Fall Newsletter August 25, 2014
Welcome back, everyone! We are looking forward to an exciting year in which we expect that the hard work everyone has put in over the past three years will come to fruition.
A quick review of this work must start with accreditation. This is our Self Study year, in which the school formally assesses its position relative to the Middle States standards. Surveys will go out to parents, students, and faculty to get their input on where we stand, and action plans will be created by our accreditation committees to address any shortcomings. The Self Study will take place over the course of the 2014-15 school year and will be completed and submitted to Middle States in the spring. By the beginning of this school year our committees will already be organized to pursue their tasks, and surveys are expected to go out in September. Parents will have the option of filling out the surveys on their own or of attending special meetings to be scheduled for that purpose. All surveys will be administered electronically.
Our Reddiker data system is now fully installed and ready to run. All students and families are entered into the data base, which will allow for (mostly) paperless communication among faculty, administration, parents, and students. Parents are to be issued AST email addresses through which all school communications will take place.
We will publish a detailed description of this system and how it will be used in a separate document.
The cafeteria has been fully renovated and Karim Benzakour is negotiating the catering with the idea that the cafeteria will serve the community throughout the day. A tender has been issued to several local suppliers and a decision will be made on this before school opens.
The new science equipment for both the Upper School and Lower School labs has been ordered, but because of banking restrictions, vacations, and other red tape the shipment has been delayed. We expect this equipment to arrive over the course of September and October so that these labs will be fully functional by mid-autumn. Anisse Saadi and Rico Molato are looking forward to a very productive year in the sciences.
Other facilities improvements include the rebuilding of the walkway to the pool and of the walkway between the main building and the “Arabic” building., which in the latter case includes the installation of a drainage system designed to prevent the flooding that has always occurred during significant rainstorms. The new walkways are built over the old, irregular stones/slabs and will feature lighting as well as a smooth, safe surface.
Around the gym a major drainage rectification project dealing with sewage and rainwater issues is nearing completion. If one should wander down to the west side of the gym he will find six shipping containers resting on a foundation of gravel. These hold the contents, minus computers, of the American School of Tripoli, which has been permanently closed because of the unrest in Libya. We were asked by the Office of Overseas Schools if we could store this equipment for a few months during which time a decision would be made on its ultimate destination. There is a good chance that much of it will remain with us; in any case we are happy to do such a favor for Bea Cameron, the director of the Office of Overseas Schools, as she has been a great supporter of AST over the years. The OOS has provided AST with professional development, IT grant support, salary support, and help with our ongoing accreditation process to the tune of thousands of dollars. It is nice to be able to repay Bea for the generous help her office has provided.
The two main entries of the school have now been renovated and updated with new heavy-duty aluminum and glass fixtures, which will enhance the look and functionality of the two entry points. Another significant improvement involves the lighting around the school. Small floodlights have been installed on the palms along the walkway from the front gate to the school, and additional floodlights have been mounted on the buildings to provide ample visibility for safety all around the campus. Small globe lamps will light the new walkway to the pool as well.
Finally, there are two important groups which will be organized in September. One is the Middle States-mandated Planning Committee, which will consist of parents, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, and administration. This committee is a permanent committee, charged with creating plans for the implementation of the AST Strategic Plan as well as overseeing the progress of accreditation. Invitations have been issued to the various stakeholders and the first meeting of this committee will be held later in September. The other group, mandated by the AST Strategic Plan, is a new Parent/Teacher Organization. The PTO will deal with promoting community spirit and helping with fundraising activities, and will operate under bylaws approved by the AST Board of Trustees. We are also targeting September for the formation of this group.
We are looking forward to a happy and productive school year!
Richard E. Lussen
Head of School
The American School of Tangier
Spring Fair a Great Success!
The AST Spring Fair was held on Saturday, May 24, attracting well over 1000 people over the course of the day. Led by Ghizlane raiss El Fenni and Nour Amri, the Fair brought together parents, teachers, students, administrators, vendors, and staff to present what some have called the best Spring fair ever. I would like to thank the following parents for serving on the Parents’ Committee for the Fair:
Bouchra El Abida
Christina Al Masri
In addition to their hard work, we also had many people who donated gifts, money, and materials to the effort:
Mrs. El Chahabi
Grade 2 Parents (Bake Sale)
Grade 3 Parents (Bake sale)
Grade 6 Parents (Bake Sale)
Mr. Benchekroune, Samir Ahmimed, and Stephen Dick
On Friday, May 30, 20 seniors completed their careers at AST. Beautifully staged by Soumaya Bourra and Mounia Ait Ahmed, the ceremony featured talks by Dr. Michael Fasolka of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology and by Brian Shukan, the Consul General of the United States. Three seniors gave reflections on their years here at the American School of Tangier: Kenza Abdelmoula in French, Ayoub Arkob in Arabic, and Youssef Kinani in English. Mr. John Magagna, the founder of Search Associates and a former Headmaster of AST, was given the Joseph McPhillips III award for distinguished service to the school. Mr. Magagna has served on the Board of Trustees of AST for over 20 years.
The following is a list of colleges at which our seniors were accepted; the asterisk indicates where they are planning to attend.
