The First Day is Upon Us!!

This morning we opened our doors for the soft opening of New Family Orientation and packed the theater with more than 100 families and their kids. I enjoyed greeting everyone with a brief introduction from the Newbie to the Newbies. Over the last 28 days, I’ve learned much about the American School of Warsaw.

In particular, I looked up the instrumental founding influencer of the school, Colonel Frank Gilchrist (1938-1969). In 1953, while serving as the Assistant Military Attache at the American Embassy, Colonel Gilchrist was the driving force behind the opening of a school for 12 students from 5 nationalities: American, British, Swiss, Israeli, and Yugoslav.

Then, as is the case now, the reports were of a school with a special sense of community. A place where this mix of nationalities could connect and define themselves as a collaboration amongst diversity. Writers of that time and throughout the growth and development of the school noted the warmth and welcoming spirit of the school community.

That spirit was on display today as PTO and returning parents and students helped new families navigate their orientation day. Touring around the building, teachers and support staff welcomed their presence in classrooms throughout the building. Their first impression of their new “home” was a powerful one leaving all of us ready for the coming opening for all.

One of the key messages that I’ve woven through new staff orientation, full staff meetings, and the new parent orientation yesterday emphasizes what I consider to be a critical component of the program we offer. After the hard work of designing curriculum and architecting instruction is completed, I suggest that a critical test of a school is the understanding that “Small Things Matter.” Like a drop of water in a still pond, the ripple effects of empathy and service toward others cannot be underestimated.

I taught the new kids today another important phrase that I will test them on in the parking lot tomorrow. For those returning, you’ll have to share it with your children as the mantra of the year, the motto of the new director that I give you as a gift to inspire all your future accomplishments:

“If it is to be, It is up to me!!”

May the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year bring you special joy and a true sense of anticipation for all that is yet to come! Let the learning begin!

Welcome Message 2016

August 12, 2016

Dear Parents,

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year!!  We hope the summer break was refreshing and fulfilling for all of you and that your travels are bringing you safely to our midst for school opening.

As per the cover letter from, Rob Batchelder, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, it’s my pleasure to be joining the Warriors as your new Director for the exciting year ahead!!  I’m looking forward to meeting all of you and personally welcoming you to this vibrant and inviting school.  More about me and other information worth reading throughout the year will be captured on my Director’s blog – Zimplicity!  Please join the conversation here:

We have a wonderful team of educators and leaders ready to greet your children on the first day, assuring consistency of practice and stability of program in the early days of the school year.  We open with an enrollment of 950 and are finishing our welcome of 39 new faculty, who will be joining returning faculty next week for important preparation activities.

As usual, all of our summer teams have worked hard to assure that the facility has been prepared for your arrival and you will see a number of changes in rooms and common spaces as you explore the building.  There are too many changes to list entirely here, but all of them constitute important updates to facilitate the continued growth and development of the programs we offer.

Please plan to join us for the various initial events on the calendar.  Be sure to become an active PTO member and look for welcome meetings to attend and committees where you can make a contribution of your time and talent toward enhancing our sense of community.  This is an important time of year to build new relationships, renew collaborations, and enhance what we do to make ASW such a special community for all of us.

Here’s a summary of some key events in the first week:

  • New Family & Student Orientation, Monday, August 22, 9:00a, Cafeteria
  • Director’s Coffee morning, Tuesday, August 23, 8:45a, Cafeteria
  • PTO Newcomer Coffee, Thursday, August 25, 8:45a, Cafeteria

Best wishes to all for a wonderful first week and a successful new year!


Jon P. Zurfluh

First week comes to a close…

…and the excitement only continues to build!

I’m slowly getting oriented to Warsaw and have made a few trips on my own to get the lay of the land.  Like most expats, this includes a trip to IKEA.  Check!  With that trip done, I’m now feeling settled into our new home in Konstancin, just a short walking distance from the school.  I have final touches to put on the place this week and hope to have it ready for the arrival of my wife, Emily, and my daughter, Erin.  Erin will be starting Grade 10 this year and is looking forward to joining the High School.  She’s already connecting via Facebook, as they often do.  We’ve already connected with another Moscow family that is also coming to Warsaw, plus we have reconnected with Warsaw students that we hosted in Moscow in our home there.

I’ve been in and around the school for just over a week now and I’m impressed by the diligence in getting things ready for the coming opening of school.  Summer projects are getting final touches and cleaning is progressing smoothly.  I’ve always loved that new coat of wax on the floor that whispers, “I’m ready for students now!”

I’ve been meeting various members of the school staff at all levels as they return to work incrementally.  Have enjoyed getting to know the “summer” office staff as they keep the doors open for school matters during the vacation.  Many new families coming in to get oriented and I’ve greeted many of them as both new Director and new family as well.

As we get ready for the start of the year, let the review of ASW’s core values begin.  It’s always great to bring out the basics in the early days of the year, so I’m sharing with this message our Mission Statement, which was recently revised as part of our preparation for accreditation processes that are beginning in earnest.  Important that we all remind ourselves of this founding set of three paragraphs that frames our hopes and aspirations for the students we serve:

We believe there are many paths to learning. To unlock our students’ potential, we provide a wide range of experiences: we engage them in our rigorous academic curriculum, visual and performing arts programs, athletics, and service learning. We foster a passion for ideas, creativity and curiosity.

We create a culture of learning that supports students with a diverse set of abilities and interests.  We challenge students to find their own voices, encourage them to ask questions, and inspire them to think for themselves.

We offer students and their families a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment, one that is balanced between our host country Poland and the international community. We treat all students with respect, and we instill in them respect for others. Our students form friendships that remain lifelong connections.

For my own study of this mission, and as I get acquainted with this new community, I highlighted three phrases that stood out to me that also match the things that have been shared with me during transition.  As a school, there is strong belief in this community about the importance of diversity.  Unlocking potential is about first understanding that each individual will walk that path of discovery in their own unique way.  There is no one single way for all children to learn.  Instead, we teach in ways that match strategies to the individual needs of learners, flexibly adapting to achieve adopted expectations for accomplishment.

In our efforts, we seek to inspire a “culture of learning” — a belief that learning sits at the center of human existence and we strive to embed this as a lifelong pursuit.  Learning is about challenge and accomplishment, built on rigor and resilience.

And, in the context of lifelong learning, we recognize the importance of diversity, believing in tolerance and collaboration as the tools of inspiring peace.

In just a short time, I have come to believe that the American School of Warsaw aspires to this mission.  As a mission-driven school, the work that we do is a partnership between families and professional educators, seeking to serve the children in our care.

All hands on deck, because the beginning of another school year is not too far away.  More to come in the days ahead!

Mr. Z

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