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About ASH

The Inside Story

Director's Message
3/3/2014

by Dr. Rick Spradling
ASH Director

Enrollment Update
Enrollment for this year remains very strong, with an additional 10 new students having started school during the second semester. Our current enrollment thus hovers at around 1240 or so, and the new students accepted have been taken only because they fall in grade levels that were not full. We have sent out our annual re-enrollment survey, and I remind parents to please complete and return this important information to us as soon as possible. This gives us a rough picture of what to expect in terms of enrollment in August. Applications from all our client organizations continue at high levels, and we expect next year’s enrollment to be at roughly the same level as this year, I am pleased to report. Indeed, almost all international schools in our area are reporting high enrollment.  Please pass the word to colleagues and corporate HR departments that the sooner applications are received the more likely are the chances for admission, as we will no doubt have waiting lists in many of our grades for next year. This is both good and bad, as our strong enrollment enables us to have very sound finances (read below) but we also want to avoid disappointing applicants as much as possible. This is not a time to rest on our laurels, but instead we must continue to maintain our high levels of instruction and results so that we continue to be a higlhy attractive schooling option for families in our region.

Sustainability – More Than Lip Service
The School Leadership Team recently heard a comprehensive report from Jaqui Lester, the ASH High School science teacher who serves as ASH Sustainability Coordinator. For over two years, ASH has worked hard to increase the school’s environmental awareness and the efficacy of its sustainability practices. Students in all three divisions are involved in numerous activities to promote awareness of the environment both on campus and beyond. We believe that sustainability is integrally linked to two of our core values, respect and responsibility, and we urge all parents, staff, and students to join us in our efforts to recycle, reduce waste, and re-use. Later this year, ASH is scheduled to receive the coveted Green Flag (highest level of certification of a sustainable school) from the Eco-Schools organization, reflecting our high level of achievement in sustainability. I recently visited a High School class to observe student groups give powerful presentations on their investigation of various possible replacement soup cups for our cafeteria, analyzing heat retention, recyclability, washability, spillage, transportation distance, taste, and aesthetics, before each group came up with a recommendation that they will share with our cafeteria manager to pass on to Eurest, who operate our food service. The students of Jaqui Lester, Johanna Nesbit, and Cat Cramer were most impressive. We invite you to join our work in sustainability in any way you can.

Reviewing School Health and Safety
Every few years, ASH undertakes a "risk inventory evaluation" (RIE) where we ask an outside professional agency to come assess the school's workplace environment. With the opening of the new Early Childhood Center (ECC), the school's new HR Manager Hetty de Jong and our works council wisely felt that the timing was right for another RIE to be conducted. We carried out this periodic RIE early in March, with a consultant visiting the main campus and also the ECC. The specialist spent time speaking with various employee groups during his visit as well. We will shortly receive a written report on his findings, so that we can know which things we are doing well and where we might adjust our operations and behavior to improve wellness and safety for our school community. The Leadership Team will then plan how to implement possible adjustments in line with the RIE's recommendations.

Facilities Upgrade – Middle and High School
Although we are now settling quite comfortably into the renovated classrooms and support spaces for Grades 5/6 and High School, we are still planning additional adjustments and enhancements in the coming weeks. The Middle School is developing plans to provide a much nicer playground for our MS students in the courtyard formerly used by the Early Childhood classes. This new MS playground may include some covering for rainy days, relocated play equipment, socializing spaces, and new sports opportunities. All of this will make for better supervision, variety of activities, and a reduction in the noise disruption to our expanded High School classrooms.

Additional High School work is being planned as well. We will be converting a classroom into an additional science lab, which will somewhat help to alleviate scheduling pressure for our science classes. We are also planning to construct a covered walkway from the “elbow” of the High School wing directly to the rear of the HS annex classrooms (the former G5/6 wing), so that students will be able to move around without losing time walking all the way to the HS Office area.

These projects are likely to be done during the summer so they will be ready for use next August, and even earlier if circumstances allow. One final note: we have also undertaken, following advice from ASH Alumni Stephanie Yarnell, a review of our campus’s accessibility. As a result, we have widened our parking spaces for handicapped in the parking lot, lowered some printers in the High School, also lowered several of the electronic boxes that read student IDs to open lockers in the Middle and High School, we widened a wheelchair ramp leading to the rear emergency gate, and we are looking at a special work station in the new HS science lab that would be of a wheelchair user’s height. We continue to study door-opening mechanisms for possible adjustment or modification. We have more to do, but we are pleased to be taking these important steps to make use of our campus as barrier-free as practical.

