April 8, 2018

As I near the end of my seventh and final year as your Principal at this wonderful school. I want to take this opportunity to thank the whole community of students, staff and families that have helped to make my time in the kingdom unforgettable.  Lately as you know, we recently received our Middle State Association accreditation.  A few of you even sat on the review committee and was able to share your thoughts on our school and offered suggestions for improvement.  Our school is setting up for the next seven years of some very ambitious goals.  We are using coaches, consultants, and our own internal resources to advance all curricular areas.  Parent representatives have met individually with both VPs Mrs. Lejmi in the high school and Mr. Naidoo in the middle school.  Questions regarding grades, curriculum, and academic support were all on the table.  These productive meetings were met with positive responses by the parent representatives.  We feel strongly that useful changes will be made throughout our system.  One example is that the high school GPA scoring is under scrutiny and a mutual adjustment is being planned.  We are planning our next PAB this April 21 at 10:00 at the Conference Room at the school.


January 20, 2018

Dear Leopard Families,

     Due to the fragile budget situation that ISG Dammam is currently in, the staff of the school have been called upon to help by sacrificing 12.5% of this year’s salary going forward.  We have looked everywhere for the ways we can make up the shortfall and we are really left with the cuts in salary and essentially no more spending on nonessentials for the remainder of this year.  This will mean that the student school day is being readjusted to 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Staff timings will be from 7:00-2:00.
     Further, we are letting everyone know that the increase being asked for in future tuition is substantial in order to meet our goals to maintain superior education at a competitive price point.  At present we are planning to lose 50% of our sponsored hires and not replacing them.  If we can get things stabilized and back on track, it is everyone’s wish to snap back to the present schedule and staff structure.  Obviously, this will take time, careful planning, and mostly strong enrollment as 100% of our funding comes from tuition.
    For this reason, we are asking you to again sharpen your pencils and do the math about whether or not your family can remain with us, or is it time to make other plans? Perhaps this is a bit harsh, but it is the reality of the situation.
    A final note, please know that 80+% of our families pay their tuition on time.  Please try to keep on track with the payment plan as penalties are going to be assessed when these payments are found to be lacking.  

Thank you for your time.

September 30, 2017

Dear Leopard Families,

     Welcome to the new school year.  I am happy to report that we are off to a great start and have a solid teaching staff in place, good numbers in the classroom, and feel very good about how the year is shaping up.  If you missed the open house, we went over a number of “housekeeping ideas” together:

  • Please, no Trolley bags in the Prek-8.  I know that I have said this many times, but there is no need for students to cart around a heavy bag for their books and supplies.
  • Send Water Bottles to stay hydrated!  Send a sack lunch and healthy snacks!
  • Cell phones should not be seen or heard except before school,  during lunch break, and after school.
  • Dress Code:  Please wear collared shirts and shorts that cover your knees.
  • BYOD:  Grades 5-12 are asked to bring their own laptop as this tool is very needed in the daily school life. Cell phones will no longer be given access to the school wifi.
  • Homework Policy:  These past few years, lots of schools have adopted a “No homework policy.”  What does this mean for ISG DMM?  Basically, it means that we do not assign any “graded” work to go home with our students.  Nearly all graded work will be done in school.  There may be some exceptions to this.  Also every school day students will have reading to do and perhaps some math.  Your teachers are giving you the math websites to help with practice and games to improve skills.

Homework Guidelines

  • Skyward:  Parents are requested to check their Skyward site and double check that all spellings, cell numbers and emails are correct.  You can do so via the school email system.  dammam-registrar@isg.edu.sa
  • Parent Advisory Board:  This committee is designed to give parents some voice in school operations. For example; we studied transportation quite in-depth last year and found that although our system, such as it is, works for us at the lowest cost and probably will be what we are stuck with unless people are willing to pay substantially more money.  We have lots of issues to discuss. We also like to stay focused on educational problems that we can actually have some impact upon.
  •  Our next PAB is scheduled for October 14 at 10:00 a.m., in the conference room next to my office.