American Business School of Paris *
American University of Paris
Bucknell University *
City University – London
Concordia College (Montreal) *
Covenant College *
Durham University - UK
Eastern Michigan University *
Eckert College *
East Carolina University
Florida Institute of Technology *
Franklin Pierce University *
Georgia Institute of Technology
Glasgow University - Scotland
Hogeschool Rotterdam *
Johnson & Wales University
Manchester University - UK
Marymount Manhattan College
New York University
Miami Dade College
Regent’s University – London *
Richmond The American University in London
Rochester Institute of Technology
Sacred Heart University
Saint Leo University *
Seton Hill University
Stanford University *
Stevens Institute of Technology
Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera-Valencia
Universidad CEU San Pablo – Madrid
University of Denver
Universidad Europea de Madrid
University of Balamand – Lebanon
University of Miami
University of Michigan
University of South Florida
University of Tampa
University of Massachusetts
University of Virginia
Washington University of St. Louis *
Webster University – Leiden Holland
Wentworth Institute of Technology
West Virginia University of Technology ***
Under the watchful eye of Karim Benzakour, AST is getting a new kitchen. Thanks to the money raised by the Spring Fair (and additional funds from the Board of Trustees, if necessary), the kitchen is being remodeled prior to the arrival of the AALIM Summer Language Program. New tile, sinks, refrigerators, tables and chairs will be ready for use by June 15. Plans are under way now for an expanded cafeteria program for next year.
The next phase of AST’s accreditation process is what is called the Self-Study. The Self-Study will be conducted by a group of six committees that will investigate where the school stands regarding the twelve standards for accreditation. These committees have been formed and are having their first meetings now to get organized for the fall, when the process will begin in earnest. Out of the reports of these committees will come three or four goals for improvement that will be approved by the Middle States Association, and which will direct the focus of the school’s development over the ensuing years.
Also being formed right now is the Planning Committee, which will become a permanent part of the AST organization. This committee will be comprised of faculty, parents, administration, students, trustees, and staff, and will help to advise and direct the school’s work at meeting the objectives of both the Self-Study and the AST strategic plan.
Mr. Lee Allen’s Drama class will be presenting Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” in the UNE Auditorium on Friday, June 13, at 7.30 pm.
Summer Enrichment Program for K3-G4
Our first, second, and third grade teachers are currently planning for a pilot summer enrichment program for students from K3 to G4. The program will include work in math, English, music, and possibly art. Its final shape is not yet determined, but Jennifer Tamowski, Michelle Myers, and Leslie Rekiouak are working on the program now. Notices are going home through the regular classes updating their plans.
Book and Materials Fee
In response to the concerns of parents about making sure that all classes had the necessary materials, the Tangier Committee of the Board of Trustees, working through the Administration and a group of parents, agreed that all students would be assessed a regular book/materials fee in addition to their tuition. This is common practice among most private schools around the world, and it insures, along with the AST budget contribution, that all our students will have the requisite books for every class and subject.
One of the outcomes of the strategic planning process was the advice to create a Parent-Teacher Association to enhance support for the schools efforts and to assist with communication among the various groups within the school. The organization of the AST PTA will be based on a standard American model that is used widely in the US and in American schools abroad. The Administration has been working with a variety of parent committees this year to excellent effect and is looking forward to combining this committee-based approach with the PTA to work for the ongoing improvement of AST.
May 5, 2014
As the school year begins to wind down, AST seems to get busier and busier. Here are some updates and reminders for the month of May:
Course Selection for High School: The schedule is being created for next year’s high school curriculum and students/teachers will be choosing courses next week. Some parents may not be aware that the school offers a variety of AP (Advanced Placement Courses), which are taught at the college level. These include AP History, Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, and Computer Science. Some of these courses depend upon enrollment numbers, so it is a good idea to discuss course selection with your children now.
Drama: The drama class, under the leadership of Mr. Lee Allen, will be staging a performance of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” later this month or in early June. The dates will be announced on the web site.
Spring Fair: Spring Fair is around the corner! Donations for the raffle and Tombola are greatly needed and much appreciated. Also needed are donations of books and DVDs.
The MASAC Middle School Volleyball Tournament will be held on May 10 at the Rabat American School. The following week, also in Rabat, will be the MASAC Swim Meet, on May 17. Our annual Athletic Awards Ceremony will take place under the roof on May 28 at 8:00 pm.
Two summer programs to make a note of: Summer Basketball Camp, June 23-28 and Summer Swimming Program, starting on June 30th.
Debate: Nouhaila Bouhout and Ghali Bengebara were the only two high school students from Morocco to be selected to participate in “Morocco Debater,” a national event held in Casablanca. Because of their great performance in this competition, they were selected to be part of the Morocco National High School Debate Team that will compete in Thailand this summer. Nouhaila and Ghali are two out of five total students on the Moroccan team. Congratulations to them for their excellent work!
Plant and facilities: For the last three weeks we have been clearing more bushes & and cutting dead trees from our land, especially between UNE & AST. This has enabled us to clear the path for a new cross country track. We have also released our 39 tortoises that were moved to save them from the construction work. This operation was undertaken by our 4th grade class accompanied by UNE students. Mr. Benzakour is gearing up for another round of facilities improvements this summer, including the renovation of the Science lab and the creation of a new Lower School Science Center, as well as for a long-overdue renovation of the kitchen.
A group of parents has pledged $25,000 USD to help with the Science Labs project!
