Senior Associates John Ritter and Bridget McNamer have just returned from the annual conference of the Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA), held in Sofia, Bulgaria March 16th—18th. From the opening program in which two students from Anglo-American School of Sofia brought down the house with their TedX-style talk on cross-age collaboration, to the closing gala dinner showcasing energetic Bulgarian folk dancers and featuring a brilliant speech by former Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev on the power of education to create a new world order, the 2017 CEESA conference was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how this year's theme, "Transforming Education Through Communities," can come to vivid life. Workshops, sessions, and special events, such as the above, focused on how individual school communities, cultural communities, and communities devoted to specific issues and subjects can create meaningful impact on education.
The Central and Eastern European Schools Association, or CEESA, was founded as a result of the growth of American and International Schools in Central and Eastern Europe. In many cases, the schools were geographically isolated from each other and from the main stream of American and International Education. CEESA was formed to broaden the horizons of schools and to promote professional growth. A key piece of this is the annual CEESA Educators' Conference, which is held in regional capital cities each spring.
This year's choice of Sofia meant opportunities to see international schools in the area. Pre-conference sessions were held at the Anglo-American School of Sofia, which has been a member of Search Associates for many years. Bridget and John also had an opportunity to tour the American College of Sofia, a longtime Search Associates member school). And at the behest of its new Principal, Justin Kilcullen-Nichols, who came to the CEESA Conference specifically to meet up with Search Associates, Bridget was able to visit St. George's International School to view its beautiful new campus and discuss the benefits and process of joining Search Associates.
Bridget and John represented two different groups focused on the specific issues of child protection and women in leadership. The two co-led a discussion on "Child Protection: Is Your School Up to Date?" which drew leaders and teachers from several regional schools. Bridget collaborated with Beth Pfannl of International School Services and Pauline O'Brien of Council of International Schools to facilitate a workshop on "Women in Leadership," which drew more than 60 participants (including several men) and helped participants identify and address the patterns that tend to hold female leaders back from aspiring to, applying to, or achieving leadership positions in international schools. More highlights of the conference: Bridget and her daughter, Kate, shook hands with former president Plevneliev! Bridget also spoke of the delightful
"opportunity to meet Ula Konczewska, a Search Associates candidate now teaching at Anglo-American School of Sofia and moving on to the American International School Chennai, India next year. An example of the interconnectedness of community, Ula previously worked as a teacher for Search Associates President Jessica Magagna's son Ethan in Pennsylvania!"
As always, the CEESA Conference was a success filled with much collaboration and learning on various topics in the international education community. And speaking of community, Bridget and Kate are grateful to be a part of Search Associates, an organization that was founded upon "a personal touch."