For over 50 years, French American International School of San Francisco has delivered a rigorous bilingual education program to its students. Growing from a two-room elementary school in 1962 to the multi-campus, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school it is today took vision, focus, determination, and a bank that was interested in more than dollars and cents.
"First Republic set out to understand our school’s needs. And they've delivered on that."
We sat down with Head of School Melinda Bihn and CFO Aaron Levine to discuss what makes French American unique, how First Republic helps them achieve their mission and the best advice they’ve received.
French American International School is unique. What is your mission and what sets you apart from other schools in San Francisco?
Melinda: Our mission is to educate students for a world that is international, multi-lingual and challenging. We want to create an environment that is academically rigorous and teaches students to think critically and to communicate across cultures so that they can become people who have an impact on the world, wherever they may choose to live.
Aaron: We're kind of an unusual school. We're a French school, an international school and we're also a local school. So, we're a little different than others.
Creating an environment that allows students to flourish comes with its own set of challenges. How has First Republic been able to support you in this?
Aaron: First Republic set out to understand our school’s needs. And they've delivered on that. They have people who are willing to spend the time to understand us and structure personalized solutions for us that make sense.
Melinda: In school you're always trying to develop your vision for students by creating the best experience for them. That means that you face a set of challenges around realizing a dream every day that you go to work. One of the things that's nice about working with First Republic is that they are open to the evolution of our vision for education.
So, as we've evolved our ideas for the school, like building a new facility for our youngest students, they’ve been right there with us, supporting the evolution of our vision for what this could mean for our kids.
When you think about your prior banking relationship, what changes have you seen since switching to First Republic?
Melinda: The greatest value that I've drawn from our relationship with First Republic is the ability not to have to worry about the routine parts of banking. I have the freedom to think about what we want to do for our students and know that First Republic is right there to partner with us when we want to do something creative.
Aaron: I wasn't aware that banks provided the level of service that First Republic has provided. We've found working with the bank has helped us build a solid foundation of strong financial management. And that frees up my time to work with Melinda on finding ways to help her lead the kind of change that we want for kids at the school.
Students of all ages are eager to learn. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Melinda: The best professional advice I've ever gotten was to slow down. I'm a person who moves pretty quickly and get jobs done. But not everything in life is resolvable. Problems can be solved. Dilemmas have to be lived with. As a professional, an educator and certainly a Head of School, I'm learning to slow down and to live with a problem to see if that's really what it is before I get busy trying to solve it.Aaron: The best piece of advice I've gotten is to be honest. Be honest with others and especially be honest with yourself about what you want, what makes you happy and what you have or don’t have.