EVACUATION PLAN DEVELOPED AND IMPLEMENTED- Last year we created a committee with expert parents, principals, and the operations management team to develop a reliable and efficient evacuation plan using exit maps and a modified bell system. We practiced the evacuation routes monthly with great order and success. In addition, we organized a system by which we notify parents about political protests and delays of school through email.
FACILITY IMPROVEMENTS- We have recently completed an architectural plan for a new purpose built facility with plans of moving into it next September 2017. The space has been designed to meet the needs of 1,000 students; children 18 months to 12th grade. It includes art and science labs, two libraries, a theatre, and a gym.
This last summer we moved the classes of grades 3,4, and 5 to the Ed Center. The primary objective of the move was to unify the elementary program and provide greater supervision. Previously, the site served students ages 2 to grade 2 and was supervised by the 2nd grade teacher and the resources were limited and unorganized. By increasing the numbers of students we were able to allocate a full-time elementary principal and elementary coordinator who could provide better supervision and safety. This shift naturally demanded that more attention and resources be allocated to the site and important improvements to be made. We created a new library with librarian, added a copy machine, and installed three projectors. The driveway was leveled and the P.E. room was adapted. The kitchen was also improved. In addition, a building manager was hired full-time to assist with daily maintenance.
ORGANIZATION- A new Organizational Chart was created that reflects current practices. A Salary Schedule for Administration was developed. Evaluations and job descriptions were updated for Coordinators, Counselors, Principals. Monthly calendar of meetings were set and followed for Administration, Faculty, Heads of Department, and Divisional Faculty meetings. A “New Student” enrollment process which includes the final approval by the Head of School or Elementary principal was developed and partially implemented.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT- All teachers were invited to present or participate in the first International Education Conference in Kosovo called the “Kosovo Learning Summit.” In addition, three full days in the year have been devoted to professional development within the school by which the principals and lead teachers offer specific trainings. The traditional teacher orientation at the beginning of the year at Boge was better organized and began with professional books provided for each teacher to read and study throughout the year. Principals met with teachers last year for the first time to develop annual SMART goals. Two cycles of formal lesson observations were conducted which included pre-conference, lesson observations, and post-conferences based on the Charlotte Danielson’s Framework and End of Year Evaluations were conducted for the first time within the Student Services team.
CURRICULUM- Simple Year-Long Curriculum Maps were completed by all teachers in grades K-12 and “Curriculum Binders” containing units and lessons were created. Teachers were introduced to “Understanding By Design” (UBD) planning and how to select from a variety of State Standards to design their lessons. Heads of Departments have greater responsibility to make sure their department has consistent expectations for student learning. They have facilitated monthly meetings in their department to understand expectations for lesson development and record keeping and coached individual teachers as needed. Collaboration amongst teachers has grown. This year the English teacher and Social Studies teachers are collaborating in the development of a new program to use ipads in the classroom which are brought by students. A new “Teacher Tech Team” at the Ed Center are experimenting with a variety of software applications which involve and inform parents. A new International Middle School English Teacher was hired who will also work as a part-time Curriculum Coordinator focusing on curriculum alignment and development in grades k-8.
AMERICAN ADVISING CENTER – ASK continues to host the official, and the only one, EducationUSA Center in Kosovo. During the academic year 2015-2016, in honor of the International Education Week, the school in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo organized the first U.S. Alumni Fair in Kosovo. The fair was attended by forty-five (45) alumni and 455 students and scholars. Moreover, in April 2016, the school, together with the above mentioned partners organized the first EdUSA Southeastern Europe University Fair where fifteen American university representatives visited Pristina and over one-thousand and five hundred students visited the fair. The Alumni and the EdUSA University fair will be organized during this academic year as well.
BUDGET- The school has develop a more detailed budget for the new academic year with itemized budget lines, covering all departments of the school. This Budget was presented and approved by the school’s Leadership Team of the school, which is comprised of the Superintendent, Head of the School, Elementary Principal and Business Services Director. This will be the first year that decisions about staffing and programs will be made with this baseline of information.
TEXTBOOKS ADOPTION AND PURCHASE CYCLE- An inventory of all textbooks was created and reviewed by the librarian, Head of School, and each teacher. A database was created so that barcodes could be used to assist for easier checkout of books; however, in order to complete the process we need to update the school computer server. We hope to complete this soon. A cycle of review and purchase of textbooks was recently created and will be followed over the next five years.
