This document was provided to this website through an email from 116 faculty and support staff coursed through the Communications Office [CommsMailbox@ismanila.com].


August 30, 2006

Dear Mrs. Bocanegra and Members of the Board of Trustees,

It is with a mixture of disappointment and anger that we feel compelled to write to you about our perception of the Board's dissatisfaction with the way in which ISM has been - and continues to be - guided by the current administration, or the way in which the instructional program is evolving. Until today, we have chosen to try to ignore gossip and rumor, off-hand comments, as well as actions by Board members that are anything but reflective of the ISM mission and core values.

In the past, Mr. De Mesa has made no secret of the fact that he has little time for the current administration. This view was made abundantly clear during the strategic planning retreat last year, when he announced, "The only thing wrong with this school is the administration." He, like all of us, is entitled to his opinion but he has, as yet, been unable to offer any supporting evidence beyond the gossip grapevine and has never approached any of the administrative team to constructively work through the issues that he has.

Much more disconcerting however, have been the actions of Mr. Navasero. As a result of faculty feedback, we are all aware of his comments during the Board welcome lunch for faculty during orientation week. These were related to teachers and teacher assistants and culminated in Mr. Navasero handing out personal business cards, with the intent of soliciting information about the ill treatment of support staff. We also understand that Mr. Navasero has claimed that he will be making it safe for some of the teachers that previously worked at ISM to return and ensure that his children can be educated by some of the same teachers he had when he was at ISM. We know that Mr. Navasero has also denied such comments in your presence. The message is clear: it was perceived, therefore, that the faculty members who were sitting at the table must have misunderstood what was said and therefore an incorrect conclusion was reached that Mr. Navasero was absolved from any inappropriate behavior.

The parent letter that the Board received yesterday, that was later forwarded to Dr. Jahr by Mr. Navasero on behalf of the Superintendent Search Committee, confirms our perception that Mr. Navasero is working against the collective interests of the school. With a total involvement of over forty years as international school administrators and many more as teachers, we are used to hearing disparaging remarks about schools, teachers, and administrators, primarily from parents who are struggling or frustrated in their attempts to find the best possible education for their children.

During our tenures as administrators, this is the first time any of us have heard disparaging remarks both made and supported by a board member, with the sole purpose of damaging the credibility of school, administrators, and teachers. We find it inconceivable that a Board Trustee would publicly discredit so many facets of the school program based on the complaints of one set of parents, who have been at this school for fewer than three weeks!

In the High School, the administration - together with over 20 teachers - have volunteered to spend the last three weekends with different groups of students, conducting a variety of activities. How dare he suggest that teachers need to spend more time providing even further activities for children at this school! It makes sense that a new parent may not be aware of the huge range of activities, and intense teacher dedication, at this school, but for a board member to be soliciting and then passing on such complaints is completely irresponsible and undermining.

Moreover, the fact that these new parents have never spoken to an administrator at the school about their concerns, and yet somehow know to email such detrimental and scathing accusations to this particular board member, reeks of conspiracy. Mr. Navasero is, it appears, actively soliciting any kind of complaint against teachers and administrators, no matter how unfounded or misguided.

Last night was the Open House in the Middle School. Before leaving, after a 14 hour day, Mr. Passamonte and Ms. Fredericks wrote a congratulatory note to faculty to let them know what a successful evening it had been. Last week, Mrs Pender and Mr. Gillespie were doing the same on Tuesday and Thursday. On Thursday of this week, the whole faculty will be staying late to participate in an accreditation workshop and some of us will return all day on Saturday to begin preparations for the year long WASC/CIS self-study (another huge commitment for the faculty and administration). This represents a fraction of what goes on every week. We all give freely of our time as we strive to create a better learning environment and provide the best education for the students. Fortunately, the recent parent surveys conducted in June have provided us with positive representative feedback about the work we do and the progress that the school is making.

In the time we have been at this school, we have worked incredibly hard to improve the educational program for our students and build a learning community, not only amongst our students but within our faculty. We have spent endless weeks on the recruitment trail to employ a faculty we feel proud to work with and who give willingly of their time outside of school hours to provide our students with a world class education.

As Administrators, it is vital for us to develop collaborative teams amongst our faculty and teaching assistants; to build morale so that our faculty enjoy coming to school everyday and engage in the learning process. By no means are we under the illusion that everything is perfect - there are always ways in which we can improve. However, we have built a school culture where we ask not only our students but our faculty to be reflective about their practice, celebrate the things that work well, and develop constructive and supportive strategies to inform improvement. We, as Administrators, do not feel this sentiment from some members of the current Board of Trustees, who are quickly destroying faculty morale and undermining administrators and teachers.

Recently we were all made aware of the decision not to involve a former trustee in EDUCOM because it was thought that it would not be possible to establish a productive working relationship with this person - despite the fact that they were the preferred choice for the Chair of EDUCOM, which includes administrators from all divisions.. We can only surmise that this decision was made on the grounds of your personal antipathy toward the person in question. According to the Policy Manual, while you have a prerogative to make such changes, it is not congruent with the spirit of ISM's Mission Statement.

Schools run best when they are creative and supportive environments; where students, faculty and administrators feel trusted and valued. We are sure you will understand why we feel unable to work with a Board Member who believes it to be perfectly acceptable to undermine continuously all who work here. As a consequence, we are refusing to take part in any further meeting, committee or activity with which this Board Member is associated. We will also be informing the faculty of our decision as this will have an impact on involvement with EDUCOM, and we will be advising them to be very guarded with their responses whenever they are in conversation with this individual.

Although not every Board member acts in the same inappropriate manner as Mr. Navasero, his seeming willingness to roam the school and the community in order to gather misconceptions to be used against people - without consequences to himself -reflects badly on the Board as a whole. To use a term often quoted by the former Board President, Mr. Ayers, "The Board should always be flying at 50,000 feet." We have worked in many different schools and the best ones have always been where the Board understands its responsibility, limits its reach and is hardly ever referred to in general conversation. Currently, it seems that every conversation at IS Manila is about the Board, and there is a growing perception within the school community that we are in for a very rocky ride during the year ahead. And that can only be bad for the students!

Sincerely,

Stephen Dare
Assistant Superintendent

Mike Martell
High School Principal

Caroline Brokvam
High School Assistant Principal
Paul Passamonte
Middle School Principal

Danielle Fredericks
Middle School Assistant Principal
Jacqueline Pender
Elementary School Principal
Simon Gillespie
Elementary School Assistant Principal