Head of School at Saigon South International School, HCMC in Vietnam
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Head of School
Saigon South International School, HCMC (Vietnam)

Appointed - Dr. Catriona Moran
May 13, 2017
Sep 15, 2017


Dear Colleagues,

To all those who have an interest in the results of the HOS search at Saigon South International School, we are pleased to announce that Dr. Catriona Moran has been offered and has accepted the offer to be the next head of school. We quote below part of the announcement sent out by Board Chair Gayle Tsien, and some comments by Dr. Moran as well.

On behalf of the Board, it is with great pleasure we announce the appointment of Dr. Catriona Moran as the next Head of School, commencing in July 2018.

This appointment is the result of a competitive, comprehensive and thoughtful search process led by the Search Committee that involved our entire School community.  After initial interviews with the Search Committee, three finalists were invited to visit the School where they met with students, faculty, support staff, teacher assistants, parents, administrators and the board.  After feedback from all constituent groups and the Search Committee, Dr. Catriona Moran was unanimously selected by the Board to be our new Head of School.

Dr. Moran has a long and distinguished career as an educator. Beginning initially as a teacher and Technology Coordinator, Dr. Moran then served as Principal of K-9 at Nishimachi International School in Tokyo and Curriculum Director of Kyoto International School in Japan. She then started her 17-year career at Taipei American School in Taiwan, serving as the K-12 Language Arts/EAL Coordinator, the Lower School Principal, and then Deputy Head of School.  As Principal, she received the greatest recognition as a school leader when she was named the “National Distinguished Principal of the Year” by the National Association of Elementary Principals and the USA State Department.

With a breadth and depth of experience spanning over three decades in a range of teaching and academic leadership positions, Dr. Moran brings a deep understanding of all facets of schools operations to our School. She has a strong background in strategic planning, literacy development, STEM integration, KA-12 curriculum articulation, professional development, assessments, and facilities development. In addition, Dr. Moran has spearheaded the Wellness Initiative at Taipei American School.

Dr. Moran has a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Limerick, Ireland; a M.Ed. in Educational Administration from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia; and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of San Diego, California. She and her husband, Gerry, have two sons, Jack and Tommy, currently attending college in Australia.

As Dr. Moran looks ahead to joining our school community next year, she states, “I am greatly honored to be selected as the next Head of SSIS, and I hope to build on the founders’ vision and a strong foundation of 20 years to take the School to the next level of excellence. Working together with its strong leadership team and excellent faculty and staff, I believe we can make SSIS the best educational environment yet, one that allows every student to thrive, every employee to feel challenged and valued, and every parent to rejoice in their selection of SSIS as the school of choice for their children.  I look forward to deepening my understanding of the school as I work with the Board and Mr. Sylte during the transition, and to joining the SSIS community next July.”

Please join Search Associates in congratulating Dr. Moran and in wishing her a long and happy stay at SSIS.

John Magagna

Founding Director

Search Associates


Saigon South International School (SSIS)

Ho Chi Minh City, VietNaM

Seeks a new Head of School

To begin in July 2018



SSIS is a college preparatory school committed to the intellectual and personal development of each student in preparation for a purposeful life as a global citizen.


Saigon South International School (SSIS) is a private (not-for-profit) school that offers an American style curriculum to students from EC3 (Early Childhood) through to grade 12. SSIS is committed to exemplary international education, and its founders have a deep belief in the power of education to change lives. SSIS is the only not-for-profit international school in Ho Chi Minh City, and has the full support of the founding company. 

SSIS opened in 1997. It is operated as a not-for-profit entity by the Phu My Hung Corporation (PMHC), owners of the Saigon South urban development project. The school offers an American style  program in each of its three divisions:  Elementary (including early childhood), Middle, and High School.  The High School curriculum in the upper grades consists of both the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programs.

The school operates on a single campus located on a spectacular waterfront location within Saigon South, and sits on a bend in the Canh Quan River. SSIS has completed its current construction master plan for a capacity of 1,200 students, and plans are underway for future facilities to accommodate further enrollment growth. SSIS is widely regarded as having the top facilities and program in Vietnam, and in 2016 won the Best Facilities award for schools from the Department of Education (Vietnam).

Enrollment: In 1997, SSIS began with 37 students and currently enrollment stands at over 1,000. It is anticipated that enrollments will grow significantly, and SSIS will build new facilities to accommodate this growth as well as improvements and additions to the programs.   Within the student body there is a high proportion of non-native English speakers, with the majority of students at SSIS using English as their second or third language.

University Matriculation: Each year 95% all SSIS graduates directly matriculate to university with a few attending military service or a gap year program.  Approximately 50% of students attend university in the U.S. with 15 to 20 % to Canada and Korea,  the remainder 30% to 35% pursue degrees in Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand and the UK. 

Graduates from the classes of 2012 to 2017 students have attended schools in the US such as: American University, Boston University, Boston College, Bryn Mawr College, the University of California system (campus-wide), University of Chicago, Colgate University, Harvard University, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, Loyola Marymount University, Mount Holyoke College, New York University, Northwestern University, Occidental College, Pepperdine University, Pratt Institute, Purdue University, Santa Clara University, University of Southern California, Swarthmore College, Tufts University, Virginia Institute of Technology, and Williams College. 

In Canada: University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto, and the University of Waterloo. 

In Europe, including the UK: Amsterdam University College, University of Edinburgh, Erasmus University College (Netherlands), University of Exeter (UK), Leiden University College (Netherlands), the University of Manchester (UK) and Royal Holloway University London.