Important Update: AST is going Digital. Practically speaking that means that more and more official school communication will be sent and conducted digitally. This process began more than a year ago with our transition to AST Gmail for all faculty and upper school students; Next year parents will also receive their own AST emails and will be able to receive grade reports, notices, newsletters and updates via email. Upper school students already have AST emails; at the beginning of 2015 school year parents will be given an AST email, and beginning next fall, school communication will be conducted almost exclusively "online" and through email. This change and transition has been years in the planning and formulation and we are finally at a juncture in which our teachers, students, parents and administration will be able to communicate quickly, and in most instances, in "real time". In addition to faster, more frequent, and direct communication with parents, the change to digital communication will reduce the costs and waste associated with paper mail and notices.
AST has published a summary report of the Strategic Plan as presented to the Board of Trustees on April 23. Once the plan is put into its final form, it will be available for parents to read. Please read the summary following this newsletter for more information.
AST will be holding two graduations this year. The first, for our seniors, will be held on May 30 at 5:30 pm on the soccer field. The second, for our 8th-graders, also includes Prize Day, at which we award prizes for excellence in academics and extracurricular activities. This ceremony will be held in the UNE auditorium, on June 22 at 3:00 pm.
On April 22 the President, the Provost, the current and past Chairs of the Board of
Trustees of the University of New England came to Tangier to celebrate the official opening of the Tangier campus of UNE. A dedication attended by the US Ambassador to Morocco, Dwight L. Bush, the Governor of the State of Maine, Paul LePage, the President of UNE, Danielle Ripich, the AST Board of Trustees, Mohamed El Yacoubi, Wali of Tangier-Tetouan, and Fouad El Omari, Mayor of Tangier unveiled the beautiful new facility. A reception and tours of the campus were held after the dedication.
Future plans for cooperation between AST and UNE include professional development opportunities for AST teachers, hosting student teachers from UNE, co-hosting educational symposia and other conferences, and volunteering in AST classrooms by UNE students. We look forward to a rich and satisfying relationship with our new partners!
Report on the Strategic Plan
On Wednesday, April 23, The Board of Trustees of the American School of Tangier met to discuss and adopt the first-ever strategic plan for the school, which will map AST’s progress over the next ten years and beyond.
Close to 100 stakeholders, including parents, students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and other friends of the school were involved in the planning process, which was facilitated by Deborah MacArthur and her staff from The MacArthur Company. All parents were invited to participate in each of the four sessions held in November, January, February, and March.
1. Mission Statement and an accompanying Value Proposition: these are necessary for our accreditation work as well as for our marketing plans. We have posted these elsewhere on this website. Go to the tab "About Us" on this site to find the new Mission Statement.
2. Target families: the Board has directed us to recruit more American and other ex-pat families, aiming for a mixture of 75% Moroccan and 25% other nationalities. Our current ratio is around 95%--5%.
3. Target faculty: the Board has directed us to recruit more American, Canadian, or other native speakers of English for our ongoing faculty and staff needs. The primary concern here, however, is excellence, not nationality, so local candidates with good credentials will be considered.
4. Parent involvement: the Board has mandated the creation of a PTA (Parent Teacher Association) along American lines to involve parents in a productive role in the life of the school. This group will be supportive in nature but will not have a role in the administration of the school.
5. Pricing: The Board has approved moving from a nationality-based pricing policy to a “payor” policy, meaning that the tuition rate will be based upon who actually pays the bill. There will now be a Corporate Rate and a Family Rate to replace the current Moroccan/Non-Moroccan rate.
6. Growth strategy: the Board approved the gradual expansion of the school to reach 2 sections per grade level, with 16 students per section as opposed to the current 22-24 students per section. The school will do this over 10-15 years. This expansion will require a reconfiguration of our current classroom space, but we are confident this can be done without the need for a major building project. The ultimate target is around 500 students (as opposed to the 342 that we have now).
These decisions are designed to enhance and improve the quality of the education that we provide for our students here at AST. They come from information and opinions gathered during the many group and one-on-one interviews conducted by the MacArthur Company. The Administration has already begun to develop the plans for putting all of these recommendations into effect. The first step in this process took place on April 24, when the Tangier Committee of the Board of Trustees, along with the Co-Chairs of the Board, Larry Kardon and Ed Gabriel, revealed these plans to a parent meeting held in the dormitory common room.
Invitation to Parent Meeting with AST Board of Trustees Members
The American School of Tangier is pleased to invite all parents to a meeting with members of the AST Board of Trustees. The meeting will be held in the AST Common room at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 24. The Board members will discuss the new Strategic Plan and other items of interest for AST parents. All parents are welcome to attend.
Dear AST Parent/Guardian,
Parents and Friends of AST are working together to hold the 2014 AST Spring Fair on Saturday, May24th from 10 am until 4 pm. This year, the event is being organized and managed by a group of AST parent volunteers in coordination with Ghizlane Raiss El Fenni and the AST administration.
There will be many different sporting events, as well as age appropriate play/fun games for all, and an AST talent and Fashion show! Food and drinks will be made available throughout the day and our parent volunteers also plan to have a bake sale, and of course, a Tombola!
In previous years, the success of these events has always relied on parent contributions and volunteers; and we are asking you to consider helping again if you can. The form below allows you to pledge your time, energy, and/or resources to what we hope will be a wonderful day for all involved.
