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.
  • 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.


December 11, 2016

Dear Leopard Families,

     We held our second School Advisory Board meeting this Saturday, Dec 10th in the conference room at ISG DMM.  Our first order of business was to review “Old Business”  These topics can be seen on the Principal’s Blog. A major item on the review list was the idea that our students must have their own device in grades 5-12 for the coming school year.  It would be great for them to get one yet this school year and we have published the minimum specs that all students should have again on the Blog.
     Another item was “After School Tutoring”.  In the high school, this is being taken care of by staff manning Academic Clubs after school. Several staff have volunteered to help with students seeking extra help and only have to see their counselors for sign up on certain days of the week.  In the MS, these clubs are being handled by the Junior Honor Society during recess for students seeking out this extra help.
     New business:   We discussed the idea of the SAB and its role.  A number of people mentioned that the school needed to do a better job of publishing the work and outreach of the Board.  A suggestion was to publish minutes using Skyward and the Blog together.  This will be adopted.  Another role of the Board is to actively seek input from the community at large.  An idea to set up and man a booth at the Carnival was floated and agreed upon.
     Homework:  This issue has been brought up mostly by grades 3 & 4 parents.  I explained the idea of the “No Homework Policy”.  It isn’t that there is no homework, but that the expectations that homework is to be corrected and graded in school should no longer be an expectation.  ALL STUDENTS still have 20-30 reading expectations and perhaps a short journaling process to complete.  Any work in all other subject areas are to be in the form of games, website visits, family “thinking problems” and the like.  Mrs. Wood, our “literacy specialist”, has volunteered to produce a calendar with monthly formats for you and your child to engage in good ways to build skills and learning together.
     School Wide Testing:  This idea was discussed in that parents felt that they needed more information regarding the testing administered at the school  The school will double check that all families are given access to the fall and spring testing results with the emphasis on “growth” to be the major factor of interest for our individual and grade level students’ results.
     Carnival:  February 9th is our school Carnival.  It is a wonderful celebration of our school, its students, staff and community.  If you are willing and able to help us get sponsorships, donate cool prizes to raffle, or work in any capacity, you are more than welcome to contact me @ 050688-2670 to volunteer.  We are looking at a show that is bigger and better than ever!
     New & Old Student Registration:  These dates are rapidly approaching us.  Shortly after the winter break, papers will be sent home asking for your intentions for the new year and also opening up our school to new families for possible seats at the school for 2017-18.  (JUST A NOTE THAT THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL NEXT FALL IS SEPTEMBER 10, 2017)
     Screenagers: The Movie:  We reviewed the movie and talked about the impact of screen time on students in a global sense. Also, I reported that we will be having another presentation after the winter break having to do with the impact of the internet on adolescents and how to be safe online.  We will let you know about this important event as soon as dates are nailed down.
     MakerSpace:  I attended the Bayan Gardens Maker Fair last week.  It was a good attempt at showing off the new reality of computational power merging with everyday life.  Our dream is to do much of the same and show off our students building, computing, and creating cool and sophisticated projects for everyone to enjoy.

November 28, 2016

Dear Leopard Families,
As we bare down on winter break, I want to take this moment to reflect on the year to date.
We welcomed 5 new sponsored hires to the Leopard Family.  They have made a great impression on our school.  Mr. and Mrs. Ann and Clay Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob and Amy Jaskowiak, and Mr. Gary Moore.  All work in the high school except for Mrs. Amy who is in Middle School English.
We are very settled into our new facility and getting used to its unique properties of what works and what doesn’t work so well.  Mostly we are happy and have plans to fix what is not working as it should. i.e. (some leaks in the roof where the library intersects with floors one and two.)
Our students are involved at a high level in after school activities across the elementary, middle and high schools.  This past weekend alone, we had close to 200 students playing sports, debating, applying business skills, or doing service learning.  Every week and weekend all year long, your students and their teacher sponsors are competing, learning, running school businesses, and serving our Leopard and greater community with their time, energy, and resources.  It is BEAUTIFUL to see in action.  The BOOK FAIR was a lovely example.  Very creative and useful activities are planned for the whole year.  You can be a part of it if you wish to be.  Want to volunteer your time as part of one of these projects?  Just let me know and I am sure to be able to put your energies to good use.
Screenagers the movie:  We showed the Screenagers video to around 100 people total over the two showings.  The main idea like in much of life is that screen time must be monitored and moderation is the key.  Overuse of such devices and technology can lead to addiction and consequences that are devastating to young and old.  I have seen it personally in my own life and know for example that television is a type of drug to me.  I get sucked into that vortex of watching nonsense on television very easily.  As parents, your job is to guide and mentor your children.  Setting rules and guidelines is part of your job.  Making rules together with your children is the best strategy, but YOU must check any unreasonable requests and must be the judge and jury.  For example:  A reasonable guideline for high school students would be for all cell phones and devices to be turned into you by 10:00 on school nights so that your child can get a decent amount of sleep.  Earlier for middle school and elementary children.  These ideas guard against addiction and HUGH problems later in life.
In conjunction with this theme, a consultant from Seattle, Washington, is coming to Dammam to present to our students in all grades about the proper use and danger of the internet in
Upcoming Events:
1.  Order your school laptop.  See the letter on Skyward for information on how to order.
2.  School Advisory Board:  Parents are invited to the next SAB at 10:00 in the conference room at ISG DMM Saturday, Dec. 10th.  This is an advisory sounding board for interested families to offer their ideas for school improvement.  President Masroor Khan
3. We are often looking for Afterschool Activity sponsors to help us offer extra activities that the school can not. If you have a skill that you can offer once or twice a week for 8 weeks, let me know and perhaps we can make it happen.
4. Carnival is coming!!! February 9th from 11:00-3:00! We are looking for donations, gifts, sponsors, and help. More information is coming soon.
5.  Compassion Summit:  Regional High & Middle Schools are organizing a compassion summit to take place in Jordan this coming spring.  It sounds like an exceptional opportunity for our students to reach out into the world with open eyes.
Hoping this finds you well and don’t hesitate to connect if you have questions whatsoever.