Conferences and interesting new channels…

First, our sincere thanks to parents who participated in Upper School parent conferences this week. It was a wonderful two days of interaction with our key partners and I observed many smiles from both parents and students as they departed following their sessions with teachers, counselors, and administrators. Many thanks to all the administrators, faculty, office staff, and support personnel who helped to make it all possible. There are many pieces to the puzzle of organizing for this and our team did a great job!


Two new items on launch this week:

Please join two new Podcasts that have been launched in recent days. First is a project I started last year, but alas it did not get enough attention. It’s back and you can join in the conversations (audio) on Zimplicity! Two episodes have been posted including some sustainability conversations in Middle School and a Leadership presentation to 5th grade in our ES Tower. Please join us:

Second, a new video podcast with some engaging student talent to share. Modeled after the NPR favorite of many, the Tiny Desk, we are pleased to announce Zimplicity Director’s Desk! – a compilation of student talent, straight from behind the Director’s Desk at ASW. Be sure to check out the performance by the cast of West Side Story!!

We hope you will subscribe and listen for regular new episodes on both of our new channels.

PTO Meeting

I’ll be joining the PTO meeting on Friday to talk about some strategic work that is beginning. You may have noticed a recent article in the Warrior News on this topic. I’m looking forward to giving general updates on all things ASW, but also engaging parents in some plans to share and work on ideas together that may spark the school’s next strategic project. Please join us to hear about UN Day and to spend some time talking about school.

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Lockdown Drill After Action

LockDown Drill

We had our first Lockdown drill of the school year on Tuesday and it was very successful. Children were secure and safe in their classrooms within 5 minutes of our announcement. This is consistent with our excellent evacuation drill times where we demonstrated an ability to clear the building and confirm all present in under 7 minutes.

We also tested our SMS Emergency Notification System (ENS). An ENS message was sent to all parents, staff, and administration during the drill, along with a link to help you give us feedback. Click HERE to fill out that survey and let us know if you did NOT receive our message and/or to provide feedback on our system. Thanks to all the staff and students who did such a wonderful job preparing for and executing our drill.

One item that was an issue. We had a couple of parents in the hallway at the time of the drill and they were successfully gathered into the room with the children. But, we noted that this parent was not wearing their badge. It reminded us of an important point. While we are a bit flexible during normal operation (this one was left in a car), we need to stress to all parents that wearing your badge at all times while on campus is critically important, and particularly so when we have drills or emergency actions. Being able to identify the adults during an emergency is one of the main reasons we require the parent badge. Thank you to all who are doing a wonderful job of following this important rule!!

Evacuation on Tuesday

We had an inadvertent evacuation shortly after our lockdown drill on Tuesday that was the result of the action of a Middle School student pressing a hallway alarm. We have taken disciplinary action in regard to this incident including other students who were identified as encouraging and helping to plan the behavior. We need to stress that a false alarm of this nature is a serious offense and we will be reminding students that this kind of action could also result in referral to law enforcement. If the fire department had responded to the event, harsher penalties would have been likely. Please help us remind students that false reporting may put others at risk and we all want to be as safe and secure as possible.

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I’m heading off to CEESA Heads of School meeting this afternoon after completing this article and wanted to let you know about our connection to this organization. I realized that it has been a while since I’ve talked about our regional group and the importance of their work in supporting international schools of our nature in a variety of activities.

First, CEESA is primarily an organization of collaboration. Schools find it difficult on their own in foreign countries to provide professional development and school support activities without connecting with other like-minded schools to share costs from bringing key thinkers and opportunities for teachers and administrators into our midst. This includes weekend training workshops, job-a-like sessions, and ultimately the annual conference where more than 500 participants join training on dozens of topics. Last year, ASW hosted the CEESA Conference and it was well attended by teachers and administrators from throughout the region.

By the way, the region is the Central and Eastern European Schools Association, so the countries involved are largely and relatively central and east of Prague. The organization’s members can be found HERE. There are other regional associations around the world. I started my leadership journey in the EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Schools) region, for example.

