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:   www.screenagersmovie.com
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.

September 17, 2016

Dear Leopard Families,

I trust everyone had a very good Eid.  My wife and I were lucky enough to share some time with our son in Sheffield, UK.  He just finished his MA degree and is now joining the real and harrowing world of looking for a job.  He seems to have pretty good options out there but still the prospects of looking for work is no fun for anyone!
I have been thinking about the whole idea of college and the costs and our hopes and aspirations for our children. I also look at our students and their dreams and their families’ dreams for these wonderful students.  It is getting more and more difficult all the time for our goals for our children to be realized.
Talking to people and reading about this issue and three themes keep popping up:  Coding, the trades, and learning to understand yourself.
Coding kind of explains itself.  Students who like this kind of thing and study it through the university level are in high demand.  At least at present this is true.  For how much longer?  Who knows.  The IT age is really just beginning in some ways.  Perhaps the coding will be so good and so intuitive that we will be able to speak into a computer and the computer will write the code to program the machine that we want to do a specific task. (At ISG DMM our students are getting a taste of coding all the way from grade 2-12)
The trades:  By this I mean the people who get their hands dirty fixing the many machines we use, or become electricians or plumbers, or a technician of some sort.  These are growth areas as companies are not willing to pay for an engineer when a technician will do quite nicely.  I have heard these stories right here in the kingdom as well.  (At ISG DMM we are introducing “Maker” classes with our Art, Music, Science labs and ICE BOX room.  ICE stands for Invent, Create, and Experiment room.  We are planning to host “Maker” events this year so that families can come into school and work together on projects for fun and enjoyment.
Learning about oneself:  This is a life quest.  I often joke that “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  There is always a bit of truth in jest.  I often look back on the life choices I made and say that there are not many things that I would have chosen to do differently.  However there are a few things.  At ISG DMM we try very hard to model lives of Integrity, Responsibility, Respect, & Tolerance.  We also talk about these themes often.  Global citizens need these values as much as ever.
I am interested in your thoughts on these important topics.
I am also needing volunteers to sign up for the School Advisory Council.
If you are interested in signing up, PLEASE use this form:  HERE
Thanks reading this blog and have a great week!

September 4, 2016

Dear Leopard Families,

I want to thank the families of DMM for helping us all get off to a great start at ISG DMM.  Also want to wish everyone a safe and peaceful Eid Mubarak.  I am especially encouraged by the very good attendance, by DMM standards, at the Saturday parent workshops on Math and Literacy.  It was great to see so many of you here to listen to these presentations.  I believe that most of of the parents left with a much better understanding of what it is that we are trying to do as we tackle these two main subjects.
Mrs Fedio’s  presentation can be seen here .  If you weren’t in attendance, I encourage you to watch it.
The Literacy presentation by our Language Arts teachers was also outstanding, if more complicated to follow.  Literacy is such an important topic and not easy to try to explain in a short amount of time.  I encourage you all to keep in touch with your teachers as your child progresses through the school year.  Good communication will help us all to help our children make great gains in their language skills.
It is time to re-establish the Parent Advisory Board.  PAB is a voluntary group of interested parents, staff and students who would like to be more involved in the school as they meet with the school principal.  If you are interested in participating in these meetings, please note the following:
1.  We meet 3-4 times per year at present at the school usually around 10-11 a.m. Meetings last about 60-90 minutes.
2.  We are not a rule or policy making body.  Our job is only to discuss relevant issues related to the school. More of a discussion roundtable, so to speak.
3. Parental involvement will be a priority for us as we move ahead this year.
4. Please fill out the Google Form to give me your contact information:  here
One thing that I have been thinking about for sometime is the idea that children must move to grow their brain, be creative, and healthy. Lately evidence is showing that children are spending way too much time in front of screens.  From TV, to PCs, to Xbox and the like, too many students are sitting and watching, and “playing” with this technology.  Recently we saw a trailer for Screenagers which you can watch here. The district is sponsoring a community wide viewing of the program in the near future.
At ISG DMM, we are very lucky to have a robust physical education program. Also we are lucky to have the facilities to have such programs. I know that it is not easy to keep your children active as many of you are not near a park or live on a compound with facilities for exercise and play. This video is a thought provoking way to bring attention to an immediate threat to your child(ren). How will you handle it and how can we as a community help?
Have a great week?

August 9, 2016

Dear Leopard Families,

Welcome to the new school year!  I know that I am very excited to begin the 2016-17! Hopefully, your summer vacation was one filled with family, friends, and joy. I consider myself honored and privileged to serve as the principal of such as an exemplary learning community.

Fortunately, our school continues to be a team of exceptionally talented and committed staff that is anchored by a supportive Central Office Administration and Board of Education. This summer, we upgraded our school facility by painting, installing shades and storerooms, and remodeling some rooms for classes. Our custodial staff has been working diligently to prepare the halls and classrooms for another school year. A few reminders:

1.  Please send your child to school with a backpack rather than a trolley.  This should help us keep things cleaner, easy, and simple. Also remember that “less is more”, in that your student(s) do not need a lot of school supplies.  Keep it simple!