This year’s Spring Fair Committee is made up of parent volunteers! They have decided that the funds raised from the 2014 AST Spring Fair will go towards the renovation of the cafeteria. The AST Administration welcomes this wonderful volunteer initiative and greatly appreciates the support in finding the funding for our much-needed cafeteria renovations. Your additional support will help AST to expand and improve food services for all students.
Would you like to help? Could you pledge your attendance and/or another form of support? Here are some possible ways to help:
· volunteer during Spring Fair for 2 hours (or more, as you can)
· sponsor a game or activity by donating money to support the event
· contribute to the bake sale by donating baked goods
· contribute a prize for the Tombola
You can help make this Spring Fair a great success for ALL!
The Spring Fair Committee!
Upon receipt of your pledge of support, a member of the AST Spring Fair Committee will be in contact will you to finalize arrangements.
March 3, 2014
As usual, things are hopping around AST and there is a lot to report on.
We have now concluded our first-ever round of MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing and are now working with the results. We will be issuing NWEA MAP Test Student Progress Reports later this month so that parents can see their students’ RIT scores and percentiles.
As we have said in the class parent meetings, one of the important things that the MAP tests do is to measure student growth in the four areas tested. Since this was our first testing period ever, it becomes our baseline against which to measure student growth. We will need at least two if not three or more testing sessions to build enough data to have a true picture of this.
These data are reported first as RIT scores, through which a student achieves a certain score for his/her performance on a test. These scores are designed to measure knowledge on a continuum that runs from Kindergarten to the 12th grade so that we can see scores based on the same testing to determine how a child is performing from one year to the next, or over a span of years.
These results are not definitive in any sphere; rather, they are indicators that can be useful in helping us make adjustments in our teaching, curriculum, and assessment strategies. NWEA has a very useful system called “DesCartes: A Continuum of Learning,” that transcribes RIT scores into specific skill and concept areas that, if mastered, would improve a student’s score. This is all based on AERO/Common Core Standards, so there is a strong connection between our curriculum and these tests. Our teachers will be looking at this to help inform their instruction.
When we issue the MAP Student Progress Reports parents will receive explanatory notes along with the reports. Don’t expect too much from these reports, although you will be able to see your child’s score, score range, percentile and percentile ranges as well as our AST average RIT by class and test, and the Norm Group Average, which is a norm based on a large sample of student scores from all over the world (but mostly in the US).
As we continue to learn about these tests and scores, we will hold information sessions for interested parents. At this point, your teacher will be able to help you work with understanding your child’s score. For more information, go to www.nwea.org for an extensive treatment of MAP testing or make an appointment with your teacher once you have received the scores.
On February 7, 8, and 9 AST hosted a four-school debate tournament with our students bringing home first place in three categories. Please look at the news article under AST News for the story and the pictures. Congratulations to Nabil Alami and his team of talented students!
AST teams have been quite busy this winter, participating in several tournaments held around Morocco. Varsity Boys and Girls Basketball, Middle School Soccer, and Varsity Soccer have all either participated in or are getting ready for MASAC events. Nour Amri, our Athletic Director, had this to say about our Middle School athletes: “The MS soccer tourney was nice; Our students did well in general and above our expectation. We have participated with very young students (mainly grade 6 students, since many 7th graders were ineligible) comparing to the other schools' teams. For most of them, it was their first sports trip and tournament! We did not reach the final, but the goal was to participate, get experience and prepare a team for the future. The Boys came 5th (out of 8 teams) and the girls came 6th (out of 7 teams).” Well done, all!
Upcoming event: Varsity Soccer Tournament in Marrakesh, March 13-16.
The final round of meetings for our Strategic Planning effort are scheduled for March 19-21. The format will be similar to that of the previous meetings, and we will be posting times and calling parents to participate in these as soon as we get the schedule. Please don’t wait for us to call you! If you are interested in participating, please call Soumaya and let her know. Topics for these sessions will be Physical Resources, Commercial Services, and Cost Structures.
Once these meetings are finished, the MacArthur Company will present its draft report for discussion, after which it will be presented to the Board of Trustees in April.
AST is now in the self-study phase of the accreditation process. This means that we have from 12 to 18 months to finish a variety of tasks that will demonstrate our capabilities, including our ability to plan for improvement over time. A multi-shareholder planning team will be constituted that will continue on as the school’s primary planning body, along with the administration and the Board of Trustees, even after accreditation is achieved. This group will become a permanent fixture in the administration of the school, and will include representatives from admin, faculty, parents, students, and trustees. This group will number around 16 people.
Smaller committees will be formed to administer surveys and to oversee the school’s adherence to the 12 standards for accreditation. These groups will help write the Self-Study report under the supervision of the Planning Team. We are excited to be moving into this phase of the process!
Graduation will be different this year. Instead of one big ceremony that is quite expensive and very long, graduation this year will be split into two parts. The first will be our Senior Graduation, in which we confer diplomas and honors upon our senior class, which will take place on Friday, May 30, at 5:30 pm. The second will be our Eighth Grade Graduation and Upper School Prize Assembly, which will take place on Sunday, June 22, at 3pm. Both ceremonies are slated to take place in the UNE Auditorium, a beautiful new facility that we are looking forward to using.
Spring Hike for the High School
On Saturday, March 8, the high school will be hiking from the AST campus to Cape Spartel, along with the students from the University of New England. The hike will start at 9:30 am and is expected to finish around 2pm, after a picnic lunch at the Cape. Buses will bring the hikers back to the campus.
