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Director's Dispatch: Who We Are

The 36th year of the International School of Dakar was kicked off with the traditional Opening Ceremony. ISD Board Chair, Thiaba Camara Sy, the leadership of the ISD Parent Teacher Organization, and I welcomed the 250 plus parents in attendance.

Thiaba, who is in her 11th year as a Trustee and first year as Board Chair, shared that, “today’s ceremony opens several new chapters in the lives of the community” as ISD enrollment eclipsing 700 students for the first time in its history and, “It will be the first time in Dakar, let alone the rest of Senegal, that a project as grand as our Performing Arts Center and Athletics Complex is inaugurated by an educational organization.”

Thiaba also touched on the role of the board which is to oversee the current and future well-being of the school. Its role is strategic and does not address issues relating to day to day operations, which fall under the Director’s responsibility.

The leadership of the ISD Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), Lauren Miller, Emma Archer, and Dan Holmes, shared the various activities and events organized by the PTO. This organization is focused on supporting the school and bringing the community together through various events both on and off-campus.

ISD’s Strategic Plan calls on the faculty to challenge, create, and change our students, our school, and ourselves. This is done by keeping the students as the main focus of everything we do. When making decisions about the educational programming, facilities, or the budget, the question remains - What is in the best interest of the students?

Great teachers are essential to having a great school. ISD has a veteran and talented faculty with 80% of the teachers holding a master's degree and 70% with 10 or more years experience. Educational leaders have one primary expectation for the teachers, “find out who your students are and take them as far as you can.” Administrators are therefore charged to provide a clear direction for the school, create the best environment possible for learning, and provide support to the teachers so they can focus on teaching and learning.

ISD is a private, non-profit school governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees. Ninety-nine percent of the revenue comes from the fees paid by the parents and, in some cases, their employers. Our school is defined, in large part, by our diversity with students coming from 64 different countries. The school is accredited by the Council of International Schools in Europe, the Middle States Association from the United States, and the International Baccalaureate Organization. We receive financial, security, and logistical support from the United States Embassy in Dakar as well as the United States Department of State Office of Overseas Schools.

We have made significant strides in our academic program. After two years of hard work by our elementary teachers and administration, we are now fully authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program for grades Pre-K 3 to grade five. ISD is also a candidate school for the IB Middle Years Program (MYP) serving students in grades six through ten. We are scheduled to have our authorization visit for the MYP in 14 months.

Last May, our grade twelve students achieved strong results in their IB Diploma Exams. The IB Diploma Program requires students to take six rigorous courses, three of which are equivalent to university-level courses. It is the gold standard of high school diplomas and highly respected by universities in Europe, Canada, and the United States.

The table below shows the results for the past three years.

In 2017, 68% of the grade 12 students were full IB Diploma students. Last year, this increased to 93%. At ISD, we encourage all students to strive for excellence. More important than a percentage "pass rate" is our emphasis on being an inclusive school. While it may be true that this "pass rate" went down marginally, research tells us that students who take IB courses will do better than those that do not even if the IB students do not pass the course exams. All grade 12 students last year earned the ISD High School Diploma.

Scores on the IB Diploma Program range from 6 to 45 points with 24 points required to earn the diploma. Worldwide, the average score is 30. In the past two years, ISD students averaged 31 points before jumping to 33 points last year. The recent improvements are a credit to the hard work of our students and teachers along with the support of parents.

We are proud of our school’s development, which is a product of the dedication and determination of our community’s many stakeholders. ISD has established an identity as an IB World School focused on sustained excellence. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Director’s Dispatch for more details about how we will strive for excellence in all areas in the coming school year and beyond.

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