Jeff Paulson on...

why ZIS is a product of its community

Read Voices Winter 2016 full edition

“Community is about striving, changing and learning – together.”

What is a school? For me, it is first and foremost a community of learners: a place where people – students, parents and teachers – pull together to achieve more as a group than would ever be possible as individuals.

At ZIS, we are lucky to have a long tradition of community. Our school was founded by a visionary group of individuals who came together to create a place where students from all over the world could feel at home. And then our founders did something special: they made us a non-profit school – a school that truly serves its community. It is something that many people don’t know about ZIS, but which I believe underpins so much of what we do here. All operational money is reinvested into our school – and that means that everything we do begins with the creation of a community with people at its heart.

Today, that tradition is continued in the work that so many of you, as parents and alumni, do to support our school. We are thankful for the work of our volunteers: to those of you who read in the classroom, who chaperone trips, who help in the library or who offer internships to our students, to name just a few of the many, many ways in which you support ZIS. Our school depends on your work, and the fact that so many of you give so freely of your time is hugely appreciated.

This year is particularly significant, as we say thank you to outgoing Chairman of the Board of Trustees Doug Marston and outgoing Parents’ Association President Keri Stroemer. Doug served on the Board for 13 years, 12 as chairman, and Keri has led our Parents’ Association or the past two: both have made huge contributions towards making ZIS the successful institution it is today. I am delighted to welcome our new Chair, Kevin Lane, and new President, Yvette Bannon – and to thank them all for volunteering.

A school – and particularly, given our values, this school – is a product of its community. It is a rare day here without my noting something that could not have happened without parents and alumni. And it’s not just the formal activities. As a community of expats, we all support each other every single day of the year. We step up for each other, playing the role of family and friends. Consequently, our community is growing and connections are strengthening, both here in Zurich and worldwide.

And a core plank of our community is the school-parent partnership. You have expectations of us, we have expectations of you, and like all relationships, sometimes it can be complicated.

That is why we have conducted an audit of our school-parent partnerships. We already have a formal, written Parent and School Partnership, but we have taken that one step further by asking you to tell us about your experience and tell us your story. Almost 300 of you took part in feedback sessions as part of the in-depth audit process and we, as a whole school community, have received the full report on the audit.

Ongoing dialogue is, of course, all part of being true to our ethos of partnership and trust. We will continue to listen hard, and we recognize that as parents, professionals and volunteers we all have important roles to play in the continued success of our school.

Ultimately, we are bound together as a community. We collaborate, we support one another, we learn – and as we do so, we travel along the path of continual improvement and raise the bar for achievement. Because that is what community is about: striving, changing and learning – together.

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