Straight Down the Middle – June, 2016

School’s Out for Summer edition

Ramadan Kareem! Eid Mubarak (soon)!

Though we start a gradual descent toward summer break some time in May, the last week of school always feels like a hasty landing of the plane. C’est la vie for the school teacher! It has been a real pleasure over the past few weeks to attend many of the performances, concerts, graduations, promotion ceremonies, and other events at the ISG campuses. For those I’ve missed, we’ve got ISG’s social media channels.

I want to wish you all a refreshing and stimulating summer holiday, whether you’ll stay in KSA, go home, or take a special trip. For the Richards family, it is time to visit family (Boston & Colorado), take a course, go to camp, fight off mosquitos, and generally relax.

The close of school provides a time for recognition and celebration. It can be difficult when wrapped up in the day-to-day grind of the school year to step back and appreciate the myriad of good work going on each day. Let’s start with something simple: the tens of thousands of staff-student interactions each day. Yes, we pass along knowledge, and help develop skills, but most of all, we mentor, inspire, and set a positive example for our impressionable youth. This partnership allows for growth, and I see it every day in my travels, and it inspires me to be the best I can be.

There is a transactional element to ISG, particularly with the dozens of support staff across the district. Approvals get moved about (along with too much paper, I must say), support is offered, translations are made, advice is given. Thank you to all of those local staff who are lower on the pay scale, but are integral to keeping the whole ISG train moving. Without you, the education would be impossible.

Taking a more macro perspective, we have moved the 21st Century learning needle considerably in terms of technology integration, innovation, new learning spaces, and the still-essential, literacy. We have tried to keep the improvement focus simple and consistent with the binary wings of tech and literacy. We have added a budding coaching system to support teachers in the classroom. We have improved the number of opportunities for athletics and sports within the ISG community. I could go on an on.

From my office, the view forward includes several whales (an ironic term given where we are in the world). We are making good progress on the search for a future Dhahran campus, speaking with several big developers for a state-of-the-art campus. We anticipate reaching an agreement before the winter break.

Attention is being given to support the Jubail community as it builds new middle/high school, as well as Dammam, who opened its new school this year. Yanbu is investing heavily in its current infrastructure. Financial health and Board governance continue to receive ample attention so we can remain on solid footing with these two important drivers.

The search for my replacement continues in earnest, assisted by International School Services. A small committee of the Board is currently vetting candidates to create a short-list for August interviews. Stay tuned for further information when we return to school.

I would like to thank both David Whitaker (and Olga) and Anne Armstrong for providing over a decade of service to the Business Office and Little Learners, respectively. The District Office welcomes in Dirk de Jager (and wife Jeanette) as Director of Finance, and Sylvia Hayles to lead Little Learners. In addition, James Pritlove will be our new Director of Security and Safety. We also welcome in the four-plus dozen sponsored teachers and many more local teachers, TAs, and support staff to ISG. We are a large organization, with many moving parts, but ISG is people-focused and care-based, and we’re eager to welcome, get to know, and learn from our new arrivals.

Believe it or not, we have already planned our annual staff Convocation for Thursday, August 18 at 08:30 in the Dhahran Auditorium. The theme will be collaboration. In that spirit, I encourage you to check out the district’s site for learning—ISG Learns—which Tara Waudby caretakes.

Please see this link to the 2017-18 school calendar. With the location of the two Eids, the school year became a bit squeezed. An August start was simply not feasible.

I’d like to end with a link to ISG’s newly adopted Standards for Customer Service. The District Office strives toward the very highest level of support for the schools and its communities. These standards will help set the tone and expectations for our interactions (such as a “starting with yes” mantra).

Most of you have never been able to visit Yanbu International School, a special community on the Red Sea, north of Jeddah. This “lip dub”, put together by the senior class, is a nice tour of the school (sorry, you’ll need Facebook for this). Enjoy!

Paul

 

 

 

 

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