generous smile.

Silvia Mehlo
At GISSV since 2000, Board member in 2004-2006

Not everyone who walks into the GISSV front office realizes that the first person they usually meet was the school's "first customer." To wit, the nascent school opened its doors on February 7, 2000 on the campus of the Sisters of St. Francis convent in Redwood City (better known as the "Redwood City Franciscans"). Silvia Mehlo's daughter Tanja and son Dennis arrived on Feb. 16 to join first and third grade, respectively - they were the first new students admitted to the school after the original families incorporated it.

"Our kids had spent one year at the German School in Sydney and had a great experience," recounts Silvia. "But it wasn't long enough!" After a one-year stay in Germany, her husband conducted a scouting trip to Silicon Valley and became aware of the new German school. Because their time in Australia had seemed too short, "We had planned to stay a minimum of three years," admits Silvia.

In those days, the option to buy out of volunteer service was just not available, so all parents rolled up their sleeves and did what they could to help run the school. "We were building the school from 34-35 students that went up to 7th grade," she recalls. "The school started by renting space in the Conference Center at the convent. There we had to organize the chairs in the classrooms on Monday morning and on Friday afternoon, we returned everything to how we found it," she reminisces. "But there was a pool, so kids could have swimming instruction there! We moved to our current location on Easy Street in the summer, together with Yew Chung."

Silvia's volunteer work included an obligatory PA Rep stint, the Library Team, and running the Afternoon Club with fellow parent (and now Kibili teacher) Anke Mehnert, before any staff members were hired. What led Silvia to that early Board service was the need to fill a vacancy in the middle of the 2003-2004 school year, which she served until 2006. Her time as PA also proved helpful in her role as Board liaison, as did her educational and professional background in general. "I hold a master's degree in Public Health Administration and had worked for the German Ministry of Health," Silvia explains. This prior experience was advantageous in providing general assistance to the school, as she took on the role of Assistant Treasurer. "GISSV had the funding from Germany, but it was not easy - our financial situation was precarious," she recalls. "In working to ensure financial stability, the Board implemented the tuition payment due at the beginning of the school year, instead of month-by-month," to have cash flow.

Fast forward to 2009, when Dennis took part in the first GISSV Abitur and to 2010, when Tanja also joined the alumni ranks. Silvia was then offered the job of Office Manager. This February marked her 19th year of involvement with the school. Silvia has seen a lot of former students return to campus and recognizes most of their faces, although they're all grown up. She loves to see them come back.

In those 19 years, Silvia also has found rewarding to see the school's steady growth, especially as it became financially solvent during Maja Oelschlägel's term as Head of School. "We showed the German government that we could increase enrollment and advance the ZfA's mission. We've gone from being a start-up school where we had to do everything, to now a maturing, independent school which is still growing and is now dealing with 'growing school' issues," she summarizes. "The founding families did all the work - Jennifer Stadtmiller did all the legal work. We've seen growth in the Holiday market. What are now the 'Meet and Greet' and 'Newcomers Club' we used to call 'Campus Beautification Day' combined into one - that's how we used to build community. When you have kids, you want to have a good school, so you have to get involved!"

Even though the school has changed considerably since then, she offers this advice for parents considering Board service: "Everybody has strengths, not everyone can contribute on the financial aspects of the school, but everyone brings something - don't feel you have to be perfect; bring in your professional and personal skills. It is good for the Board to have people with different skill sets. If you like to be engaged, you can help the school grow. Just do it!"

Whether you have only been at GISSV for one or two years, or you or your children graduated a while ago, know that the friendly and helpful face behind the reception desk has had a crucial and generative role in the development of our school. Be sure to thank her for it.

Walter C. Rossmann
At GISSV since 2005, Board member 2006-2012 (Treasurer 2006-2009; President 2009-2012) and 2017-2018.

A wedding-day promise to his Austrian mother that his future children (if any) would be able speak with her in German was the beginning of Walter Rossmann's family path to join GISSV. In 2004 and hoping to fulfill that promise, the Rossmanns had been researching German-language school options for their two children near their home in Escondido (North San Diego County) without much luck. An internet search resulted in a list of six German Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen (ZfA) affiliated schools in North America: Mexico City, Montreal, New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, and Mountain View. "Where the heck is Mountain View?" asked his bewildered wife, Liliana. (Full disclosure: the author is that wife). The couple decided they would both look for work in any and all of these cities. Whoever got a job offer first, they would then move the family to be close to the corresponding school. Walter was the "winner," landing a job as Chief Purchasing Officer for the City of San José and, in June, 2005, they packed their household, their kids, and their two guinea pigs and made the move to Silicon Valley. Thus, said kids began their GISSV journey attending a variety of summer camps including Piraten, South American Culture, and Zirkus.

