Director’s Update February 7th

Dear Parents,

We have just passed the 100 day mark in this academic year. EC and some Elementary classes were busy celebrating that. To follow their example I think we, as adults, should also join their celebration.

By now you will have received End of Semester report cards for you children. The vast majority of students are progressing well across the school in all subject areas. Our MAP and AP scores show that our students are above average worldwide. Ms Davies keeps an accurate track of all records and scores and would always be happy to demonstrate and explain to any interested parents, please just make an appointment. We would also encourage parents to attend evening sessions on academics where this kind of data is regularly presented.

For a school our size we have a very broad curriculum with specialist subjects reaching right down to EC classes. This academic year we have completed the Arts cycle by adding a music teacher. Ms Thoronjo has really made a big impact in the short time she has been here with people asking for more music classes during the school day, with visiting marching bands and we already have our first group of students signed up to take ABRSM exams. Many larger schools require students to choose only one art or science subject at a relatively early age while we believe that every student should be exposed to all subjects and then choose where to specialize when they reach AP classes.

Validation that we are on the right track comes from a number of sources. We are the only school in Rwanda to be jointly accredited by the Middle States Association (a US accrediting body) and by the Council of International Schools (an international accrediting body based in the Netherlands). We have already had a preliminary visit in preparation for a full visit next November. The main visitor, from CIS Head Office in the Hague, was very impressed at how far the school has moved forward since their last visit just over 3 years ago. So much so that both bodies have since asked us to supply expertise on teams that go to evaluate other schools. I lead a visiting team to a school in Lesotho in November and will participate in a team visit to a school in Maputo in April. Ms Powell will participate in a preliminary school visit this month to a school in Tanzania and in a full team visit to a school in Kenya in May. In October Ms Davies participated in a team visit to a school in Kuwait. Also in April Ms Shroff and Mr Roze will go to Cameroon and Ghana respectively to lend their expertise there. Participating in team visits allows us to help other schools improve and also allows us to learn about good practice elsewhere.

We also ask you as parents and your children to validate what we do in school through surveys and other feedback methods. Our latest poll of the community was through the CIS survey that you filled in last November. (Thank you again to the 90 out of our of 120 families that took the time to fill this long survey). Ms Powell is now working with the Hague to analyze this feedback and prepare a short version that we can publish. I would like to share some of the results with you.

Here are some statistics from the student survey: (All students from Grade 4 to Grade 12 participated)

89% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I understand the school’s expectations for my behavior.”

93% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I know what to do if I or any of my friends experience bullying in school.”

82% Agree/Strongly Agree – “The school provides a healthy & safe environment for all members of the school community.”

87% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I feel safe going on school trips.”

93% Agree/Strongly Agree – “Secure environment for all members of the school community.”

95% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I am taught to use Information Technology (IT) and social media in a responsible way.”

Parents survey results:

99% Agree/Strongly Agree “The school promotes a supportive environment for students’ learning and well-being.”

97% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I trust that my child is safe at school.”

96% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I understand the school’s expectations for my child’s behaviour.”

94% Agree/Strongly Agree – “The school provides a healthy and safe environment for my child.”

87 % Agree/Strongly Agree – “My child is appropriately supported emotionally.”

88% Agree/Strongly Agree – “My child is appropriately supported socially.”

97% Agree/Strongly Agree – “I trust that my child is safe on school trips.”

90% Agree/Strongly Agree (60% STRONGLY, the rest “N/A”) “The school helps my child to use Information Technology (IT) and social media in a responsible way.”

While we are very happy with these responses and with the results and scores we are achieving in academics we do not sit back and rest on our laurels. We care about each individual student; we care about the 1 to 10% of students that might not feel supported socially; we care about the 6 students in this survey who said they do not feel safe going on school camps.

We have a very strong system of child protection in place and all staff have been trained in this area, from outsourced catering and gardening staff to every member of faculty. All incidents, no matter how small, are taken seriously and dealt with by a team of experts whose aim is to help each and every student who encounters difficulties.