Grades and Comments
Grades and comments for the midterm will be coming out this week. At mid-term, comments are restricted to those students with grades of C- or below. Athletic eligibility will be determined by these grades.
MAP Testing Update February 5, 2014
Most parents are aware that we are in the midst of MAP testing right now, and it is good to be able to say that it is going well. The students are adapting readily to the regimen of the testing, and some even say that they are enjoying them! Friday, February 14 is our last day of testing, and after that we will receive the final results from NWEA.
By final results, I mean that we will then have the specific performance scores on each of the elements of the tests. For example, each of the tests for Grades 3-10 has a set of skill elements that it probes, and these won’t be collated and scored until after all the testing is completed. The primary grades tests have similar elements although these tests are a little different, as they are administered orally.
When we have these results, we as a faculty will discuss what they mean and how best to communicate the results to parents and students. I will caution parents at this point not to expect too much, as this is the first time we have taken these tests. We will repeat them again toward the end of the year, which will give us another set of data to look at and compare. These tests are designed to test areas of strength and weaknesses in students and to offer some guidance in curricular decisions, and that is how we will use them at this point.
I would like to express my gratitude to Macarena Ventosa, our MAP Testing Coordinator, for all the hard work she has done to schedule and monitor the testing. She has done a great job in a very short period of time to get our first testing under way.
I would also like to thank our three Parent Volunteer Proctors: Fatima Azerkan, Leila Azerkan, and Carima Naim, who have given up much of their time during the testing to administer and proctor the tests. They have been very professional and highly dedicated to this job; on most days we have been holding four sessions of 1-2 hrs each so their time commitment has been huge! We are very lucky to have people such as this to work with!
Finally, I would like to say that the early results indicate that most of our children are performing at grade level or above on this first round of testing. This seems to indicate that we are performing well as a school. Hamdullah!
Newsletter January 21, 2014
January has been a very busy month for us. We have four important initiatives moving forward at the same time. Here are the updates:
Our first MAP testing sessions will begin on Friday, January 24 and will run for the following three weeks. We will be testing grades K3 through 10th grade. Some facts about Map testing that you should know:
1) These tests will examine student progress in Math, Science, Reading, and Language.
2) The scores the students make will place them on a range of scores (called the RIT) that align with the students’ current age/grade. As a student moves from year to year his/her scores should improve, thus we can look at student progress relative to previous years, and we can use specific scores to see where students might need extra help or to see where they excel and therefore benefit from enrichment activities.
3) These scores will not be used for placement in grade levels.
4) These scores will not be reflected in regular student grades—they are informational only.
5) Once we have been through several testing cycles and our students become familiar with the tests, we can compare our data with that of similar schools, such as the other American-style schools in Morocco, or in the region. Most of the schools in MAIS (Mediterranean Association of International Schools) use MAP testing, and although these schools are different from AST they can provide useful points of comparison.
6) Our teachers are being trained in the interpretation of these scores so that they can adjust their teaching to student needs.
7) To my knowledge, AST has not done this before.
For more information on MAP testing, go to www.nwea.org.
This week (January 20-24) Deborah MacArthur of The MacArthur Company (A management consulting firm) has been facilitating our second round of meetings for our strategic planning process. We expect that we will have around 75 participants in this process as we plan for the future of AST. All parents were invited to participate in these sessions, which combine trustees, faculty, admin, parents, students, and alums. The areas of focus for the January meetings have been the Value Proposition (What do we value and what value do we deliver?); the Mission Statement (What are we trying to do?); Future Families (Who are we doing this for?); and Future Staff (Who do we need to be able to deliver what we want?)
Two more sets of meetings will be held in February and March to develop specific and concrete plans of action in the different areas of school experience, like facilities, core academics, HR, Administrative goals and activities, and finances. A full report will be sent to the Board of Trustees in time for the annual meeting in April, when the final plan will be adopted.
AST is moving forward with the changeover from our current data base (a mélange of components) to a unified system that will improve our management across the whole school experience, including grading, reporting, attendance, and communication. When the switch is complete parents will receive AST emails through which the school will conduct most of its business with parents. This is happening now, but it will not be evident until later this spring. Still to come is training for our teachers, staff, and parents when the system becomes fully operational.
After the January round of meetings for Strategic Planning is finished, the faculty will turn its attention back to our accreditation work. The faculty will be divided into six committees that will each work with two of the twelve Indicators for Accreditation. AST must pick two or three goals around which to organize its self-study. For example, we might say that we want to set higher achievement levels in science, and then we need to document what we are doing to promote that goal and the steps we will take to evaluate our success.
The first committee meetings will take place in February and will continue through this time next year. The deficiencies we have already identified through our analysis of the Indicators will be addressed during the self-study along with the above-mentioned general goals.
We are looking forward to a very busy and productive winter and spring!
Richard E. Lussen
Strategic Planning Moving Forward
The Board of Trustees has approved the next phases of our Strategic Planning Process. After a successful Phase One in which Deborah MacArthur and her team from The MacArthur Company worked with parents, faculty, staff, and trustees, the Board has decided to continue through to completion a planning process that will include all the stakeholders in the AST community. This process will have three more phases to it, through which the MacArthur team will facilitate the development of a plan to be presented to the Board of Trustees in April.
