Welcome to the CAIS timeline! Click on a year to find out how our school
was started and what changes have taken place over the past 25
Presidential Commission on Language Learning:
"Strength Through Wisdom: A Critique of U.S. Capability" was delivered
by President Carter's Commission on Foreign Languages and International
Studies, which worked for a year investigating students' knowledge
of foreign languages and international studies throughout the
U.S. The report highlighted the need for providing students with
opportunities for studying foreign languages. The Commission's
130 recommendations led to foreign languages becoming a requirement
for college admissions.
In 1999, Leon Panetta, former chief of staff for the Clinton White
House and a member of the 1979 presidential commission, would
make another plea for a focused national strategy for language
"The fundamental point is that overall this nation is lacking
the kind of commitment that it needs to have in order to advance
foreign language training," Panetta said. "If the commission
found in its famous conclusion that Americans' incompetence in
foreign languages was nothing short of scandalous in 1979, then
I'm afraid that my conclusion in 1999 is that while it may not
be scandalous, it is at best disappointing for a nation that is
crossing the threshold of a global era."
Founders Gather: The Honorable Carol Ruth Silver searches for a Mandarin-English school where she can enroll her son, who was adopted from Taiwan. Soon, Silver, with the help of Mimi Luk, a deputy district attorney, and Justice Harry Low—along with a diverse group of parents, educators and other civic leaders—begin to work together to make their collective vision of starting a bilingual, bicultural Chinese-English immersion school in San Francisco a reality.
Founding members include: The Honorable Carol Ruth Silver, then
a San Francisco Supervisor; Mimi Luk, a deputy district attorney;
Justice Harry Low; Bernard Ivaldi, then Head of French-American
Bilingual School; Maurice Tseng, the first President of the Board;
Yvon d'Argence, then curator of the Asian Art Museum; Mike Chiu;
Donna Furth; Diana Chan; Francisco Hsieh; George Cheng; Shih-Tso
Chen, founding and current Trustee, and Alice Carnes, current
Principal Hired, School Opens: Shirley Lee, a faculty member of the Chinese department at San Francisco State University is recruited to serve as the school’s first principal and teacher. Lee will serve as the school’s Head of School for nearly 20 years.
In September, the school opens as the Chinese American Bilingual School with four students in its first kindergarten class. The classrooms are two rented rooms in the auxiliary gymnasium of the French-American Bilingual School at 55 Laguna Street.
For the first year, classes are taught in Chinese only, except for one hour of English.
More Teachers Hired: Janny Kung Liang joins the faculty as a Chinese language teacher. Liang goes on to teach and develop curriculum at the school for the next 20 years, retiring in 2004.
New Name: CABS is renamed the Chinese American International School. A joint English program begins with the French American International School for students in second grade and above. CAIS classrooms and playground are renovated.
"National Prototype": The U.S. Department of Education designates CAIS as “the national prototype for Chinese Language education in elementary schools.”
Senator Simon Recognized: U.S. Senator Paul Simon is given “honorary degree” with CAIS graduating class in recognition of his distinguished national leadership in support of language learning. At the time, Senator Simon was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
New Home - Presidio: CAIS moves to new campus in the Presidio.
CAIS Institute Founded: The day after the Loma Prieta Earthquake, Trustees hold their regular monthly meeting at board member Sally Leung’s house while consulting engineers examined the school building, which is determined undamaged. CAIS’ Institute for Teaching Chinese Language and Culture is founded to promote curriculum development and teacher training at that meeting.
Enrollment: 60 students
Enrollment: 73 students. Grades preK-5th grade
CAIS Middle School starts with Grade 6.
Middle School Completion: Expansion complete with Grades 6-8. The first graduating class consisted of four 8th graders in the Class of 1995.
Purchase of 150 Oak: CAIS
leads the creation of National Center for International Schools
by proposing to establish a multi-school campus as part of the
new Presidio National Park. A formal proposal is submitted by
the new NCIS in cooperation with French American International
School. Extended delays in park legislation and planning lead
CAIS to continue search for a permanent campus. CAIS finds a permanent
home by purchasing the former Caltrans headquarters in the Hayes
Valley/Civic Center neighborhood, on 150 Oak Street, in partnership
with French American International School through their joint
building corporation, the NCIS.
The schools were the high bidder of $3.3 million dollars at an
auction held in the main lobby of the vacant building. The building
had been offered previously at a reserve price of $16 million.
Pioneering Bond Financing for Independent Schools: Following a joint capital campaign with French American, and raising over $7 million dollars, the NCIS, with the investment banking firm of Prager and Sealy, pioneered the use of tax exempt bond financing for independent schools issuing $19 million in bonds to complete the purchase and renovation of the Oak Street building and construction of the new gym. Leading school architects, Simon, Martin-Vague, Winkelstein and Morris, were chosen from the competition to design the gym and complete building modifications.
New Home: Doors of the International
Schools Campus on 150 Oak Street—the new permanent home for CAIS and French American
International School—open in the fall.
Enrollment: 156 students (CAIS)
Shirley Lee Retires: In November,
founding teacher and principal, Shirley Lee retires as Head of
School after 20 years of leadership.
Betty Shon appointed Interim Head
Enrollment: 344 students
Andrew Corcoran appointed Head of School
CAIS wins Goldman Sachs Award for Excellence in International
Enrollment: 363 students
CAIS celebrates 25 years of “Leading the Way”
Enrollment: 400 students