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Our Story

Fulfilling Our Humanitarian Promise, Strategic Plan 2017-2022

In 1966, a spirited group of preschool teachers and parents conceived of a new school: a diverse community coming together as a village to raise adventurous, compassionate children. They imagined The San Francisco School graduates as humanitarians with a deep sense of responsibility toward others, and as courageous learners with a drive towards personal excellence. In the 50 years since, our city and our world have changed, and so has our school. But our vision for SFS has remained steadfast - people and community are at the heart of all we do.

During the 2016-17 academic year, a committee of Board members, faculty and staff, alumni, and parents met to make a five year strategic plan. In this age of rapid acceleration and growing inequities, we resolved to create a plan that stays focused on people, while also embracing technology as a tool for creativity, innovation, and productivity. At the forefront of our plan was accepting the responsibility of financial sustainability and growth.

The strategic plan has served us well as a compass for the navigation of the School’s course, even during the COVID pandemic. Below is the introductory video which debuted at the All School Meeting on September 25, 2017. You may read the priorities and specific initiatives below. You may also download a complete text version.



Building on our strengths and areas for growth, the strategic plan looks closely at and dreams big about the realities of contemporary teaching and learning. It also focuses on community both inside and outside the gates of 300 Gaven Street. Lastly, it envisions a school that is innovative and supports our staff and families as they face the benefits and challenges of living in the world-class city of San Francisco.

To incorporate cutting-edge research in order to place teaching and learning in a global contemporary context

The San Francisco School staff will teach and work in a collaborative and intentional way, supported with focused professional development. This professional support will include peer mentor, coaching, and instructional leadership opportunities. Not only will our staff learn from one another, but we will invite others to learn from us. Our faculty’s work will be data-driven and guided by current research in teaching, learning, and brain science. Integrated with our highly regarded arts programming, the subjects of math, science, and technology will have a more visible presence. There will continue to be a strong throughline of the humanities, empathy, citizenship, and social-emotional learning.

Global programs and innovative technology will provide students and teachers opportunities to connect with others from around the world through both virtual and physical interactions. These will strengthen cultural understanding and provide language opportunities for our students. Keeping pace with technological tools expands possibilities beyond our classrooms. We will enrich student learning through global relationships, strengthening cultural understanding and language learning opportunities for our students.

We will renew our commitment to environmental sustainability and pledge to engage in the critical fight against climate change through education and actions that will have an impact on our campus and our planet. The campus will remain green and alive with abundant spaces for students to find adventure, learn about ecology, and develop a love of nature. Indoor spaces will include nimble, flexible classrooms that encourage collaboration and partnership as well as spaces for staff and parents/guardians to work or get together.

Finally, the school day schedule will support a more flexible, collaborative, and balanced approach to the way SFS uses time and meets the needs of students and the professional community.  We will thoughtfully adjust programming to optimize when and how students learn best. We will evaluate and revise the schedule to allow the faculty sufficient time to work together on multidisciplinary, project-based lessons and to have adequate time for collaboration and professional development.

To safeguard the diverse and inclusive community of SFS, to enrich accessibility for families, and to deepen our experiences with diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice both on and off our campus

The San Francisco School was founded under the principles of Maria Montessori, and we recognize the diversity within all children and that each child has a special characteristic that makes him or her wholly him- or herself.  As our Educational Philosophy states, we believe students learn best when they are encouraged to be curious, to explore, to ask meaningful questions, and to discover. They will be challenged to master a varied curriculum that will progressively increase in complexity. Our students will collaborate across grades and disciplines to learn teamwork, cooperation, and problem solving. We will urge them to be courageous, to take risks, and embrace their mistakes. We will inspire them to be compassionate and know that their actions make a difference. 

We will take a bold approach to equitable access to education. We will welcome multicultural students and staff from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and family structures. We will incorporate opportunities into the students’ educational experience as they will be encouraged to explore, deeply understand, and solve real-world social justice challenges by engaging in service learning both on and off campus. The curriculum will systematically integrate issues of equity and social justice on a local, national, and international level.

The San Francisco School will strengthen its endowment to allow families to creatively approach the cost of an SFS education, including but not limited to managing the cost of education and exploring different models of tuition and tuition assistance. Increasing the accessibility of an SFS education will solidify the representation of diverse communities from throughout the city and Bay Area, promoting the inclusion of its many voices. Students will have equal access to educational supports and resources throughout their time at SFS and as they enter the high school application process, resulting in greater choice and opportunity beyond SFS.

To engage more fully with the Portola neighborhood and San Francisco and to address the challenges and benefits of living, working, and thriving in the Bay Area

The San Francisco School will be more deeply integrated with its local neighborhoods, the city of San Francisco, and the Bay Area. With our increased visibility and outreach, as well as greater accessibility for all, we will have more students from the Portola, Excelsior, and Bayview. It is important that the SFS student body include children of families that have lived in the area for many generations and families who have recently arrived to reflect the demographics of our neighborhood as well as the evolving nature of the San Francisco Bay Area.

We will explore the many resources that our location offers: institutions of art, culture, and science; the wealth of natural space such as ocean, coast, woods, and mountains; the technology and entrepreneurialism of the Bay Area; and collaboration with local institutions such as schools and neighborhood organizations. The result will be an expanded, limitless classroom in which our community both learns and instructs. It will also strengthen our appreciation and pride in the Portola and San Francisco.

The growth of our endowment will permit competitive salaries and benefits. We will support our staff to find housing in the area, simplifying their commute to work and promoting an improved quality of life.  For those who reside in other parts of the city and the Bay Area, commuting will be facilitated through access to public transportation and shuttles.

