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Director's Dispatch: ISD Board Elections

Eight parents are running for one of the four available seats on the ISD Board of Trustees. This will be the most competitive election in recent memory. I'd like to take a few minutes to explain the role of the Board of Trustees, how they are elected, and why ISD parents should vote.

ISD is a non-profit organization that was founded by an agreement between the United States and Senegalese governments. The Board of Trustees are vested with the legal responsibility for overseeing the school. There are nine trustees who are elected by members of the Association for two-year terms. There are no limits on how many terms a trustee can serve. The Association is comprised of all parents or guardians of ISD students and the ISD teachers. The elections are run annually in April with the results being announced at the Annual General Meeting, which is scheduled for April 19 this year. The Board also have five non-voting members, Director, Principals, teacher representative, and a representative of the U.S. Ambassador.

The Trustees are responsible for ensuring the well-being of the school today and in the future. The Board has five main responsibilities. One, setting the future vision of the school. Two, hire, evaluate, support, and, if needed, dismiss, the Director of the school; the Director is the only employee of the Board. Three, approving the annual budget and tuition fees as well as having long-term plans to ensure the future financial viability of the school. Four, establish school policy and ensure the policy is followed by the school administration and employees. Five, the Board is responsible for issues of great importance to the community, which can include a range of topics including annual school calendar, construction of facilities, major changes to the school programs and curriculum.

The Board formally meets once a month from September to May and holds a three-day planning meeting in August. The Board has four standing committees: Buildings and Grounds, Finance, Governance and Development, and Policy. These committees discuss their respective issues at length, meeting monthly and bringing topics for discussion and eventual vote at the full board meetings.

Why should ISD parents vote for the Board of Trustees? The Trustees make major decisions on behalf of all the parents that affect your children.

The voting for trustees is done electronically. On Thursday, April 5, you received an email from the International School of Dakar with a subject of “Vote now! 2017 ISD Board of Trustee Election." In the email is an individualized link that will take you to the website page where you can vote. Your vote is confidential. Through the voting website, we can see if you have voted, but not how you voted. The election closes at 5:00pm on Thursday, April 19.

Below is some more information about each of the candidates, listed in alphabetical order by surname.


My name is Marie Blanchard and I am delighted to have the opportunity to present myself as a candidate for re-election to the ISD Board of Trustees. I have lived in Dakar for the last three years and my children are in elementary and middle school. My oldest will be entering high school next fall.

It has been a great pleasure to be a member of the Board for the past two years where I have served as both Secretary and now the Chair of the Governance and a Development Committee. During this time, we have made important decisions on the size of the school, the transition to PYP and MYP programs -- making ISD a truly IB school, and on significant renovation and construction projects. I am proud of the work we have done, and believe this Board is deeply committed to the core values of the school. During this time, I have also enjoyed candid feedback from parents and teachers, and have used your opinions to better shape my views on matters that come before the Board. It has been an honor to work alongside some of the most committed faculty, administrators, and Board members I have ever encountered. My children have attended a number of international schools in Africa, Europe and in the United States over the last eleven years, and I believe this has given me good insight into what works and does not in an international (or U.S.) school system. When I come to ISD for sports events, plays or just to pick up my children, I love the feeling of community as I see children of all ages play, talk, study, and enjoy the facilities. It feels like a safe place and exactly the sort of school I want my children to be a part of. By serving on the Board, I believe it gives me the opportunity to play a role, albeit small, in making the school a special place.

I am a native French speaker and for the last 17 years, I have worked in communications as a journalist, later as a spokesperson for various politicians. Today I work for the U.S. State Department as a press attaché. I believe my experience in communications as well as my experience overseas would continue to serve the ISD community well. I hope you will consider my re-election.


My name is Maureen Cunningham; I am the parent of ISD students in 7th and 10th grades. My family moved to Dakar two years ago, having enjoyed being a part of international schools in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Sierra Leone since 2005. Prior to that, I lived and worked in Benin, DR Congo, Haiti and Mali. I have always been very involved in my kids’ school—serving on the school board in Sierra Leone, acting as class parent throughout elementary, leading my daughter’s scout troop, and other, smaller responsibilities.

Now that I am established in my work here, as Director of Programming and Training for the Peace Corps, I feel that I can once again devote more of my time to serving the school community. In the two years we have been with the school, I have seen tremendous change—change with broad impact such as the hiring of even more dedicated, experienced teachers/administrators; embracing the full spectrum of PYP/MYP/IB; and making significant changes to the school’s infrastructure -- to more targeted changes such a beginning a music program and a community garden and dedicating more energy to encouraging team sports amongst kids who were not previously athletes.

I have greatly appreciated the willingness of ISD’s leadership to truly listen to parents’ concerns, ideas and suggested changes. As a member of the Board of Trustees, I would aim to continue in this vein, seeking more ways for us to ‘hear’ the needs of students and parents and, combined with sound education practices, translate that into policies to better serve our growing school population. Fiscal responsibility is also a key matter, and I’d like to work with the board to help ensure high value for money in our school fees. The school’s guiding statements touch on many elements that I find important, but two which resonate with me particularly are leadership and global citizenship. These are areas I hope to support the school to embrace even more fully in this ever-changing, increasingly global world for which ISD is preparing our children--future leaders both in international spheres and back in the many nations we call home.