When students face repeated or consistent difficulties, we create an Individual Student Plan (ISP). Having an ISP does not mean a student is doomed to a life of failure but that we have recognized areas in which we can offer more help. This help can be as mild as ensuring the student sit near the teacher in every class or given extra time to complete certain projects, up to us ensuring that an extra teaching assistant be on hand in classes where required. Almost 50 out of our 235 students have an ISP. Some students receive an ISP because they are gifted and talented and as such also require extra attention. The success of any ISP depends on the accuracy of data used to create it and on how well it is implemented. To this end we are very happy to have Ms Michelle Ireland coming to visit us next week. Ms Ireland is a very well qualified educational psychologist who has already traveled to a number of other international schools around Africa. The main purpose of her visit is to work with our faculty on how to make better use of ISP’s and cater to all student needs while teaching. She will also, on behalf of some families, assess the learning needs of a small number of students to help us create even more accurate ISP’s.

On behalf of the whole leadership team I would like to thank parents for the constant support and help you give on a regular basis. We are all far more successful when we work together and all students benefit from this. Please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher or coordinator if you have any concerns. Even if you think something is insignificant please do talk to the teacher immediately, as a stitch in time saves nine!!!

Also we look forward to meeting you all at the Valentine’s event on the 15th of this month.

Séamus Hennessy
Director

Director Updates December 10, 2018

Dear Parents,

We are quickly approaching the end of our first semester and our winter break. The school will break for vacation on Wednesday 19th December at 1pm.  But before we arrive here we have many events taking place at school including the following:

After school activities presentations – all this week after school.

End of semester exams for 8-12  will take place from the 12 to the 18 December. (Please note the 9-12 grade students only need to come to school for actual exams)

The Holiday Program for EC will take place in EC on the 14th December at 10am.

The Holiday Program for Elementary will take place on the 19th December at 8:30am.

The IMYC exit points for Grades 6 & 7 will take place on December 18th from 2 until 3:15pm.

We hope to see as many people as possible at the above events.

In the same way I would like to thank everybody who participated in the Maker Faire on Saturday last. It was great to have so many teachers volunteering to give up their Saturday morning for this event. And I really enjoyed seeing so many parents sitting down to work on creative projects with their children. It was a great atmosphere and real learning took place here.

I wish all those traveling a safe journey and I hope everybody staying in Rwanda will also have an enjoyable vacation. School will open again on Thursday 10th of January.

Regards,

Séamus Hennessy,

Director.

Director’s Update October 5, 2018

Dear Parents,

We are closing in on the end of the first Quarter of this school year. We are also approaching our October break and school will be closed from October 15 through October 19.

Currently the whole school is very involved in preparing for our CIS/MSA visit in November 2019. Staff members have regular meetings to prepare a whole host of documents for our Self Study. We also have people going out on visiting teams to other schools so everyone gains a better understanding of the process.  On Monday you will receive an email from Ms Powell with a link to a survey document that is vital to our Self Study. The accrediting agencies want to hear from the whole school community. Students and staff members will fill in their version of the survey at school and we would really appreciate you filling in the survey at home. It is long, as an accreditation visit looks at all elements of the school from Board functions through Curriculum to school safety and cleanliness. You will need to put aside around 30 minutes to complete the survey. You can read questions and answer in any one of 18 different languages – you will see a button/link where you can choose the language you want to use.

On October 10 at 6pm we will have our first of two Annual General Meetings and a good parent turnout here would show how vested parents are in the future of the school.

I would like to thank all the parents who did take the time last Friday to attend the Arts and Culture Week Assembly and the Middle School Exit points. It was great to see so many people here. When the Middle School students wrote up their reflections on the Exit Point experience many of them noted that they felt really people happy when parents and visitors showed an interest in their projects.

When you come by the school you can see pictures of past events and information of upcoming events on the new monitor outside reception. The monitor was provided by the PTO as a step to providing extra information on events here at school. This is just one communication tool and we are always interested in hearing of new ways in which we can further improve two-way communication.