In Phase One, 28 participants worked on a preliminary “Value Proposition,” a clear statement of what AST can deliver to its families. Employing what is known as the “Helix” method, the MacArthur team led the participants to three statements about what AST is uniquely positioned to deliver. The work to be done in Phase Two, Three, and Four will be to clarify the Value Proposition, and then to use it to shape planning regarding marketing, facilities development, curriculum, accreditation, student services, and finances.
The next round of meetings, Phase Two, will include two distinct sessions, repeated several times each, focusing on Value Proposition and Mission Statement and on Future Families/Future Staff. These will take place the week of January 20. Our hope is to get up to 100 participants from all our different stakeholders (parents, students, faculty, staff, alums, and trustees) to work with us on developing a plan that we can all own. With that in mind, the school will be sending out invitations to parents and alums to sign up for either one or both of the two different sessions. All parents are included in this invitation, but participation will be determined on a first-come, first-served basis. Two special sessions will be held for high school students.
If you would like to have a part in shaping the future of your school, please respond to the invitation that will be sent home via your child. We look forward to working together to shape the future of AST!
Newsletter #5 December 2, 2013
It seems like yesterday that school started up again, and now we are almost to our winter break. This Friday is the end of the first term and the school has many projects launched that will continue to keep us busy throughout the remainder of the year. The following are updates on our current situation and future plans.
Ms. Joanne Rekydal from the American School of Madrid will visit the school on Friday, December 6, to get a feel for the school and to meet with those people who put together our application for accreditation. She will be the leader of the visiting team from Middle States Association that will review the results of our Self-Study, which will be implemented beginning in January, 2014 and which will run for about a year. This will put us on track to have secured accreditation by the spring of 2015.
The school has just finished a set of five meetings over a three-day period conducted by Deborah MacArthur, a management consultant who lives here in Morocco and who also teaches at Al Akwayn University. Twenty-eight people, including parents, teachers, alums, administration, and trustees participated in these meetings that were designed to help the school begin to set a pathway for planning for the next three to five years. Among the areas discussed by the different (mixed) groups were values propositions (What do we deliver? For whom? What problems do we solve? What needs do we satisfy?), our relationships with our stakeholders, and when we will feel like the school is a success? The Board of Trustees is reviewing Ms. MacArthur’s initial report and will discuss the next steps at the December Board Meeting on December 3.
Tentative plans call for more meetings in January, February, and March to work out the details of the plan, which will be presented to the Board for final approval in April. Many thanks to all who have participated thus far; please be assured that the school will be bringing in more people from our school community to help develop this plan.
Rediker and MAP
AST has been training with the Rediker professionals in multiple meetings over the course of the fall. The training sessions have been mostly technical for now, with only the administrators being involved, but in the new year the teachers and other staff will be brought into the sessions to learn how to use its features.
Some of the same kind of work is being done with the MAP testing system, as training sessions for the administrators have taken place over the course of the fall, including some teacher sessions as well. The school is hopeful that we can begin testing sometime around the end of January.
Mr. Fillman is working with two parent trustees and a group of parent representatives to discuss the best ways of supplying books and other learning materials to our students. He is also working closely with publishers and agents to reduce shipping costs and to otherwise facilitate the procurement of all materials that we need to order from outside the country. The committee is meeting this week to begin to solve these issues.
While we have accomplished the big jobs of our Phase One plan for the upgrading of our facilities, there are still a number of smaller projects that are moving forward. Water fountains, hot water heaters, air conditioning for the 1st and 6th grade classrooms, and some drainage issues will be dealt with in the next few weeks. One not so small project that will take place over the winter break is the installation of a new phone system that we hope will mitigate some of our communication issues.
AST has just hired a full-time nurse. Basma Boudarat started on November 19 and has already been administering aid to our students. Basma’s duties include taking care of all medical situations that arise during the day, caring for sports injuries, accompanying the teams to games where there is no medical assistance, maintaining our health records, and providing health and wellness instruction for our students and faculty. She has jumped right in to the life of the school and promises to be a good fit.
UNE is rushing to complete their brand new facility located “down the hill” from our upper campus. While the formal opening ceremonies will not be until April, Anouar Majid, the director of the project, is confident that he will have the campus up and running in January. AST is already talking to UNE about bringing student teachers from the UNE College of Education to work in our classrooms, and the leader of the College of Education is actively recruiting now in Maine for at least one position at our school. Anouar visits Tangier regularly, and has hired an on-site manager to help run the campus. We are eagerly looking forward to our collaboration.
The seniors have been doing a good job of working on their college applications throughout the fall. The new Senior Seminar, led by Lisa Gregoire, provides the opportunity for the seniors to get help with every aspect of the college application process, from filling out the application forms to applying for financial aid. During the second trimester it will focus on the student service learning projects, and in the third they will be working on presenting their projects to the school community.
Lisa and I have just returned from the Council of International Schools Forum on Admissions, in Monaco, that brings together college counselors and college admissions representatives in a conference designed to promote information sharing and networking. We renewed old contacts and made many new ones at this two-day event, which will benefit our students as we work on placing them in appropriate universities.
Newsletter #4 November 5, 2013
Thanks to everyone who participated in our Parent/Teacher Open House on November 1! Most teachers saw most of their parents over the course of the afternoon, and the general response was that the conferences went very well. Parents who were unable to attend the Open House are welcome to call and make appointments with their teachers if they so desire.