ASSESSMENTS- We have completed the process for registering 200 students to be taking two cycles of MAP (Measured Academic Progress) testing in grades 2, 5, and 10 this November 1. STUDENT SERVICES- A full-time counselor and full-time Dean of Students has been added to the Student Services Team in the Upper School. Together with the Guidance Counselor, Head of School/High School Principal, Upper School Coordinator and Middle School Key teacher, we have formed a SST (Student Success Team) for grades 6-12 which meets weekly to identify students at risk and follow through with early interventions. This team has already identified forty students by the second week of school who will be recommended to participate in After School Support Program. This program was developed last year with homeroom teachers recommending or following identified students who might benefit from additional time after school in a small group setting. Every afternoon from 15:00-16:00 students may attend additional study sessions in English (Mondays), Math (Tuesdays), Science (Thursdays), and Foreign Languages/Social Studies (Fridays). This year we are refining the program by beginning earlier, personally reminding both teachers and students to attend, and mandating teachers to show evidence of who they have worked with and when.
STUDENT DISCIPLINE- In the first month of high school this year there has been no serious discipline issues. As compared to the first week of school last year, fights occurred and students were consistently late for class. More information on this topic will be available in one month after additional data is collected. Additionally, all students in the Upper School are wearing the designated uniform of: white button down shirt and black or navy blue pants. It was heard through the parent survey and consistent feedback from students that most students did not want to wear the tie. At the end of last year Mr. Ardian proposed a new series of uniform which will be comfortable and “cool”. The Head of School met with randomly selected students to see how students felt about the new uniform and collected their input about specific styles. Afterwards, parents in the monthly Parent Cafe group were asked for their feedback. In the end, we will be introducing the new uniform soon. In the meantime, the simple uniform, as stated earlier, is being followed well by all.
TEACHER RETENTION AND TRUST – We have more full-time teachers who are showing greater commitment to remaining longer at ASK. In addition, this year all new international teachers were hired on 2-year contracts, as compared to one-year contract that were agreed to in the past. The “Black Box”, finger printing, time-clock has not been used for over a year and everyone seems to appreciate it. Many in the leadership team have stated that the removal of this signing-in and out procedure was a key step in building trust between administration and teachers, and teachers giving more of their time naturally as professionals. Each teacher who left last year completed a verbal exit interview with the Human Resource Manager. One International teacher who left wrote a very positive letter for the International School Review website about all of the improvements that were made in the year.
IMPROVED COMMUNICATION WITH PARENTS- We increased the consistency and regularity of communications with parents, as well as improved and adopted several new ways that for parents can be involved in the school. This is the second year we began the year with a social event on the first day of school at the local community park which gives an opportunity for parents to meet and greet each other, everyone to meet new teachers and administration in a relaxed atmosphere and sense of community. This is the second year that monthly “Parent Cafe” parent meetings will be held in which the Head of School and Elementary principal meet with interested parents to hear concerns, share new information, or answer questions. Several individuals from this group were key to the parent survey that was developed and continue to be instrumental in the improvement of the school.
This year parents will be invited to a meeting during “Open House” to share their thoughts about the annual class trips. In previous years popular groups of students had a strong influence on the choices and many students were left out in the end. In the last year, the Head of School and Elementary Principal have been sending personal newsletters two times a month. These letters include pedagogy, pictures, stories, and important information. Reports from “MailChimp” say that 46% of all newsletters are being read. The Website was updated in January last year and Student Handbooks are now available in Albanian as well as the original English.
NEW PROGRAMS- For many years there has been an overall apathy in the high school by most students about spending more time after school to contribute to the greater school community. Several key students lead everything. From the after school charity events to days of celebration; all teachers know the students who they could count on. So in order to entice greater community participation and build upon personal interests, we introduced a CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) program in the high school and are offering a variety of non-graded clubs during lunch time which they may participate in and give credit towards their CAS hours. These clubs include: Animal Protection Club, Girl-Talk, Dance, Ping-Pong, Book club, Model United Nations, and more. So far the feedback from students and teachers is very positive and it is exciting to see new students involved in the community in new ways.
The Homeroom /Advisory program in the high school is also new this year and expanded from a daily 15 minute meeting which started at the beginning of the day last year, with many students absent and arriving late, to a meeting in the middle of the day three times a week using a specially designed curriculum to guide community building discussions, encourage self-reflection, and encourage character development. It is also hoped that the personal connection between the homeroom teacher and his/her students will have a positive aspect on attendance for the students in grades 11 and 12. Historically, there has been excessive absenteeism and skipping of classes (an average of 40 days a year).
AFTER SCHOOL ACTIVITIES COORDINATOR/PROGRAM- This year we have introduced a new “After School Activities” program which was designed by an Educational Coordinator in response to parent feedback. So far there are 23 different activities planned for the year. These activities seek to provide a well-rounded set of course offerings beyond the regular sports. Such activities include: Mindfulness /Yoga, Fun Science/Kitchen Sink, Cooking, student government, charity club, chess, swimming, among others. In addition, we are collaborating with an external digital school called, J-Coders, and we will be able to offer creative technology development courses from 3rd grade and higher.
From the Executive Summary For Accreditation with AdvancED 2017,
by Shannon Bruce Ramaka