Today is also International Teacher Appreciation Day. Many schools in Rwanda have closed for this event. Our teachers are happy with the results of their work but if you do meet a teacher today please pass on a general thank you.Have a good weekend and I look forward to seeing everyone in person on Wednesday.

Regards,

Seamus Hennessy,
Director.

Director’s Update 23 August 2018

Dear Parents,

School has opened and is running smoothly. I just wanted to communicate some important dates and other information.

Tomorrow at 1pm the PTO will be hosting their annual ice-cream social outside the main office/reception area. Please do plan to stay a little and take the time to talk to other parents. You will find extra parking on the road at the back of the school. The first PTO meeting of the year will take place on the 11th of September; please watch out for updates.

Our back to school nights are approaching quickly; on the 4th of September for EC and Middle School and on the 6th of September for Elementary and High School. Detailed timings will be sent out to each group concerned soon.

Communication:

Phone: Our regular number is 0786725369 (Please note that this number is now part of a VoIP phone system and no longer a SIM card in a cell phone – hence you cannot SMS this number. You can still send a WhatsApp message)  You will soon be able to leave voice messages.

Email: Email  is still the best way to contact any school member on a daily basis. Each teacher or staff member has an ISKR email address which is normally first initial followed by surname i.e.  bdavies@iskr.org.  Please note that staff members are not required to check email outside regular working hours.   Mass emails are sent via our RENWEB system. This system should only send once to any given email address (even if there are 3 siblings you should just receive an email once) but currently if you have more than one email in the system it will send the same message to all email addresses. Soon you will be given access to a portal that allows you to choose your main email.

If you have questions on any of the above or anything in general please feel free to call, email or visit in person.

Regards,

Séamus Hennessy
Director
International School of Kigali-Rwanda

+250 789966360
director@iskr.org
www.iskr.org

Director’s Update 07 June 2018

Dear Parents/Guardians,

We are coming to the end of another successful year here at ISKR. And as always the amount of activity happening around the school is increasing dramatically. I just want to send out reminders of the very big events, dates and times that are coming up. I know you are receiving information on all other events through Seesaw and in the coordinator newsletters. Please take the time also to look at our Facebook page as Ms Cicanese has been busy uploading photos and videos here.

Dates to remember;

Friday, June 8 at 9am  – Kindergarten Graduation
Monday, June 11 to Thursday 14 – Exam week for older students
Wednesday, June 13 – Parent/Teacher appreciation evening 6pm Chillax Lounge (please come to celebrate a successful year with all the ISKR staff – food and drinks available)
Friday, June 15 – No School – Public Holiday in Rwanda for Eid-Al-Fitr
Monday, June 18 at 8:15am – Grade 5 Graduation
Tuesday, June 19 at 4pm – ISKR Graduation hosted by her Excellency the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Rwanda
Wednesday, June 20 – Final day of school (School closes at 1pm)
Thursday 16 August – School reopens for next academic year (Please download the school calendar from the ISKR website).

Regards,

Séamus Hennessy
Director
International School of Kigali-Rwanda

Directors Update May 23

Dear Parents,

 

With just 4 weeks left in the academic year I feel a Director’s Update is more than overdue. In the past few weeks students have been very busy with different tests and assessments. High School students have now finished their AP exams and students through Elementary and Secondary have taken their latest MAP tests. In June students from Grade 8 up will have an exam week for internal tests. Teachers are also coming to the end of another Personal Goals and Evaluation cycle and are reflecting on their own goals for this year with Bridget or with me.

Other school events continue unabated. Many of the Elementary classes are working on their final exit points of the year. The Elementary Student council is planning a very busy spirit week. Other students and a dedicated group of teachers are putting the last touches to plans for the International Week next week. This Friday morning the students involved in Service Learning will give us a presentation on the Service Learning program.

The Early Years students, and a number of adults who were present, are recovering from a very successful and healthy sports day and are now gearing up for Donuts with Dads.

At this stage of the year we are wondering how much interest there would be in a four week summer school for 3 to 6 year old students. Could you please let me know if you would be interested in sending your children to a summer school/camp.