The Board plays an important role for an international school like ISD, and I personally think it is important to make a contribution to children’s education. Having served on the Board at the International School of Ouagadougou (ISO), I understand quite well how a Board operates. I was both a member and the Chair at ISO for 3 years. I enjoy working in a multicultural environment, and after 20+ years in Africa, I have gained useful skills in navigating and managing the opportunities and challenges that come with diverse workplace settings. I previously lived in Senegal for 10 years and enjoy currently living in Almadies, Dakar. My background is in democracy, governance, and conflict programming and the education sector, but I have also worked in microfinance and resilience projects. As a program manager, I have experience working with donors and NGOs, both local and international. This has afforded me the opportunity to interact with everyone from village women to government ministers, and I have learned something from them all.

I enjoy working on strategic planning because it has an impact on whole systems. It is an effective way to make sustainable changes. I helped ISO to design its current strategic plan and monitor implementation. In my professional work, I have helped design NGO programs as well as help design a social enterprise strategy. I look forward to the opportunity to participate in Board elections.


My name is Marybeth McKeever. I moved to Dakar in August 2015 with my husband and family. I have two children in the Elementary School at ISD. I am a Regional Humanitarian Advisor for USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. I am American and previously lived in the UK, Liberia and Kenya.

I would like to serve on the Board of Trustees with other parents and school faculty members to help ensure that ISD provides the best quality education to all of its students. I am willing to commit the time and energy to collaborating with the team and finding innovative solutions to complex issues. I bring project

management expertise from working with non-profits organizations and good advocacy skills, qualities that I think are relevant for a school board. I am also an active member of ISD’s PTO, previously serving as the co- chair, organizing events for the school community and raising funds to support school projects. In addition, my family intends to stay in Dakar for another 3 years, which would enable me to complete the two-year term.

Thank you for the opportunity.


I would like to put forth my candidacy for the ISD Board of Trustees. I am a translator of literature and drama (Norwegian – Japanese). Over the last twenty years, I have been travelling around the globe with my Dutch diplomat husband, working wherever I can plug in the PC. We are in our third year at ISD, where we have three children; Olav, Coco and Bas, who are all in the middle school this year.

I am a Third Culture Kid, having lived the experience our children go through every day. I lived half my childhood in Kyoto, a Japanese city of millions and the other half in Lauvdal, a tiny village with only eighteen houses in the Norwegian mountains. I love to be deep in the nature, far away from any sign of civilization and I equally love to be in a vibrant, bustling metropolis. I always feel home – and – always miss what I haven’t got. The wonderful thing is: at ISD, this is a feeling we all share. Dakar and Africa is a new experience for me, but I know a little part of my heart has already found its place here.

I know how important it is to feel home and to belong, for a good learning process to happen. As for my experience with schools, I have worked as a teacher in Indonesia, Japan and Norway. We have sent our children to local & international schools in Japan, USA, Belgium, the Netherlands and Senegal. I find it fascinating to see how the education and the dynamics of authority can be so different and I love to be actively involved in the school life of the children. I have a large network, I enjoy meeting people and I am a team worker.

I have been a trustee on the school board of the Oranje Baobab, a little Dutch Language School in Dakar, for two years now and am currently serving on the ISD Board. It would be a pleasure to continue to serve on the ISD Board of Trustees.


It is with great pleasure that I am putting forth my candidacy to serve on ISD’s Board of Trustees. I am the mother of two ISD students, one in 3rd grade and one in 7th grade. ISD has provided such a welcoming community to our boys that they made friends right away, and are thriving both socially and academically. It is with gratefulness in mind, and with the spirit of passing it forward that I involved myself first with the dynamic PTO, and recently as a parent expert with the Board’s Policy Committee. With more than 15 years of experience in education programs management and evaluation, strategic planning, as well as in public diplomacy, I have worn many senior management and technical hats in multicultural settings. I hold M.A.s both from Johns Hopkins University and Universite Pantheon-Sorbonne

Collaborating with the Policy Committee has been extremely rewarding and I am hoping to serve our school further as a Trustee. I am committed to the mission and values of ISD so our children become well-rounded and confident global citizens.


I have served for two years on the ISD Board participating on the Buildings and Grounds committee as well as the Finance committee. Most recently I have been the Board Secretary. In submitting my nomination for the School Board of ISD I want to share my passion and concern for the education of our children. ISD was a major factor in my deciding to come and work in Senegal. The IB program is very important to me as are extracurricular activities including sports and community-based work. In addition to ISD, my children have attended international schools in Lagos, Nigeria, New Delhi, India as well as Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. At each school there have been good qualities and not so good. In running for the school board, it is my hope to encourage the good while keeping an eye out for what that school can improve upon. We can always do better and should not be complacent with our current status.

My wife and I have been in Dakar for over two years and expect to be here for one additional year. As such, I will not be able to serve the entire two year term. Our daughter is in eleventh grade with the goal of graduating with an IB diploma. Our son is in ninth grade. Both children are active in sports and after school activities.

I joined the Foreign Service partly to give my children a first-class international education. ISD is making this goal a reality. I want to be a larger part of ensuring that reality for my children and yours.


I am a native New Yorker and recent resident of Dakar for the next 4 years. My family, wife Lena and son Tristan, is a new addition for the ISD host of families. We are grateful that our son has been welcomed to the school at PK-3 level. As an international family we find education to be one of the most important components of our child’s upbringing. I firmly believe that the biggest responsibility we have to the generation that follows us is to give them the right foundation so that they meet the opportunities life affords them in the future. ISD plays a big role on our kids’ future as it provides them the best education possible with an American curriculum. My wish is to serve on your board. I hope to be a value-add to your on-going efforts by providing my many years of experience in business, my relentless desire to innovate and improve products and services through technology as well as put forward my dad hat. It’d be an honor to be selected. You can expect my full cooperation and participation while my stay in Senegal. Whether accepted or not please count on me as a source and resource for any need the school may have going forward.

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