New Choices, Hard Decisions

New Choices, Hard Decisions

January 19, 2018

The start of a new calendar year offers each of us the prospect of new beginnings, new possibilities, and new opportunities. These choices all require decisions with varying degrees of gravity and difficulty. Many will agonize over small decisions; some will make really big decisions without much thought at all; still others will be trapped in indecision, which is, in effect, a decision of sorts. Regardless, for the year ahead, I believe our best decisions will come from a clear recognition that we have arrived at the point of decision, and then making choices that best reflect who we are and what we are seeking to achieve.

In schools, there are two groups of people who need to make important, even life-changing, decisions at this time of every new year: members of faculty, and graduating students. For teachers, this is the time of year when they may begin to think about where they will teach in the coming academic year. Grade 12 students are also making choices about where they will study after graduation. Both groups are hoping to make good choices, recognizing the potential impact they may have in future years.

With very high ISF faculty retention in recent years, the number of replacement teachers being sought is typically very low; increasing enrolments in our Secondary School typically create more than half of the faculty vacancies to be filled. We are often blessed with a large number of candidates seeking these positions. With great choice, however, comes the need for careful filtering, intelligent candidate evaluation, and wise decision-making. Finding the best fit to create an ideal 'chemistry' in our teaching teams is challenging work indeed. January is the time each year when members of senior academic leaders are frequently engaged in recruiting action. Some leaders participate in job fairs to select new teachers to fill positions created by departures or increased enrolments. Others conduct interviews via Skype, telephone, or in person. Still others undertake background checks on selected candidates. This is a time-consuming and very labor-intensive process, but it is one that must be conducted with attention to detail and unswerving diligence. For the 2018-19 Academic Year, we anticipate welcoming around 20 new teachers and specialist interns to our school.

Creating the ideal faculty team is essential to ensure our students are well prepared to achieve outstanding academic results and thus have wonderful choices for the next stage in their educational journey. For some members of the Class of 2018, the past few weeks have brought some excellent news. Early decisions from ISF applicants to highly selective institutions in the United States have resulted in offers from Princeton University, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford University. Our two applicants to the University of Cambridge have both been offered places, one to read Law at Corpus Christi College, the other for Developmental Economics at Murray Edwards College. These offers add to the already impressive list of choices open to members of the Class of 2018. Others will need to wait until late March or early April to receive their offers. Each enrolment offer is full of future possibilities, yet ultimately only one can be chosen. For our graduating students, this can be a nerve-wracking time.

In a way, these two key elements of our school community, and the decisions associated with them, are closely interwoven. Our academic outcomes and college placements are directly and inextricably linked to the choices we make to recruit or retain quality faculty. Each choice harbors all manner of opportunity and perhaps some degree of risk. Each year, as we seek to place our graduates in the most selective colleges and universities in the world, the choices become harder, the demands greater, the stakes higher. The start of the year is an excellent point at which to pause, consider who we are, and what we are setting out to achieve, in order to make the best decisions we can, with wisdom and a clear sense of purpose.

 

Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School

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