Parent Class Meetings
The regular class meetings are going forward according to
schedule. In these meetings we have been
presenting updates on all the projects going on at the school, from
accreditation to MAP testing and many other things. Soumaya and Sophie have been calling parents
to set these up; so far we have met with all the Kindergarten classes, the
Grade 2 and the Grade 3 classes, and we will continue with the meetings
throughout the year.
Naomi Sears Woolsey, from the US Office of Overseas Schools, spent three days with us (October 28-300 to meet with teachers to discuss our standards-based curriculum and effective ways of assessing student work. She was able to spend a lot of one-on-one time with teachers, looking at and commenting on what they have done to make the move to the standards. The following is the final paragraph of a report from Naomi at the conclusion of her time at AST:
“In closing, it has been a pleasure to work with the staff this week. The work the teachers have accomplished in a short period of time is commendable. Their conversations with me were on target and revealed a genuine interest in building a strong curriculum. I’m confident that they will continue with these efforts for the remainder of this year, and beyond. In addition, the leadership provided by the school administrators has provided the focus which is critical to maintain the effort and continue to move forward. I have enjoyed my time here and hope to continue our partnership in the future.”
In further Professional Development news, Mr. Lanjri, Ms. Dinaully, Mr. Fillman, and Mr. Lussen went to the MAIS (Mediterranean association of Independent Schools) annual conference in Rome from Novemeber 6-10, where they took part in workshops and training sessions on a variety of topics, including an all-day seminar on accreditation hosted by the Middle States Association, our accrediting agency.
At the Open House we were able to talk to many parents about signing up to serve on the various parent committees that have been created. While we got quite a few signatures, we still need the help of more parents. Early next week we will post the list of committees with explanations for each, and then work to fill out each committee’s membership.
Thanks to the generous donation of Jamie Creel, on of our Trustees, the school will be purchasing 12-14 short-throw digital projectors that have the capability of changing a regular white board into an interactive interface between the class and the computer. It is gratifying that our trustees are showing this kind of support for the school, and we hope to continue to elicit this sort of confidence as we move forward.
The administrative offices were beset by legions of spooks, witches, and superheroes this past Thursday as the school celebrated Halloween. The kids looked great and appeared to be having an excellent time.
November 25-27: Strategic Planning meetings
December 6: First Accreditation visit
Check the Sports Calendar on the website for AST sporting events.
October 9 Newsletter #3
I am happy to report that the school is moving forward on a variety of fronts. We have a number of important projects currently under way, as follows:
Accreditation visit scheduled
In the previous newsletter I announced that AST’s candidacy for accreditation had been formally granted. The next step is the scheduling of a visit from a representative of the Middle States Association, who will meet with students, parents, board members, faculty, and administration and then advise us on our self-study, the next step in the process. The visit has been scheduled for December 6, when we will arrange meetings with those who have been involved in the preparation of the candidacy application.
New Server, computers, and a modern data base
Thanks to money saved on our summer construction projects, the school has moved forward with the purchase of a new server to support the new Reddiker school data management program, the MAP program, and increased computer demand at the school. This program will allow us to consolidate attendance procedures, record-keeping, file-sharing, communication and eventually admissions and billing under one software umbrella. Along with the purchase of the software and the server comes the purchase of 33 computers to update our capacity throughout the school, as the current generation of computers was about seven years old and deteriorating.
I am happy to report that the implementation of MAP testing (Measure of Academic Progress) is underway. Macarena Ventosa has taken on the administration of this project, which is moving forward nicely. I will be devoting time in the Class Parent meetings to a detailed explanation of MAP testing as well as writing about it in the Head’s Blog.
We are planning to do some preliminary testing in November or December, with a full rollout taking place in the spring.
As promised last spring, the Board of Trustees is working on the development of a strategic planning process that will chart the course of the school over the next five to ten years. This plan will go beyond a long-term budget to include Philosophy and Mission, Governance and Leadership, School Improvement Planning, Financial Planning, Facilities Evaluation and Planning, IT, and School Climate and Organization evaluation. Jim Ambrose, the President of Search Associates, has already come and met with students, parents, faculty, trustees, and admin about the school’s current status and the timeliness of a strategic planning process, and Deborah MacArthur, another planning consultant, will visit the school in November to move the process along.
Class Parent Meetings
Class parent meetings will start up again during the week of October 21. These meetings are held in your children’s classrooms and include updates from the class teacher and the administration. We will be focusing at least in part on explaining how the MAP testing works as well as going into detail on some of the items covered in this newsletter.
The trustees and the administration are developing a plan to organize a more efficient system for the procurement and distribution of books and other classroom materials. We know that there are widespread parental concerns about the availability of books (we are still waiting for the arrival of our book order from last year) and are moving forward on solving that problem.
The school has undertaken an extensive review of the AST Security, Safety, and Emergency procedures, guided by the recommendations of the Regional Security Office of the US Embassy. Last Friday plans for emergency building evacuation and lockdown procedures formed the focus of the professional development day for the faculty. In the next couple of weeks the school will be training the students in these procedures, organizing walk-throughs, and finally having an unannounced drill.
