EABH 60 Years, A Crossroads for (Re)flection and (Re)calibration

EABH 60 Years, A Crossroads for (Re)flection and (Re)calibration
By:  Catarina Song Chen, Director
American School of Belo Horizonte, Brazil

As we close out the 2016-2017 school year, it’s natural to (re)flect on and celebrate our accomplishments. But it’s also just as critical to review our history and the trajectory that brought us to where we are in order to critically evaluate what has worked and what hasn’t, as we (re)calibrate for the future.

The EABH 60 Year anniversary was a major milestone for our school, commemorated throughout the year with various memorable events such as the formal dinner gala, a family trip to the private island of Comandatuba, and a live band concert for our students. Other accomplishments included a new partnership established between the EABH science and UFMG microbiology departments, Thursday PYP assemblies showcasing units of inquiry through student performances, as well as our school’s prominent participation at the AASSA Educators’ Conference held in Rio de Janeiro.

AASSA stands for the Association of American Schools in South America. This nonprofit association founded in the United States is made up of 80-member international schools. I currently serve as the Vice-President on the Board of Trustees of AASSA, and part of our responsibilities is to govern the various services we offer such as school material purchasing, teacher recruitment, and professional development, such as the educators’ conference.

Based around the theme (Re), the educators’ conference was designed around a collaborative think-tank with a focus to (re)think and (re)invent international education. (Re) is a prefix of Latin origin. It means to repeat, as in repetition, to do over and over. It can also mean to move back, as in reverse.

I have adopted the (Re) concept in an effort to explain the trajectory of EABH.

Many times, in our daily routine, we may feel we are doing the same thing, over and over again. The motions may seem (re)petitive, as if we are going in circles. Yet, we do not arrive at the same place as yesterday.

I invite you to imagine a spiral, a metaphor to visually explain the meaning of (Re). A spiral is a continuous and gradually widening curve around a central point to form a cone. At the center of the point is the EABH mission statement. As the curve rises, it turns in one direction around an open center shaping the purpose and values of our school. The curve continues to rise and conveys our school pillars, S-A-A-G-E. This motion (re)peats, gradually articulating layers of our school identity such as our American, Brazilian and international accreditations, dual American and Brazilian diplomas, as well as IB curriculum.

The spiral repeats itself, (re)vealing more and more educational events and accomplishments that build on top of the other, symbolizing our trajectory to the present time – EABH 60 Years. This upward motion should repeatedly rise and advance, but it should never reverse.

Not too long ago, our school was at risk of a (re)versal.

A poignant but true (re)cent history is that our school suffered high turnover in leadership and governance. With at least four different school directors in a five-year period, and frequent rotation of board members, it was impossible to provide continuity to schoolwork.

When I stepped into the job back in 2009, during the world economic crisis, I quickly learned that there was a lot work to be done. The school was in the (re)d, enrollment was dwindling, and we were at risk of losing our accreditation as an American school. I immediately recognized two (re)alities. First, I alone would not be able to overcome these major challenges. Second, our school would not be able to reverse its situation overnight.

With the board’s strong and steady support, our staff’s diligence and dedication to students, and PTA’s caring and creative contribution, we collaboratively worked hard to (re)vamp our practice, grow our enrollment, pay off our debt, and work towards meeting high international standards to (re)claim our accreditation status and become (re)cognized as an IB World School.

Although the school has been around for sixty years, there are times when we feel like a sixty-year-old startup. In hindsight, we made immense progress, but we never lost sight of the central point of our spiral: to prepare students as world citizens by developing a desire for lifelong learning and respect for individuals, cultures and the environment. Our mission is based on the EABH Statutes, the school’s constitution, which clearly defines its nature: This Association exclusively will be of an educational, cultural, scientific and literary nature. It shall not practice any form of racial or religious discrimination. It shall be a non-profit and it shall at all times comply with Article 33 of these statutes, which deals with funds management.

With vigilant stewardship, we managed a delicate balance between innovation and tradition, hard measures and gentle love, a “slow down to go fast” intuition, and a “pay it forward” mentality.

So while our statutes clearly state that we are not a religiously affiliated school, we (re)spect people of all different walks of life and their (re)spective faiths.  And just as we are a not-for-profit school, we have a fiduciary (re)sponsibility to financial accountability and commitment to fiscal prudence, to ensure surplus for the longevity and sustainability of the school.

Today, we are financially healthy, working our way to meet our six-months reserve as mandated by accreditation standards, and recommended for our good business practice. We are working on our surplus so that we can invest in better infrastructure to support cutting edge teaching practices and innovation projects. Our revised master plan is undergoing final (re)visions and will soon be shared with our community members. We are also very excited about our STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) program that will pilot an 8th grade Design Maker class next year to deepen and enrich our MYP design class. While keeping our eye on our long term plans, we simultaneously and wisely apply our (re)sources towards improved curriculum with teacher training, (re)levant school materials, and increased international faculty so that the core of our business is continuously being invested in.

The edition of our FYI humbly serves to safeguard our institutional memory, (re)minding us of our past and vulnerabilities. But it also (re)joices over our community’s tenacity to have not only survived, but also thrived over the past 60 years, as we envision many more sixty years to come.

May the the FYI bring you fond memories of our daily life in school. Precious snapshots of what (re)ally matters in our lives, special moments that provide a glimmer of hope, are all worth celebrating and cherishing. (Re)lish it!

Author: Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, a Third Culture Kid , an independent educational consultant and AASSA’s Social Media Coordinator.

Silvia is known in the international bloggersphere under the name of “Langwitches”. To learn about her work, subscribe to the Langwitches Blog and follow her on Twitter- @langwitches.

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