September 6, 2013

posted Sep 6, 2013, 9:03 AM by Suzanne WARDINI   [ updated Sep 9, 2013, 3:53 PM ]

Director’s Dispatch

Dear Parents and ISD Community,

During this week there have been several community-building activities to help us start off the school year with a positive sense of purpose.  The Board Retreat served as wonderful means for the Board itself, along with administration and faculty representatives, to form bonds of collaboration in guiding the school as a community through this coming year.  Goals were set for this year, as well as the process for strategic planning for the long term.  Frank and civil discourse was used to establish clarity on goals and to maintain positive working relationships that will be productive throughout the year.  I was quite heartened by the earnest efforts of all members in their efforts to creatively solve problems and develop plans for the benefit of the school as a whole.  These discussions were actually quite stimulating and fun, even as they were relieved from time to time with good humor.  Please see coming reports from the Board on the results of the Retreat.  The Board is committed to communicating frequently and thoroughly with us all throughout the year. 

Our high school students enjoyed their team building retreat down at Toubab Dialaw this week despite the heavy rain on Thursday morning.  This has given them a chance to get to know each other and befriend new arrivals.  These activities are meant to help build bonds among our students and they bode well for a rewarding school year together.    

The PTO met on Tuesday for its first official meeting.  I am pleased to report that over 30 members were in attendance and that many signed up on teams that will sponsor events and activities this school year.  Newly arrived parents took part, as did returning members.  For the first time, we had a translator delivering French summaries of the proceedings.  The PTO will bring much to building up our community this school year. 

In our first faculty meeting following the start of classes, I shared some observations and advice for furthering positive communications that can build up the ISD community.  Since arriving, I have noted the effects of tensions that troubled the community last year and I have been thinking of ways to move forward to building a better, healthier community.  I think it is helpful to review these among faculty and parents.  We actually have most of what is needed at hand, the first being the willingness of community members to practice good communication.  Our Student/Parent Handbook outlines the school’s core values and it sets out the main communication channels that foster healthy interaction.  In the parent agreement section, there are several principles cited that promote respect among community members.  These include knowing, respecting and supporting school and classroom rules.  I quote a key tenet, “Treating all ISD members as one would like to be treated in turn: with respect, good manners, and cultural sensitivity.” 

Our handbook outlines the communication protocol to be used by all.  In principle, bring issues first to the person who is closest to the problem – which is usually the teacher.  Then, if necessary, approach the principal, and later, if needed, the director.  Once these channels have been exhausted, one may approach the board, through an initial letter to the board chair.  This is not meant to sound or feel like some bureaucratic maze.  The intent is to ensure that proper communication with the individual closest to the situation actually happens first.  Leap-frogging to supervisors further up the ladder usually leaves the actual problem solver with frustration and resentment.  Better to meet face to face.  This also addresses recourse to emails, rumors and gossip that go around behind someone’s back, creating more emotional trouble and social pressure than is truly helpful in directly solving a problem.  Frank, respectful and civil communication best builds good working relationships and a healthy community.  I encourage us all to keep these principles in practice the better to build a healthy ISD community that best serves our students and children. 


Paul Olson