For over 25 years, Search Associates has made it a priority to attend, and often contribute to, almost every regional international education conference each year. This March 30 – April 2, Founder John Magagna, Senior Associate John Ritter, and Consultant Gunther Brandt joined about 500 overseas schools administrators at the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) Leadership Conference for 2016 held in Rome at the Waldorf Rome Cavalieri. ECIS Executive Director Kevin J. Ruth encouraged participants to go beyond compliance-related issues with the theme: Designing on Purpose . He said,
"From new business models for schools to leading practices in safety, security, and child protection to roles for new assessments in admission and harnessing the power that is advancement, we are called to design on purpose in international schools in more ways than ever before."
Keynote Speaker David Butler, Vice President of Innovation at Coca-Cola, inspired creative thought in that direction.
At the Search Associates table in the exhibition hall, our three Search Associates enjoyed the opportunity to meet with representatives from currently-registered schools and schools interested in joining Search Associates, as well as individual candidates, both prospective and registered, preparing to seek new positions. Though every social event, meal, and coffee break gave our Associates a chance to speak with other delegates from participating ECIS schools, the team had other important work to do.
Our newest Search Associate, Consultant Gunther Brandt, Head of School for 37 years, attended workshops focusing on governance and strategic planning. He particularly enjoyed Dick Ewing's workshop, "Building Trust in Trusteeship," which advocated strongly for the collaborative approach in running a school. Gunther also appreciated keynotes by ECIS Executive Director Kevin Ruth and by Pearl Rock Kane, a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Search Associates Founder John Magagna and Brit van Ooijen, current Chair of Copenhagen International School, presented a workshop on "The Do's and Don'ts of Looking for a New School Head." It was attended by board members who had excellent questions for John and Brit. Gunther, who also attended the workshop, said,
"John was excellent, and Brit brought the perspective of trustee-to-trustee, which I could see was appreciated by the attendees . . . after the presentation I had good chats with board members from The Hague and Amsterdam . . . who commented positively on the presentation . . . My guess is that it is pretty rare for a board chair and a search organization to present together . . ."
Senior Associate John Ritter, with a focus on child protection, had individual conversations with people on the International Task Force on Child Protection. He also attended several workshops that concentrated mainly on building awareness and the ability to respond to child abuse within school communities. Overall, John drew some conclusions:
- There are still many international school staff members under the delusion that child abuse is not a real risk in their schools.
- There are still too many recruiters who continue to be too lax about checking references.
- There may be a natural "fading effect" after the very well-known child abuse case of spring 2014.
- Sustaining better child protection in international schools may be more likely if we continue to "institutionalize" it in accreditation requirements, recruitment agency practices and requirements, and on-going training requirements. All of these measures are recommended by the International Task Force on Child Protection.
More information about the task force's work can be found on http://www.icmec.org/education-portal/.
The Search Associates presence at ECIS demonstrates the many ways in which we serve the community of international educators, from advising candidates and schools, to gathering data for important policy, to using our 500-plus years of experience for the mentorship of school leaders all over the world.