May 17, 2017

Dear Families,

Possibility of a Summer camp at ISG, Dammam

 Principal took the initiative to setup the camp this year. However, staff was not able to commit their participation for this year and little interest was shown by the parents. School is willing to setup the camp next year if there are potential / enough participants.

Since the meeting, I did get just enough interest from a variety of staff to “float a trial balloon” for students and families to join for a summer school camp.  I have invited 4 and 5th graders to join first.  I am looking to get 12-15 students in 4 sections of students for this first try at a camp.

Online Payment options

 ISG is still struggling to strike a deal with the Bank for Online Payment Solution or the option of POS machine(s). School will update the outcome of on-going negotiations with its bank.

Since Saturday, I met with the CFO and #2 of ISG.  They assure me that they are working hard to make this happen so families can handle tuition payments electronically if they choose.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

  Save your Seat fee

 Save your Seat fee has been waived off for the school year 2017-2018. For the families who have deposited the amount, this fee will be adjusted in school year’s fee/installments

  Enrollment contract

 Parents conveyed their concerns on the contract. PAB was informed that the contract is still being discussed with the Board of Trustees (BOTs). School will update the outcome of on-going discussion by end of this month.
 It is expected that there will still be an increase in fee, however, the percentage of increase is still being discussed and to be informed later.

 ‘Payment of full year’s fee in case of early discontinuation’ is also under discussion and outcome is awaited.  


 Possibility of hiring a professional transportation service was discussed. However, this option is not being pursued further as there is lack of information on the dynamics of their operations, such as;

 + Single pick and drop points for multiple commuters/locations as opposed to door-to-door service offered by current setup

 + Routes, timing and duration of trip per child is unknown

 + Participation from majority of parents is required to get the best possible deal

 + Potential cost increase. Amount is unknown

 + School’s involvement/role in this contract would be a preference

Bring your own device (BYOD) for 2017-18

 BYOD has been made mandatory for school year 2017-18. The device should adhere to minimum requirements set by the school. A limited quantity of Chromebooks is also available at school for purchase and its detail has been sent through Skyward.

The school is very firm on ALL students bringing their own laptop to school next calendar year.  It is a tool that every student must have.  A SAR 1500-2000 Chromebook would be very sufficient.   

– Roadwork / construction

 Municipality (Baladiyah) is working with construction contractor for completion of repair works. There are no firm schedules.

March 15, 2017

Dear Families,

As parents, we work hard to raise our children in a giving, fair, and loving environment.  This is not always easy, as raising children is not for the timid and weak.  Children are challenging and we often do not know what the best strategies are when trying to make good decisions regarding their welfare.  Sometimes we have to be very tough and I know that most times disciplining a child is much harder on the parent than it is on the child her/himself.  Why is this?  Because no one wants their child to be unhappy.  It is a parent’s nature to want their child to be happy and content all the time.
Now of course this is “magical thinking”.  No one is capable of such a feat.  Children are going to need to do things they would rather not do and be uncomfortable and learn to share and a hundred thousand other things that they would rather not do.  When it comes to talking to your child and other children you meet, words matter.  Words are very powerful.  Words can make a huge difference.  Please note the video below.

As you digest the theme of this research, please note that as a parent you can help build capacity in your child by following the rules of feedback by focusing your words on the EFFORT that a child displayed in accomplishing a task.  Changing the focus to the EFFORT a child exhibits can help mold a child that is willing to work hard at their goals, willing to take a risk to fail, and understands at a “gut” level that they can accomplish things by hard work and perseverance.
We have only a few weeks before the beginning of Spring Break.  Remind your child of their goals, look over their Skyward Account, and let’s keep focused right up to the end of the school year!

Annie Mathew: A 30 Year Love Story

Dear Leopard Families,

Perhaps you have heard by now that Mrs. Annie Mathew, the Elementary School Principal, since 2001 has repatriated to her beloved Kerala, India.  It all happened so fast that she barely had time to clean her desk out properly.  In any case, Annie’s Story, as we shall call it, is a Love Story that lasted 30 years.