The school is now actively planning for a modest renovation of the kitchen and cafeteria area and is once again talking to local restauranteurs about providing food services for the school. An architect has been consulted about the redesign of the space and will be providing us sketches soon. We will have an update on this in the next newsletter and more information by the time of the class meetings.
Naomi Sears Woolsey and the Office of Overseas Schools
Last year some of you attended a special information session for parents on our standards-based curriculum given by Naomi Sears Woolsey from the US Office of Overseas Schools, who was here to deliver professional development seminars to our faculty. She will be returning to AST later this month to give more training sessions to our faculty, this time on unit planning and assessment. Bringing her here gives us more bang for the professional development buck, as she will be working with all faculty over three days. Her work will include a curricular review of what our teachers have done over the past two years with the curriculum as well as working with grading rubrics and assessments. This is the kind of professional development that improves AST’s capacity to deliver high quality instruction to your children.
Math Professional Development
Nada Beroual and Souad Belcaid have just returned from the third in a series of five math teaching seminars sponsored by MAIS and the Office of Overseas Schools in Madrid. Irma Anderson, a consultant with OOS, has been leading the seminars. Nada and Souad will be teaching our lower school teachers how to use this new approach to math, which will be the subject of a future Head’s blog.
The new floor has been installed and some painting has been done to brighten up the gym. The new scoreboard has been ordered and is on its way from Barcelona. These improvements came from the school’s endowment, provided by the legacy of Joe McPhillips. The next gym project will be the design, funding, and outfitting of an exercise room, which will bring our gym up to modern standards.
UNE is rushing to complete their brand new facility located “down the hill” from our upper campus. Anouar Majid, the head of the project, is optimistic that UNE can start bringing students here as early as January. While the formal opening ceremonies will not be until April, he hopes to have the campus up and running in January. AST is already talking to UNE about bringing student teachers from the UNE College of Education to work in our classrooms, and the leader of the College of Education is actively recruiting now in Maine for at least one position at our school.
Lisa Gregoire and the seniors are hard at work on the college application process. Seniors are now developing their lists after a series of meetings between seniors and their parents and Mr. Lussen and Ms. Gregoire, who will be taking over the College Counseling duties full time next year. The work has been facilitated this year by the creation of the Senior Seminar, which in the fall is focused on the college admissions process. The seniors so far have given the Senior Seminar good reviews, as it forces them to work on their application process in a classroom setting where they can get advice and help as they make these important decisions.
Every two weeks I publish a Head’s Blog on the AST website, in which I deal in some depth with issues and developments at the school and abroad in the world of education. You can access the blog by going to the website at www.ast.ma and clicking on the “Head Blog” button on the right.
Newsletter # 2 September 18, 2013
School is up and running! The kids are climbing all over the new playground equipment and the new upper court is used every day. It is a relief for everyone to be back in the second story of the Upper School, and two days ago the new gym floor was completed! Many thanks to Karim Benzakour and the AST staff for getting the school ready and for overseeing all the work that was done this summer.
AST was just informed that its application for accreditation was received and approved!
The documentation for this was submitted on September 9, and we expected to hear from the Middle States Association some time in November, as they can take up to 60 days to reply to the formal submission of documents. The turnover in this case was a few days!
We are now waiting for Middle States to assign us a Visitor, who will come to observe the school and to start us on our Self-Study. Watch for my blog on accreditation, in which I will explain the entire process.
As of this writing, AST has 346 students enrolled, up from about 322 last year. Most of our classes are full, and average class size is 22.5, not including pre-K.
New Equipment and new software
The Board of Trustees authorized the purchase of 33 new computers and a second server to meet our hardware and data needs. These are arriving over the course of this week and Aziz and Khalid are working hard to get them all set up. The new server gives us the capacity to use a new school management program that will consolidate our data system, allowing us to help students more effectively and to improve our communication within the school and to parents.
We have now initiated the process to introduce MAP testing at AST. MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) is an external testing regimen that is geared to the AERO and Common Core standards that we have aligned our curriculum with. It will give us an external read on our students’ progress and needs, allowing us to identify more precisely what kind of help a student might need. As soon as our new hardware is installed, we will begin the organization for the trial testing that will happen later this fall. The program has been purchased and the training for it has begun.
Water Problem Make-up Day
As everyone knows, we made the decision to close the school on Friday, September 13, because of the water cut-off in the city of Tangier and the problems of sanitation and health that arise from such a situation. We have set the make-up day for Thursday, April 10, 2014, which was scheduled to be the first day of spring break. Please change your calendars now!
The seniors are already hard at work on their college applications. The new Senior Seminar, led by Lisa Gregoire, provides the opportunity for the seniors to get help with every aspect of the college application process, from filling out the application forms to applying for financial aid. Individual meetings with the seniors and their parents will begin soon.
We are still waiting for our book order to arrive from the US, which should help with some of the book problems we have. We are currently studying several different proposals from parents, staff, and trustees to address this perennial problem. The scope of our study will include a close look at digital/ebooks, as these are dramatically cheaper than the traditional hard-bound books.
We are happy to report that our attendance procedures are off to a good start, thanks to better reporting by teachers and by great cooperation from parents and students. Please keep up the good work!
Pick-ups for PreK and K1 classes
Just a reminder: please do not block the entrance to the school when you go to pick up your child. You need to park down the street where parking is available. The entrance must be kept clear at all times!
Richard E. Lussen
Head of School