Director's Dispatch: Feb. 18

posted Feb 18, 2011, 7:37 AM by Suzanne WARDINI
Wayne Rutherford, Director

Calendar Questions, Recruiting Report, Development Day

Greetings. The past week's holidays and school calendar elicited some comments and questions from parents, and I thought I'd take a moment to discuss the ISD School calendar. Specifically, parents asked why ISD was not recognizing Gamou this week, but would be closed for (US) Presidents' Day next Monday. Here's more than you want to know about ISD's calendar: 

ISD's calendar is set at 180 'contact days' for students--these are days when teachers and students are together pursuing learning. 180 is a number set by most US accrediting agencies, including ours: the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges. Thus the Board needs to approve a calendar that meets this requirement and also the educational needs of our students. In addition, they also consider the calendar of our host nation, Senegal, and to a lesser extent, the needs and wants of teachers and families. Clearly, with 50 different nationalities, it would be impossible for ISD to observe every nation's national celebration and holidays. The Board has approved a calendar for this year that observes some Senegalese holidays (but not all) some US holidays (but not all) some Muslim holidays (but not all) and some Christian holidays (but not all). They have also attempted to balance the requirements of trimester breaks, parent teacher conferences, professional development days, and professional conferences. Thus, we celebrated Tabaski and Korite, but not Gamou. Presidents Day has long been linked--in Dakar--with the West African Invitational Softball Tournament (WAIST) which is held, in part, on the ISD campus. Closure on this US national holiday allowed for our campus to host WAIST games and related activities. This is a tradition with an over-20 year history. Regardless of the fact that there are few softball players on the ISD Board, they are observing this tradition. 

In December, the Board held a Community Forum to discuss how we form our calendar, and specifically to share the rationale behind the 3+1 and 2+2 alternating break pattern we have adopted (this year we had 3 weeks for winter break and 1 for spring; next year we have 2 for winter and 2 for spring...) A small number of parents showed up, and the Board did its best, along with the Director, to answer their concerns. 

Finally, with regards to the calendar, 'different strokes for different folks' holds true: some parents like to be with their kids on national holidays when they don't have to work. Some parents like the national holidays when their children are in school so that they have an unusual day off from kids and work. One decision on the part of the school won't please everyone....that is a truism underscored by the school calendar each year. The Board and school Administration do their best to make a calendar that is Good for Learning. That is our job, to protect the mission of the school. It may not meet individual family's vacation plans, but we do have a basis for our decisions, though they may seem illogical from outside the board room. We do encourage parents to attend community meetings when they are held, to share their perspectives on important school and community issues. 

Recruiting Report:
As some of you know, I was away at a teacher recruiting fair this past week. Each year, school Directors from all over the world meet with teachers interested in international education at hiring fairs. This year, the fair was in San Francisco. I realize some folks might suspect this was just a junket and that I was out enjoying Rice-a-Roni each day, I actually was out of the conference hotel for only a few hours during my seven day stay. I interviewed about 20 teachers for our two open positions (Art and Middle School Social Studies) and offered six contracts. Unfortunately, each candidate made the decision to pursue other offers, and I left the fair without filling either position. Since that time, I was able to hire an Art teacher (from the candidate data-base of another hiring organization) and will work to fill the final opening in the coming week. Of possible interest, I lost teachers to Bogota, Beirut, Quito and Kuwait. Interesting choices by teachers, but their choices underscore that it is truly a global market for talent in which ISD competes for teachers. 

Development Day
This afternoon (Feb 18) teachers gathered for Professional Development. Mr. and Mrs. Emborsky led teachers through a 'Tuning Protocol' for peer review of lesson plans. The Middle School division, with Mr. Kellett as their guinea pig, publicly dissected one of his unit plans in front of all the other teachers (a technique called 'fishbowl'). The conversation illustrated how many minds together can produce amazing results, particularly in a structured environment when expectations are clear. Following discussions of this procedure, Mrs. Emborsky, the ISD Curriculum Coordinator, talked with teachers about their progress in mapping the ISD curriculum digitally, and our goals until the end of the year for this time consuming but important work. Thanks to all for participating, and thanks to parents, for understanding that this time together is critical for teachers and the whole ISD staff as we strive to offer the best education possible for your children.