The PTO and the School Board are also working around the clock as we head into the final furlong of the year. The recent Spring Fair on the EC campus was a great success. All participants, from 2 years to 72 years old, were happily engaged taking part in auctions, eating raw fish, watching a movie and just socializing. The event realized a healthy income which will be put to good use by the PTO, benefiting all members of the community. Many of the very active PTO members will be moving on this year and we need as many volunteers as possible to help fill these empty shoes. If you are at all interested in participating please let me know and I will forward you email contacts.

Similarly the School Board has been, and continues to be, extremely active (they have been working me to the bone!!! ) they have really moved the school forward this year in terms of new policies and procedures in every area of school operation. You can hear more detail on what has been accomplished and what lies ahead at the upcoming AGM on the 31st of May. A good turnout will show appreciation for all the work that has been done. On the 31st there will also be elections for new board members. Serving on the school board is an excellent experience that really helps people understand the complexities of an educational institution. Also ISKR is owned by the Parent Association and follows no prescribed national curriculum. The greatest benefit of this kind of school is that it can be shaped by the students own parents to become an entity that answers to their needs. If you are interested in exploring this option more please let me know and I will put you in touch with the Board Secretary.

I hope to meet you all regularly in the coming 4 weeks.

Regards,

Séamus Hennessy
School Director

Director Update April 25

Dear Parents,

As many of you are aware this is a very busy week at school as we are hosting two peer visitors from our accrediting agencies. Chris Durbin, representing CIS (Council of International Schools) has come from their Head Office in the Netherlands and Michael Breece, representing MSA (Middle States Association) has flown in from Cameroon where he is the Elementary Principal at the American International School of Douala. The will spend 3 days at the school looking around, checking documentation and talking to as many people as possible. On a 4th day they will sit down with core staff and give their opinion on where we stand as a school and what preparation we need for the full accreditation that will come around in about 18 months.

We will use feedback from these visitors and feedback from the current survey that the whole community (let me take this opportunity to thank the many people that have already filled this in – if you haven’t yet polls don’ t close until Monday next!) to help plan for any important improvements over the coming months and years.

Reminder – Tuesday the 1st of May is a public holiday here in Rwanda and for this reason we have put a long weekend into the calendar. There will be no school for students on Monday or Tuesday next week so do take advantage and enjoy this mini-break. School reopens on Wednesday 2nd of May.  Which will be just in time to enjoy the fun PTO yard sale on Friday 4th of May. This year’s Yard Sale (a replacement for the Spring Fair) will be a relatively small private affair so it might be a good opportunity to give you children a chance to be business people for a day by booking a family table to sell off old toys and other household items (that are no longer needed of course).

The school has just installed a small number of VOIP phones in a number of different offices. Now when you phone the school number Mr. Mensiye should immediately be able to put you through to the person you require (if they are in their office of course). As with any new technology their be some initial teething problems so please double check that you are actually talking to the right person!!

And I have been keeping the best news until last; earlier this week our under 18 girls soccer team (coached by Mr. Remy) beat Greenhills Academy 1-0 to win the championship outright. Well done ladies and as you are almost all staying on with us we look forward to more great victories in the future.

Regards,

Séamus Hennessy
Director
International School of Kigali-Rwanda

Director’s Update – March 2018

Dear Parents,

I am just writing with information on upcoming events here at ISKR. You have already received information on the upcoming Parent/Teacher conferences over the next two Friday afternoons. We strongly encourage that all parents attend, as this home/school partnership is extremely important in ensuring that all students receive the best possible education.

During the last two weeks of March, mainly in the middle school section, there will be a special programme in and out of class dealing with child protection, safety and age appropriate sex education. You will receive details on this program well before it begins. At the same time, we will be sending home information on how to protect your child from inappropriate internet content. Here at school we have a strong firewall that prevents anyone from opening an inappropriate site. We are working, however, with a small group of students who have been exposed to inappropriate material outside school and are discussing it with others on campus.

Spring Break, this year, begins on March 30, which is also Good Friday, a public holiday, here in Rwanda; the students will therefore be dismissed at 1pm on Thursday the 29th. Thursday 29th will now also be the official end date for Quarter 3. School will reopen on Monday 16th April.