In further consideration of the various logistical challenges confronting families and staff, we will be innovative with the structure of our academic calendar. This will promote the health and wellness of our community and maximize our resources, both human and institutional.


Our strategic priorities are interconnected, created to realize our commitment to humanitarian promise, and therefore they do not exist in separate contexts.  The success of our plan recognizes the interdependence of the priorities, and our thoughtful, innovative initiatives reflect this. Rather than addressing each priority separately, we strive to actualize them simultaneously by creating initiatives that provide a diverse and inclusive community; ensure contemporary teaching and learning; and support living, working, and thriving in the Bay Area.


Spanish Language and Global Programs: Our ongoing commitment to developing global citizens, combined with a strengthened commitment to teaching the Spanish language, will be realized through expanded cross-cultural experiences for both students and staff. Spanish language will be spread across the program and learning will be deepened through shared projects and immersion opportunities. Our decision to intentionally focus on a single language at this time will ensure that our students leave SFS with a level of fluency and comfort with the language as well as an in-depth appreciation of worldwide Hispanic cultures. In addition, building on the current music program intern model, we will continue to host visitors and experts from other countries. We will create global connections not only with the diverse members of our surrounding neighborhoods but also through virtual communication and technology.

Empathy in the Age of Acceleration: The teaching of empathy has long been a hallmark of the San Francisco School. To thrive in the future, students will need technological fluency and the capacity for innovation and collaborative problem solving with deeply human skills. We will provide human-centered, interdisciplinary, and project-based opportunities in technology, coding, math, engineering, product design, and science. These will be integrated with instruction in the arts, humanities, socio-emotional learning, digital citizenship, social justice, and empathy. As students move through the school, they will have opportunities to engage in projects where they combine age-appropriate technology, ethical decision-making, and human-centered problem solving.


Reimagination of Time and Communication: The San Francisco School will undertake an expansive exploration of how we use time, both the annual calendar and the daily schedule. We seek to benefit the educational program, to meet the needs, demands, and circumstances of our diverse families and the staff, and to promote wellness. We will examine daily class and staff schedules, explore the summer months, assess the needs of our community before school hours and after school ends, and get curious about how time can support greater health and wellness for the community and more joyful teaching and learning. Lastly, in this age of instant and various methods of information exchange and media, we will explore and implement the most effective and efficient ways to communicate with students, parents/guardians, and alumni about our program as well as to receive feedback.

SFS Youth Humanitarian Initiative: As we seek to find ways for our students to truly develop their humanitarian promise, we will develop a Youth Humanitarian Initiative. This effort will develop curriculum, experiences, leadership/mentoring, and real-world opportunities for preschool to grade 8 students that allow them to gain service learning, social justice, and entrepreneurial skills through projects on and off campus. Focusing on diversity, equity, social justice, civic engagement, and global citizenship, the Youth Humanitarian Initiative will both benefit SFS students and connect students throughout the Bay Area in order to benefit the broader community.

Lifelong Learning Initiative for Staff: The professional community of the San Francisco School represents the heart and soul of our program. This initiative will ensure the ongoing quality of the curriculum and instruction at SFS and the professional learning of teachers. More specifically, the initiative will also showcase our talented educators and staff members. The initiative will provide professional development in the form of on- and off-site curriculum training, instructional technology, mentorship for both new and experienced staff, feedback and evaluation, space for collaboration, health and wellness programs that support work/life balance, and internal professional learning groups. This initiative will also provide formalized opportunities for our teachers to share their expertise with the staff from other schools through on- and off-site trainings and coaching.

Building the Endowment: We will double our endowment over the next five years in order to deepen our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency. This will allow the San Francisco School to be more intentional with its outreach, recruitment, and retention of families and staff. We will reinforce this increased endowment with a schoolwide commitment to philanthropy and fundraising campaigns for specific programs or needs, such as supporting our staff in professional development, competitive salaries, and benefits; adopting programmatic changes or modifying curriculum; and making campus enhancements.


Flexible and Innovative Campus: In order to design more student-centered, individualized learning experiences, we will continue to enhance our campus with learning spaces that support our program. Creating more flexible classroom spaces that can be arranged in many different configurations will enable our students to more easily engage in collaborative projects, move their bodies, and access appropriate technology. Flexible spaces also allow our educators to design the classroom around lesson objectives rather than have a classroom determine the pedagogy or curriculum.

Deepened Partnership with San Francisco and the Portola District: As we consider more real-world learning opportunities for our students, we will expand our concept of “campus” beyond the schoolyard gates. We will utilize the resources available in the Bay Area, especially within the Portola. We will engage with the people and places that make the area unique. Our amazing neighborhood, historically known as the Garden District, offers students and teachers an abundance of natural resources, a rich history, and a myriad of adventures. It also provides opportunities for our students to identify challenges and to investigate solutions in our immediate community.

Environmental Stewardship: We will maintain our commitment to environmental stewardship, being conscious of our local ecology and aware of regional, national, and global issues. Our commitment to the environment will inform our decisions on campus enhancement. We will utilize resources efficiently while we reduce our environmental impact and costs, thereby improving the health and wellness of our students and staff. Our environmental and sustainability education will result in further appreciation of our natural surroundings; maximization of energy conservation; reduced water use, waste, and emissions; and stronger recycling and composting efforts. We will be ecologically literate, advocate on behalf of our environment, and be responsible denizens of the earth.