OPEN MIKE

New Kid on the Block

People have repeatedly asked me why I came to ISG. After all, I was well positioned in Washington State in a superintendent job that I loved. I’d recently overseen the completion of a beautiful new high school, a nine-year labor of love from decision to completion that I could now enjoy. I have a large network of friends and an equally large family back in the U.S. So why the change? And why ISG and Saudi Arabia?

When I was first approached about the position, I naturally went to the ISG website. What caught my attention was ISGLearns. Why? Because ISGLearns is all about teaching and learning. Its focus is about the students. Decisions in my career have always been student-centered. My goal is, and has been, to provide students with what I was given – a loving, caring, nurturing learning environment that challenged me and held me to high standards. It loved me along the way, at times less than others (and deservedly so), but it nevertheless was instrumental in shaping who I became and my direction in life. So to me, the fact that this ethos is core to ISG was a critical factor in my interest and ultimately in my decision to come here.

I had the typical western view of Saudi Arabia. In other words, I knew very little about it. On my first visit here, I really liked it. The people I met, from the person at the hotel directing me where I could go for a jog in the morning to the teachers at ISG, were all wonderful. So to the question of why Saudi, I reply, why not Saudi? It’s a country like any other, but it’s really the people who make it. And the people here are wonderful.

I love my early morning 10K runs from the ISG main campus, past Dhahran Mall to Pepsi Road. It’s a great way to get to know a place. The city is quiet and the roads are calm. The weather is perfect for running and the sunrise is stunning. There’s a gorgeous dog that I regularly see when I run. I talk to him in English and he only understands Arabic. We’re working on finding common ground.

I look at international schools as the value they bring to a community or country, bringing together students from diverse backgrounds. We have 70+ nationalities here at ISG, whereas where I was in the U.S., we served predominantly white, middle-class students. I loved seeing ISG students so proud of their heritage on International Day. It was like a window into their soul about who they are and where they have come from. Remembering their heritage and adding the international element to it makes them well-rounded ambassadors to others and the world. It is such an incredible opportunity for them, and for me, to be part of this community.

I have discovered that ISG is unlike any other international school organization in the world. For example, it offers both the American and British curriculum, which is unusual. And with that comes an obligation for us to be a better organization than most. We are dynamic, unique and emerging. And improving every day.

One of my main goals as ISG Superintendent is to oversee the building of the new campus. It is not just the bricks and mortar, so to speak, but the future of ISG that we are building. It is saying goodbye to the Dhahran campus and its 58-year history as the home of DEMS, DHS and DBGS. It is ushering in a new era, a new beginning. And it is looking beyond the current building plans at the potential for later expansion and additions that will support ISG for years to come.

So what brought me to ISG? The diversity and the uniqueness of the different schools, all with their own personalities but all sharing one common heartbeat: teaching students how to be innovative in their own lives while being compassionate with others. Being compassionate starts with themselves first so they can then share compassion with others. This is the ISG ethos, the work that we do, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Mike

February 25, 2020