In late May we will be holding our AGM. This is the perfect time to come and meet the Board of Directors that you have elected to govern the school on your behalf. There will be a chance to interact and vote on new policies, budgets and future plans. We will also be looking for more parents to stand for elections to fill vacant posts that will arise in the coming academic year. As a Board member you can really make a difference in how the school functions and help ensure that the school continues to provide the level of education that your child and other children at the school require. Every and any skill that you can bring will be useful. As we get closer to the date, the Board President will send out a call for CV’s of applicants. I hope many people apply and I look forward to working with all new board members next year.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you require any clarification on the above and I look forward to seeing everybody pass by during the next two Friday afternoons.

Regards,
Séamus Hennessy,
Director.

Director’s update 10 January 2018

Dear Parents,
 
Welcome back to ISKR. We used the vacation time to make further improvements here at school. The focus this time was to make further improvements to safety and security. Fire, and other, drills that we held during the first half of the year highlighted some weaknesses on the main campus. We have now rectified these with extra sirens so that signals can be clearly heard and we have installed extra staircases that allows outside access from behind Grade 4 and behind the new Library/Media Center.  You will also notice that our guards are now wearing new uniforms; while keeping the guards we like we have upgraded companies so the same guards will have better training and support that is more responsive.
 
As of yet we haven’t had a chance to refurbish the tiles under the Elementary play structure (the existing tiles are now ‘hard’ and no longer cushion falls as they should). In the meantime, the smaller students will not be able to use this structure.
 
Thirteen students left before the holiday break and we are sad to see them go. Today, however, we have a family that left last year returning and siblings of other ISKR families beginning school as well as two new families sending students and we are happy to welcome all of these.

We are closing in on the end of the semester. For High School students this means end of semester exams beginning on Monday 15 January and for all students there will be report cards before the end of the month.
 
ISKR is now moving into a second accreditation cycle. We are currently accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) based in the Netherlands and by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA) based in the United States. In effect, both of these associations send people to look in detail at our school; everything is examined including teaching and education, financial operations, facilities, ethics and communication within the community. We will have a preliminary visit in March to see how we stand at present and then we begin an 18 to 24 month process to ensure that we are exemplary in all areas. All members of the community will receive updates and be asked to participate in surveys etc as we go through this process.
 
If you have any questions on any of the above or any other questions please don’t hesitate to email or drop by in person and ask.
 
Regards,

Seamus Hennessy,
School Director

Director’s Update October 5, 2017

Dear Parents/Guardians,

We are well over halfway through the first Quarter and all is going well. We do have much higher numbers in Secondary (Middle & High School combined) than expected. To ensure they all receive the same high quality education we have introduced extra assistants, split some classes (I now teach a Grade 9 World Lit class) and are importing extra resources.

The school has invested heavily in new technology this year some of which is visible if you step into our new Library/Media center. Along with adding new student laptops, increasing the number of ipads available and even purchasing a 3D printer we have also introduced many new software products to help with teaching and learning and to better streamline the business operations of the school.

The new Board of Directors has met to discuss main strategies and planning for the year. More detailed information will follow on this soon. They have also chosen officers for the year;

Robert Ackatia-Armah – President
Kayrn Aguirre, US Embassy Rep. – Vice President
Louise Keyworth, PTO Rep. – Secretary
Stephanie de Vanssay – Treasurer
Teklay Teame – Member at large
Kirsten Rober – Member at large
Nick Meakin – Member at large
Seamus Hennessy – Director – ex officio member
Bridget Davies – Deputy Director – ex officio member
Mary Powell – Staff Representative – ex officio member

As in any organization the Board of Directors are responsible for long term strategic planning and financial control they would be happy to receive feedback and ideas in these wide areas from any other association members. As for day-to-day operational events and issues please do talk to the staff member directly involved as a first port of call.

My door is always open, literally, so feel free to drop by at any time, just to say hello if nothing else.

Regards,
Séamus Hennessy,
Director.