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.

October 31, 2016

Dear Leopard Families,

We end the first quarter of school this week.  This week the teachers are very busy as we have two full days of workshop together at the Dhahran Campus.  This is a time to learn from each other and also share our successes with the broader ISG staff from all the campuses.  This followed up with our Virtual School Day.  We hope to make these virtual school day practices useful because it seems like every year we have something come up which cancels classes and forces us to use this virtual format.
Last week I attended the Leadership Conference in Doha, Qatar.  I had the pleasure of visiting the Qatar Finnish International School.  The Finns have shown year after year that their methods of administering a school results in a #1 ranking.  I was struck by how much our school looks a lot like their school.  Their school day, their lunches, their course offerings are much the same as ours.  Their class sizes are a bit smaller and they offer more hands on activities like woodworking, sewing, art, and music classes.  I would love to be able to do more of these activities in our school.  We keep looking for ways to increase opportunities for our students.
Another great idea of the conference was the idea of building Culture Of Thinking.  Now we would all like to believe that at ISG Dammam, we are all making our students think.  However if you know what you are looking for, we have a way to go on this journey toward really getting our students to think by planning, problem solving, and collaborating. We hope to take this theme to a new and productive level in the coming months and years ahead.
Our school wide goal of having every child equipped with a laptop in order to do their work has been given a boost by the discovery of a local company that can give us a reasonably priced Chromebook just in time for the winter.   We will need to have an order of at least 100 to get the best price of SAR 1778.
I really appreciate your patience with the road and sewage pipe work outside the school.  Please continue to take your time and be courteous with one another.  Also let me remind you that as we come into the season of FOG and rain that you are always to use your best judgement as to whether or not to send your children to school on these days.  I will try to warn you of school closing days via the school TEXT SYSTEM.  Please call us if you think your phone is not on the list.
Please note that Parent /Teacher Conferences are coming up November 17 & 19th.  I hope that you can plan to make it to these important conversations

October 12, 2016

Dear Leopard Families,

This past weekend our School Advisory Board met for our first time for the 16-17 school year.  After a few ground rules and formalities, and by the end of the meeting we elected by acclamation tentatively Khan to be our first SAB Chairperson for this school year.  We also selected the following dates for our meetings at 10:00 a.m on December 10, February 11 and May 13
We enjoyed a spirited and healthy discussions on the following topics:
1. Canteen: There are some concerns about the health food options. Parents need to pack lunches if they are concerned as we continue to explore ways to make our choices for our students better, healthier, while still being affordable.
2. Bathrooms: We talked about the bathrooms and whether or not they are being cleaned. We also talked about the use of Arab showers. Rest assured that students have complete access to these showers. Students are mostly using them responsibly. Also the custodians are cleaning on an hourly basis.
3. Timing for school: We talked about the school day about starting and ending times. We concluded that the start and end dates are probably as good as it can get at present.
4. 1 to 1 Laptop Plan for 2017-18:  We are going to make mandatory the idea that all students from grade 5-12 have their own laptop for work in our school next year. Laptops have become an indispensable tool for students in school. Our school is no different.
5. Screenagers: This is a documentary about the use of screen time and the idea of how dangerous this can be for our youngsters. Please join us for the showing of this important showing of this film on November 17 at 3:30 p.m. just after the Parent Teacher Conferences.
6. Tutor Help After School: This is an annual problem for students and families. We are setting up peer helper sessions during school time with the help of NHS and NJHS. These recess help times will be posted next week. We are also working on “Homework Clubs”. These clubs would meet to get extra help in the major subjects of English, Math, Science, and Social Science.
7. Orientation: Parents new to the school sometimes feel that they and their children are not getting the attention they feel necessary to become oriented to our school. Suggestions included: clearer messaging on the website, an orientation seminar, a day in school for new students without the rest of the school up and running. These are all good ideas that we will take to the administrative team for consideration.
8. Maker Space: Our school is invited to take part in a KSA educational program that brings 21st century learning to the students of Saudi Arabia. Out first project will be 3D printing course to take place at our school in the near future.
9. Please note that the municipality has begun some work on the street next to the school. This will snarl traffic a little for a couple of weeks.
A note about SCREENAGERS the film. ISG Dammam will show this film tentatively scheduled for Nov. 17 at 3:30 directly following the Parent / Teacher Conferences. The video lays out the case for vigilant parental supervision of students and what they are seeing on line, the hours in front of a screen and the impact this all has on them as adolescents.
  Watch the trailer here:
And Lastly: The district is asking for your input. I am sending this email to you regarding the 16/17 admission survey for new parents/families to our school only. Below is the link to a short survey of approximately 10 questions.