By the time son Maxx began first grade and daughter Emilia started in the Sternengruppe that August, the family was well integrated into GISSV life, having began completing their volunteer hours during the Campus Beautification Day. On the first Parent Night, Walter jumped at the chance of being a Parent Association representative. "We spent a good amount of time during those meetings talking about Christmas cookies and planning the Weihnachtsmarkt," which was held on campus at the time. Soon thereafter, Board member Patricia Justusson began planting the seed in Walter's mind of a Board candidacy. At the Society Meeting in May 2006, he ran and won due to his background in budgeting and finance. "Christian Buchbauer [then GISSV Board President], Silvia Schmidtleithner, and I were among the few Austrians at the school and we all were on the Board together. Maybe that's why some people said that Austrians were taking over...?" wonders Walter.

Regardless of their national origin, the Board of Directors partnered with then-Head of School Maja Oelschlägel and Administration staff to bring the school to financial solvency. "We ran the gamut of the kind of issues we dealt with," recalls Walter. "Small school, small problems." The school had reached a juncture where it was growing in number of students, but was still small enough to lack sufficient staff and other resources. "There was enough demand that the Board had authorized the hiring of Afternoon Club teachers like Elfriede Schröder and Dorothea Schönborn, but they still needed help supervising kids on the playground, so families like ours and the Goebels readily pitched in," recalls Walter.

In May 2009, Walter succeeded Christian Buchbauer as Board President. During Walter's three-year term, the Berkeley campus grew by adding more grade levels, the Mountain View campus completed its first round of classroom expansion, and the Board approved the founding of the San Francisco campus. More significantly, the Board improved its governance structure by adopting a Code of Conduct and Business Rules. "The campus expansion to the East Bay and San Francisco raised GISSV's profile as the preeminent German-English bilingual school in the Bay Area," reminisces Walter, adding, "I am happy that the Board took the bold step of setting up the San Francisco campus in the Presidio."

When Walter's term as president ended in 2012, in gratitude for his leadership to bring parity in staff and teacher salaries as well as providing healthcare benefits, GISSV staff presented his family with a pomegranate tree, at the suggestion of Jutta Fugmann. That no-longer-bewildered wife calls that her "Board Widow Pomegranate Tree" for the amount of late evenings she spent watching her husband doing Board work or seeing him return home in the wee hours from a Board meeting.

"It was a very rewarding experience to help shape the success of our school," Walter states and he encourages every parent to run for election and contribute towards the continued success of GISSV. Although the school will likely reach 700 students in the 2019-202 academic year, the relationship between parent volunteers and the school administration and faculty remains very much tied to its grass-roots origins. As the longest-serving Board member, Walter is looking forward to celebrating GISSV's 20th anniversary in 2020.

Supriya Solbach
At GISSV since 2013, Board member since 2017

Her older daughter was three years old when Supriya Solbach's family joined GISSV. Since her daughter's classroom was located at the Castro campus, she had nary an idea of how the school operated. Supriya soon determined that to find out more about the school, she had to join the Parent Association and help other new parents along the way.

During her third year as PA Rep, she was invited to participate in the 5-Year Strategic Planning workshop, where she worked in the Facilities Working Group. "Hearing [former Head of School] Martin Fugmann describe the challenges facing the school regarding growth was a lightbulb moment for me," she recalls. Her daughters were now at the MV campus, and a handful of parents suggested she consider a Board of Directors run. Although she didn't win the first time, she was not deterred. Instead, she ran for MV PA President, which landed her squarely in the middle of series of transitions: welcoming a new Head of School, working through the Board expansion, and providing continuity with Board liaison Dr. Manfred Mueller on the Berkeley phaseout - all these situations served to prime her to serve on the Board.

With the benefit of that experience, Supriya offers sound advice to parents who are curious about Board service. "It is a big time commitment on a daily basis," she emphasizes. "Definitely more than 20 hours a year! Sometimes one has to respond during the work week, so it requires being able to balance board work with your professional work and your family work," she adds. She acknowledges that the support of her family is invaluable, as oftentimes "young kids don't understand the absence." Although sometimes as PA Rep and as Board member, Supriya has been asked to address matters that are not pertinent to her position, she observes that "knowing how the school operates, and the PA's place, the Board's place and yours, and following the Board's Code of Conduct" has been a key component in helping her be fair and effective. "Sometimes decisions won't be to your liking," she adds. "But you have to commit to the group decision and maintain confidentiality." As a good resource in navigating through these challenges, Supriya finds that the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) has standards and best practices for governing groups such as our own Board of Directors. Her Board peers have guided her as the group's perspective changes on how things work in any given moment. "Hearing from parents gives you more breadth, not just what happens now but how to address future concerns," she maintains. "Upholding financial stability, mitigating risks, and long-term objectives are tied to an overall plan. Everything we do has that long-term vision. Having that long-term perspective allows us to see how things in the present are tactical but also affect strategy," she offers.

