Straight Down the Middle – Parent Edition – September, 2015

Dear Parents:

Though ISG is not a school, per se, each of the seven schools is part of a larger ISG community. In that spirit, I would like to pass along some items that are germane to the schools.

The start of the year was smooth across the five campuses, with Dammam opening a week late, but in a new school! Tragedy struck the Aramco and ISG communities a week later with the Radium fire. DHS lost one of its new tenth graders. Tragic.

Improvements for the new school year
ISG has embarked on an ambitious improvement agenda, which we call the 21st Century Initiative. Specifically, we aim to create technology rich classrooms, achieve alignment on literacy instruction (in particular, reading and writing), and promote a culture of collaboration. Increased attention has been given to homework, digital citizenship, and digital literacy.

Building on last year’s efforts, we have again doubled bandwidth in each school (to where connectivity is strong), and have been able to make devices readily available to students across the grades. Focus is now on ensuring the technology enhances learning, and does not distract.

Each school has achieved consistency and alignment in the reading and writing programs (there is a value to having the whole team using a similar program). You should be seeing this at home through your children’s work samples.

Leasehold improvements
ISG wants its learning spaces to match its modern and relevant curriculum, and have invested heavily to meet this goal. With either new or renovated classrooms, play equipment, community spaces, and even restrooms, we are providing the spaces students and staff deserve. See this link for some pictures. Much more is planned for the future!

Site School Councils
In an effort to promote site-based voice in improvement initiatives, ISG will establish a School Council at each school. The advisory group to the Principal/Headteacher will consist of up to seven elected parents, three (older) students, and three teachers. Meetings will take place quarterly, based on a pre-determined agenda. In October, you will hear from your respective school principal on how this group will launch, and how parents will be elected.

Child Safety & Security Update
Safety, both in the school setting, and on our campuses, remains paramount in importance. Staff are trained annually in child safeguarding, and additional supports have been put in place this year, including strengthening the school-based Student Support Teams (SST).

Last year, the district worked with a security firm (RMI) to do an audit. This year, the same consultant is guiding the implementation stage of the improvements. Additional infrastructure, personnel, and procedures/practices have been put in place. The standard for this is very high.

Climate Survey
Each year, the district facilitates a parent survey to gauge school climate, attitudes, and general satisfaction with the program. Summative data (but no specific comments) is shared with only the Principal, and it serves as discussion and potential action items for the administration. Looking at the seven schools as a whole, last winter’s data provided the following generalizations:

  • Strong satisfaction around programs and supports, with the exception of parents wanting more robust extra- and co-curricular programs
  • Some concerns about teacher quality
  • Positive ratings for leadership, communication, and representation of ISG’s core values
  • Poor ratings on the statement, “ISG provides value for the tuition”

While the schools focus on addressing these items, I have been pondering the “value for tuition” question. We’ll take this up a the Board level for a generative conversation. Stay tuned for the 2016 version of the survey this winter.

Enrollment Contract
Thank you for returning the enrollment contract, which simplifies the enrollment process and needs of the schools.

Have a restful break, which starts this Tuesday. Eid Mubarek!

Dr. Paul Richards, ISG Superintendent