For Asia, students have attended the Ateneo de Manila University, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Keio University (Japan), Korea University, National University of Singapore, Seoul National University, Singapore Management University, Sophia University (Japan), National Taiwan University and Yonsei University (Korea). 

In Australia and New Zealand SSIS has students attending Monash University, the University of Melbourne and Otago University. 

Faculty: SSIS faculty consists  of 102 teaching faculty that includes English as an Additional Language  teachers, counselors, and learning support teachers. More than a dozen nationalities make up the foreign staff at SSIS. They include 65% from the United States, 16% from Canada, 4% from Australia, 7% from Europe, 4% from Asian, and the remaining 4% from other countries.  A considerable number of the faculty bring to SSIS significant experience, with the average number of years of teaching at 16 years. Two  percent of faculty have doctorate degrees and 70% hold master’s degrees, while 28% have a bachelor’s degree.

The administration at SSIS is comprised of the Head of School, the Associate Head of School for Finance and Operations, a Principal for each of the three divisions (with Assistant Principals in Elementary and High School), and Directors of University Guidance, Curriculum, ICT, Athletics/Activities, and Admissions/Marketing. 

For more information on SSIS, please see: 


SSIS hosted its most recent accreditation visiting committee in March 2017 and completed its latest strategic plan in April 2017.  

School Strengths:
Some of the major SSIS strengths mentioned by a recent accreditation visiting committee and/or the external consultant facilitating strategic planning were:

  1. “SSIS is a very good school with terrific students, dedicated faculty and staff.”  “The faculty and administration are dedicated and passionate about student relationships and learning.”
  2. “SSIS is a happy place, a good place to learn, a good place to work.”
  3. “The [SSIS] Core Values are deeply ingrained in the culture of the School, particularly Balance in Life, Sense of Self, Respect for All and Dedicated Service. Those values are reflected in a caring, kind community of adults and students.”
  4. “A competent governing Board which supports the Administrative Team’s initiatives.”
  5. “Facilities are spacious and well appointed with well resourced materials.”
  6. “The climate of SSIS is extremely positive and the students, teachers, and parents all work cohesively to challenge students while at the same time supporting them in their social, emotional and academic achievement.”

Strategic Plan Priority Areas:
During the next several years, SSIS will focus on these strategic priorities:

  1. Institutional Excellence
  2. Academic and Program Excellence
  3. Faculty Excellence
  4. Community Pride and Engagement

For more information, please go to these links:




A major responsibility of the new Head of School will be to lead the staff to effectively implement this plan.


Preferred candidates for the SSIS Head of School position will be able to demonstrate the following:

Regarding the strategic plan:

  1. Personal educational beliefs and experiences that match the SSIS mission and strategic goals, particularly regarding academic and program excellence.
  2. Ability to express the mission and strategic goals in ways that assure understanding and stimulate involvement, commitment, and enthusiastic implementation.
  3. Ability to design, organize and manage change processes needed to achieve the strategic goals.
  4. Ability to firmly implement the plan -- and sustain that implementation.
  5. Ability to do all of the above while creating and managing enrollment growth.  (Past rates of growth are expected to continue.  Increased growth is needed to finance the strategic plan.) 

Regarding personal qualities and professional skills:

  1. Excellent personal communication skills.
  2. Ability to create and manage systems to coordinate different parts of a complex organization.
  3. A record of recruiting and retaining excellent teachers and administrators.
  4. Ability to develop and guide teams that achieve great results.
  5. Integrity and compassion, engendering a culture of trust and respect within the school community.

Regarding experience:

Preferred candidates will be able to demonstrate the above based on successful experience as a head or assistant head in a private independent and/or international school with:

  1. A large portion of students learning English as an additional language.
  2. A large portion of families of Asian/non-Western cultures.
  3. IB Diploma and AP programs.
  4. American style educational programs.
  5. High achieving students who are admitted to leading universities.

The new Head should be prepared to make a long-term commitment with an initial contract of three years. 

Salary and benefit package for the Head position is regionally competitive and will be commensurate with the candidate's qualifications and experience. 


The SSIS Board has engaged Search Associates to assist the school in its recruitment of a new Head.  Mr. John Magagna, Founding Director, is the Lead Consultant; he will be assisted by Mr. John Ritter, Senior Associate.

The deadline for applications is September 15, 2017.  The SSIS Board reserves the right to close the selection process at any time if the right candidate is found. The review of files will begin as soon as applications are received. Skype interviews of selected candidates will take place on a rolling basis and can be scheduled at any time after applications have been received. Site visits will be arranged for finalist candidates during August 15 to September 30. The new Head will be selected immediately after interviews of the finalist candidates have been completed.

Candidates should send the information listed below as a single pdf file attached to an email:

  1. A letter of application describing your interest in the Head of School position at Saigon South International School, describing your strengths as a candidate and how your professional abilities align with the above candidate selection criteria.
  2. A current resumé.
  3. A one-page list of at least 4 referees with current phone numbers and email addresses. These referees should include at least two supervisors from the current school and one supervisor from a previous school.  Supervisor should include the current Board Chair and Board Treasurer.   Candidates who wish to discuss these provisions should contact John Magagna (contact details below.)
  4. A maximum of three letters of reference (scanned at low resolution) that may already be in your possession.

This single document should be kept to less than four (4) MB if possible.

Applications should be sent to John Magagna at JFM@searchassociates.com with a copy to Admin@searchassociates.com.   Tel: 1-570-696-4600   Skype:  johnfmagagna

Did You Know…?

Search Associates is a family-owned business founded by John Magagna, former international educator. After working with her father for ten years, daughter Jessica Magagna is now CEO.