The main message that Supriya wants to convey to all parents is this: "Board members make decisions on behalf of the entire school, all divisions and teachers, both campuses, all parents, all students." To attain those decision-making skills, Supriya emphasizes the importance of knowing the school's structure and processes. Her own experience attests to that.

Dr. Brett Wingeier
At GISSV since 2016, on the Board since 2017.

Brett's paternal grandfather was the last native German speaker in his family, which is why he and his wife sought a bilingual immersion program for their daughter's preschool education. "We had been trying to learn German with her, to revisit our heritage and bring it back to the family," he recalls. "So we found the atmosphere, attitude, and approach to language immersion and instruction [at GISSV] all fantastic!" he admits. Toward the end of her first year of Kibili, he heard about the upcoming Board elections, especially from the SF campus.

Understanding that the tight San Francisco real estate market presented GISSV and its Board with a significant facilities challenge, Brett figured his past experience in running a startup would be advantageous for the school. Even though his family was relatively new at the school, he submitted his Board candidacy and won. "I felt that GISSV faced both challenges and opportunities," he recognizes. "In SF, the particular challenge is that the campus is small and young, but presents great opportunities because the pent-up need for bilingual education is great," he concedes.

The opportunity to represent the entire school on the Board gives Brett a source of pride and satisfaction, although his location proved invaluable in the search for a new and bigger campus. "Not just the Board, but Mike Nielsen did a ton of work - we worked hard to respect everybody's needs and expectations," he admits. "School is a weighty topic - people move to be close to the school and base their entire lives on that, so we had better respect the community's needs." Acknowledging that no matter how hard the Board and the Administration work, they cannot make everybody happy. Yet, he admits "One thing we learned was how receptive and understanding people were. When we were transparent about the locations and tradeoffs," the parent community responded very well. "They said, 'okay, we get it - no location is perfect, we respect the final decision'." For Brett, there was a "great moment of trust between the board and larger community," and a reminder of "how well things can go when the Board is transparent." The establishment of this trust also depended on good luck, but the preparation to seize the good luck when it came, and having a backup plan contributed to a satisfactory outcome. "All those things came together!" he asserts. "The 'bones' of the school is its physical location - this is where all our kids will spend a lot of hours during the formative years," so it's important that parents know that the Board and the Administration work tirelessly on their behalf.

Equally rewarding for Brett during his time on the Board has been the attitudes of the community and its evolution over the past few years. "The East Bay separation was tense - right when I came on the Board," he admits. "The team worked together where now attitudes and perceptions have evolved to a point of more understanding and good feelings and we continue to be in a better place as an organization." His greatest learning has been how well people respond to transparency. "When you know that the news will make people mad, but you are transparent, people respond well," he says.

In distilling his views about his contributions to the Board, his family background again provide some context. "My mom was a Middle School English teacher for her entire professional career," he recalls. "I watched her and listened to her talk about her job. What teachers need is not worry about whether the heating is working, or the financial stability of the school," he insists. "They need to do what they do, without worrying about other stuff. Our job is to set up an environment where kids can learn and teachers can teach."

At being asked about advice for parents considering serving on the Board, Brett exclaims, "Thoroughly recommend it!" He has found his Board work "Enormously rewarding, challenging but manageable. Anybody who brings relevant experience and [is] raising children is well-qualified." His greatest learning from two years of service is "the value of transparency. Anybody should come in wanting to understand that it's hard work" and gets rewarded by seeing its effects in the community. "There are many private schools where they think 'How many wealthy people we can get on our board?' Well, the GISSV Board is made up of parent volunteers. We start as parents, on the Board we're parents, after we're off the Board, we're still parents." He observes this is the "right approach of a great board of committed people."

During challenging and changing times, members of any organization look toward the leadership for guidance. In the last two years, the search for a bigger SF campus, the MV renovation project, the departure of the Head of School - all required substantial and concentrated Board effort. Brett is thankful for the opportunity to contribute to ensure a smooth transition, provide stability, and have a lasting impact on the school. As are we.