Early Childhood Center
We continue to make enhancements at the new Early Childhood Center. We now have a comfortable seating area for prospective parents and visitors inside the Atrium to the left. We have two iPads on stands available for parent use as well. We have added some decorations to the cafeteria that are also designed to reduce sound vibrations, and we are studying additional steps to make the cafeteria less acoustically “bright” for parent and student gatherings. The outdoor play slope is nearing completion, with part of the equipment ready for us but some pieces still being adjusted for use. This area will be opened (at least partially) for use very soon.

At the same time, we are moving forward with developing two other areas. In the outdoor space between the Old Farm (the building with the cafeteria) and the bike path, a working group of staff and administrators are planning a play and recreational area that parents and children can use before and after school, as the gate to this area from just inside the main gate will be open for extended hours. The area will include picnic tables and covers on the patio that is already under the trees. While the main play slope and access to the ECC gym has to be closed after hours for reasons of security and liability, this newly developed play area should be comfortable and accessible for our families. We are also developing the “wild play” area behind the ECC gym. This area will include some garden plots, climbing tree trunks, a tunnel, and other exciting play items. Once this area is finished in the coming months, we will install an outdoor shed to protect the play vehicles used around the handball courts.

Regrettably, our invitation to the US President to participate in a grand opening during the nuclear summit appears to have not made it into this understandably busy schedule. So we have decided to postpone the big event until later this spring while we try to secure another honored guest as our grand opener. We will report more details, as they are known.

Preliminary Budget for 2014-15
Business Manager Ton Ravensbergen and I recently presented the “preliminary budget” for this next school year (2014-15) to the school’s Board of Trustees. The budget for next year is preliminary because we re-examine the budget’s assumptions in the fall once the actual enrollment is known. Forecasting enrollment for international schools is very difficult, as we find that our client organizations are simply not able to be very precise about the number of families who might leave or arrive with children for ASH. For next year, we have used a higher figure than in past years, closer to our actual enrollment for this year. This has some risk, as a projection that is too high will result in a significant deficit and possible reduction in instructional supplies or other resources, but we believe that our indications of continued high enrollment dictate a less conservative projection. Fortunately, we also found that our management of the ECC project has enabled us to require less capital funding than originally thought. As a result, although we needed to increase our operating income by what has been our traditional 3.5% range (normally, it takes the cost of living plus about 2% to keep up with our staffing costs, which make up 70% of our budget), we found that we could reduce our capital fee by 15%. The result is an overall increase of annual tuition and fees of less than 1%. We know that for some of our parents (as well as their employers), holding down our increases is very helpful to their individual and corporate budgets. Credit for this goes to many of our support staff and especially to Ton, our Business Manager. You should have received details of the new tuition and fees in a separate communication.

University Admissions Report
I always like to share my annual summary of university admissions visits which I make during the recruiting trips in the UK and the US. For students High School and their parents, this should make useful reading. This year I visited universities in London and Boston, and a summary of my findings can be found on our website, High School > News. In addition to my report, I have attached an excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. The chapter, about the relative merits of being a Big Fish in a Small Pond versus being a Small Fish in a Big Pond, makes for compelling reading. I strongly urge all parents of High School students to read this chapter of his book and perhaps share it with the young adults in your household as they move toward the final two years of high school.

Recruiting Forecast (Accessible to ASH Community members only)
Our recruiting outlook for 2014-15 is the lowest in my nine years here at ASH. We have only a total of six openings to fill for next year. Two of those are retirements (see below), two are newly created positions, and only two staff members are leaving for positions in other schools. Again this year, our recruiting has gone well largely due to ASH’s worldwide reputation. During my travels, I receive many positive comments about our school from students, parents, and teachers that have moved on to other locations. This word of mouth advertising has created an extremely affirmative image of ASH as a desirable school to study at. I received an acceptance from all but one of my first-choice candidates for each position (one candidate decided to remain at her school another year instead of leaving). I have to thank our staff and parents for putting out such good vibrations about our school all around the world. ASH community members can read further about the status of our recruitment here: Recruiting Forecast 2014-2015.

Newcomers to ASH for next August (Accessible to ASH Community members only)
At this time of year, we like to share a warm ASH welcome to those new staff members that will be joining us in the 2014-2015 school year. For our ASH Community, you will find the most recent list of newcomers here: Newcomers to ASH August 2014 - up-dated March 2014. Please feel free to send a note of welcome to these new folks for next year.

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Quotations for Reflection
Here are a few phrases to live by, from a new desk calendar given to me last December:

- Spend the afternoon; you can’t take it with you –Annie Dillard

- Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable Maya Angelou

- How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world – Anne Frank

- The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us Bill Watterson

- A light heart lives long – William Shakespeare
 
Think about it. I’ll see you around campus!