CEESA also supports our pursuits in Athletics and Activities for Upper School (6-12). They have organized and developed these programs over a number of years that provide robust opportunities for student travel along with highly competitive interscholastic competitions. Recently, the Activities Directors and Athletics Directors met for their annual Fall meeting and more than 40 people collaborated on the many layers of bylaws, rules, procedures, and calendars that are now managed. Schools throughout CEESA, like us, are planning for both their away and hosted events that form a robust calendar and a significant management challenge. Like the heads of school, they implement policies on child protection, travel risk management, and safety initiatives to assure all students have a positive and culturally rich experience.

So, this weekend, I’ll be in Istanbul with the other heads of school discussing important topics that offer real benefit and a wide range of services to our school. In a future newsletter, I’ll share some notes on our outcomes to give you a better sense of our ongoing work.

A couple of safety notes:

  • Please walk your children across our roads using crosswalks only. If you teach your child that it is OK to cut across the road in front of traffic, they are more likely to do so when they are on their own and could get hurt. The speedbumps are NOT crosswalks. Crosswalks are visibly marked stripes and we have crossing guards at the main ones during morning and afternoon hours.
  • Do not drive over curbs to park. The areas protected by curbs not meant to be used and offer a line of sight to avoid pedestrians not being visible to moving traffic. These areas are not marked for parking and there may also be vulnerable equipment in these areas that we are trying to protect. Please park only in designated parking spaces. My thanks to the parents who are trying to do their best to park carefully between the lines to maximize our parking.
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Can I be blunt?

I tried to think about how to start this article and how I could communicate my concern about an issue that has growing attention swirling around it. I thought of all the data points and all the politically correct messages that might somehow increase the focus on this for all of us to consider. I want to elicit partnership while being sensitive to our diverse population. I want us all to understand the implications and urgency of the matter and, most importantly, we all want to protect our children. And, I know this is not the only topic where we have to have conversations. There are probably a dozen other things that some may find equally urgent. But, I need to share this message now because the frustration surrounding it is beginning to grow beyond our bounds of understanding. Ready for the message? Here it is:

Vaping is killing our children!

To be quite blunt about it, there is no need to further investigate or explore due diligence on this topic. The smoking and vaping industry is delivering messages to our youngest minds that vaping is somehow safer than cigarettes. That is a lie. They are trying to develop a mythology that no one gets hurt by using these flavored products. That is a lie. They place their products at children’s eye level despite unenforced laws that are supposed to limit their access. More lies and manipulation. There is nothing redeeming about a company that is stating they are not selling to children when in fact they craft their advertisements to specifically target the youngest, most vulnerable demographic.

Without the lies, it is quite simple. Your lungs are not biologically engineered to absorb heated chemicals. They are delicate organs that must only breathe clean air. We can’t complain about air quality in one arena and then allow smoking and vaping to grow and spread before our very eyes. We learned from our FCD visitors last year that any vaping product was putting upwards of 100 chemicals into the lungs between the preservatives, coloring agents, and active ingredients along with the chemicals created during the heating process across the metals involved. This is not for your lungs. Never will be. There is no safe way to breathe things into your body.

My nephew just celebrated the one year anniversary of a double lung transplant. His issue was not related to vaping, but instead was an outgrowth of a childhood virus that caused damage that could not be repaired. But, it is a lesson in the delicate nature of the lungs and the importance of taking care of them. My nephew was lucky that a donor was found and his strength of character is now carrying him forward through life despite the constant fear of rejection associated with this gift. How, in the face of his strength, can we allow kids to have access to these things that are an assault on their fragile and growing bodies? How can we allow them to take a risk with their lives that is now proving so deadly that many states in the U.S. are outright banning these products?

Our policy at ASW is quite clear. We do not allow these products or substances on our campus. We have rules that speak to this and we will take all necessary disciplinary action up to and including expulsion when students choose to break these rules. With my message to staff today, we will continue to aggressively address this issue on a curricular and supervision basis. But, we can’t do this without your help. We need parents to reinforce this message at home with all ages. This has to stop! Smoking and Vaping must end. To any parent out there who is still smoking, please be a model for your children. Find your solution and protect their future. If you need help, reach out to us. We’ll find ways to assist, whether parent or child. Let’s all adopt the same understanding. There is nothing right or acceptable about smoking in ANY form! I hope you will join me in that belief and send that clear message to all who will listen.

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