2.  Students in grades 3-12 who might be looking for a laptop should follow these guidelines:

Laptops (Minimum Requirements)

Operating system   Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Mac OS X 10.8
Screen Size –              Minimum 13”
Memory  – 4 GB RAM
Processor – Intel i5,    2  GHz processor
Wireless connectivity – yes, 802.11AC needs to be supported
USB – yes
Bluetooth – yes

Chromebooks (Minimum Requirements)

Operating system   Google Chrome OS
Screen Size –              Minimum 13”
Memory  – 2 GB RAM
Processor – Intel i3

We hired and replaced sponsored teachers for this year.  4 of the 5 teachers will be arriving August 13th.  One set of English teachers from Minnesota and one set of teachers from Florida.  I will be sending bios on these new staff next week.  I hope to hear good news on our the last teacher very, very soon.

Our dear Mrs. Doreen Jobard, in preschool lost her husband over the summer.  This is a huge blow to her and her family and to our whole school community.  Please keep her in your prayers as she returns to India to restart her life without her life partner.

Remember that the first day of school is August 22!  Only two weeks away!  If you are arriving late, please let us know one way or another. School Phone:   +966138292444         School Email:  dammam-help-desk@isg.edu.sa

If you have any lingering questions, please do not hesitate to email or call us.  We want to provide you with first class customer service.

End of Year and Ramadan Mubarak!

Dear Leopard Families,

Ramadan Mubarak!  I want to wish you all a very sacred and rejuvenating holy season.
As we sign off on this year, I am so thankful for the gracious support of this school community.  Without your continued faith in what we are trying to achieve, we would simply be blowing in the wind.  However your support has sustained our work throughout the school year and it propels us to do ever more as we plan for the year and years ahead.
We are well aware of the headwinds that we battle against, the economy, the competition, and being out of our native country to name a few.  This is why it is even more important for you to lean on us to help in any way that we can and why we must ask for your support and cooperation when we feel we have to in return.
This summer we ask that you try to keep your children sharp and away from the “summer slide” by establishing routines of reading and family games that you can do together to maintain English skills.  These routines ought not to be too time- consuming, but should be expectations that we all do together.  Sitting down to read as a family is a wonderful way to model the importance of reading, not to mention that it is very relaxing.  Playing board games together is another way to practice good English conversational skills in a relaxed, easy environment.  Follow this link for some ideas:
I am sure that you have lots of your own ideas and the internet is full of millions more.
Remember that school opens on August 22!  We will all be wondering where the summer has gone before too long!!!
Meanwhile, enjoy a safe and peaceful time together.

May 28, 2016

Dear Leopard Families,

Tonight I am waiting for Prom Night to begin.  The auditorium is decorated nicely.  The tables are so pretty. We are ready.  It is an exciting time and students are going to show-off their best selves.  It is a first to have it on our own site with our own facilities.  I am happy for this as Dammam ought to be proud and comfortable in our own place to have our own functions here.
I, for one, believe that we now have a facility that is well suited to host ALL of our own events no matter what.  The next big event is Graduation and we will be ready for this as well.  Having these events on our own site is a huge boost for our community, our students, and our staff.  We are grateful for our school and the facilities it now affords us.
The seniors have taken their exams and have a few loose ends to clear up:  grad packets, yearbooks, grad practice, senior awards day are a few items on that list.
With only a week and a few days before the beginning of Ramadan, the rest of the student body is preparing for final exams.  Students have received their exam schedules and are asked to please arrange for their own transport if they are leaving school early during exam week.  As it is Ramadan during exam week, students are also allowed to remain in school in “study halls” if they are waiting for the end of the day to catch the bus home.
Recently the District Office has been looking into a big project to identify what we believe are “Learning Principles” that we should be applying to our day to day teaching.  One of the main principles is the idea of Choice.  Choice meaning “Student Choice” in allowing students to drive their own curiosity and follow their interests.  This is a really big deal as allowing for students to follow their interests stands to reason that their motivation to learn about their chosen subject ought to pay off in so many ways: deeper understanding, motivated learning, more time spent doing, to name a few positive by-products.  There are many examples of this around our school, but one that stands out recently was a demonstration of the high school business and biology classes and middle school where students performed business start-ups, videos, and writings where students’ learning was there for all to see.
Obviously, this is not always easy to plan for, but we as educators are talking about, learning about, and trying hard to introduce more choice for our students day by day.  Ways that you might use this powerful tool in your own home could be by asking your student to choose their outfit or packed lunch for school the night before.  Giving children choice allows for capacity building in confidence and responsibility.  And we all know that no one person can have enough of these two important traits.