As she tells it, she wanted to be a scientist.  However, her father thought that since her elder brother was already in medical school, she would be better served to go into education.  Being the dutiful daughter, this is what she did, majoring in science courses on her way.

Getting married and moving to KSA in 1987, she quickly was lucky to find a home for her new skills at International Schools Group.  She talks fondly of her first mentors, Dr. Dan Tye and colleagues too numerous to mention, although we can not forget VP of the Middle School, Mrs. Sylvia Marcos as one of her most beloved confidants.  They taught, groomed, and trained this young whisper of a girl to be the confident, wise, and admired leader of an elementary school that is the envy of many schools in the whole kingdom and dare I say the whole of the Middle East!

Annie, as she is affectionately known, grew up within the comforting and progressive walls of ISG Dammam.  She was intellectually stretched, raised her family, and became a grandmother while still the leader of our school. Her experience as a mother, as a teacher, and as an administrator all shaped who she is today.  And this is why it was so hard to say goodbye to the school.  It is why it was hard for all of us within the system to give her up to what we all knew had to be, to give her back to her home.  

Annie has a new chapter to write with her wealth of knowledge and her vital energy.  She needs to be there for her family at this critical time in their lives.  She needs to create a new life after her long tenure in ISG, and she needs to put her energies into building a new legacy in India for her knowledge is too deep not to be tapped for the good of her community.

I know that we will all miss Annie dearly.  I also know that she does not want us to pout and mope about feeling sorry for our loss.  She will want us to go about the business of building on what she would have called the community success of ISG Dammam and bring this school to even greater heights!  We miss you and wish you, Annie, all the very best!

I know that I speak for so many of the Leopard and ISG District community when I say that we could not have worked with a more gracious, generous, and genuine person than Annie.  We were so lucky to have been able to call her our colleague and more importantly our friend.

Take Care,

John Rutten,
ISG Dammam Principal

School Advisory Board meeting Notes

Thank you for attending today’s PAB meeting. Following is the brief of today’s proceedings:
Notes submitted by Chairman Masroor

Carnival: Thoughts and Suggestions
Thank you ISG-Dammam for setting up another successful Carnival. ISG invited the students and teachers from Autism School to the carnival which was a great gesture.

Suggestions:  a. inviting entertainment/toys companies such as Newboy to setup games etc at next event; b. setting up the booths at the far end of the football field; in front of the gymnasium to avoid bottlenecks; c. The second gym could be used for performances/gigs.

Activities offered by ISG:
The school is trying to setup activities such as football or volleyball, debating etc, and although the number of participating students is less, school will still try to setup the activities on Saturdays. The school is exploring the possibility of setting up some parents students workshops. Any chance to teach our teens other skills?

Items to be discussed in next PAB meeting.

1. Transportation:
We discussed school contracting a single transportation service. One of the drawbacks could be that door to door pick and drop might not be possible. However, it is to be discussed with prospective transportation service.
The possibility of dropping off students after after-school activities to be explored. Another drawback from past research on this issue is the cost of such services.  Safety being a huge concern may trump this idea of costs, but it is always a concern.

2. Awareness month / Quarter
3. Reaching out to parents for support with after school activities
4. After school / Weekend activities for Elementary School kids
5. Tutor help after school

Possibility of online fee payment

The possibility of Payments through Sadad / Mada was discussed. The principal explained how school has not been able to cut a deal with a couple of banks to offer required services.

Maker’s space:
ISG has bought five machines that are soon to be setup at school labs.

Raising funds for school through more events
We discussed the possibility of setting up more events to raise funds for the school. The funds could be utilized for teachers’ development or setting up new activities for students.

School brochure/flyer:
A new school brochure, describing school history and objectives, was shown by the principal. These will be distributed to new families planning to join the school for next fiscal year.