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The Talking Head

The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, June 8, 2017

Parent Survey Results: Ten Brief Notes

Thank you to the 133 parents who filled in our recent parent satisfaction survey. Half of the respondents have been parents at ICS Addis for 2–5 years, and more than half have been at other international schools before coming to ICS. There was good representation from the elementary, middle and high school parents. The Board of Governors and the leadership team have reviewed the responses and comments briefly, and they’ll be looked at more carefully in the new school year.

The satisfaction survey is based on the survey we use every seven years for our Middle States accreditation. There were ten major areas on this survey. There are some areas where we can celebrate, as well as places where we want to work for improvement.

  1. The school’s mission and philosophy: 90% of the parents who responded understand and support the school’s mission and feel it is well communicated.
  2. Governance: we need to improve our channels of communication between the Board of Governors and parents.
  3. Leadership: we need to improve our channels of communication between the leadership and parents, and improve our communications about strategic planning.
  4. Facilities: 95% of the parents responding think our facilities are safe and well maintained. However, parents clearly think we need to improve our spaces for our arts and sports programs.
  5. School climate and organization: 93% of parents who responded think our handbooks and systems promote a positive learning environment at ICS. 92% say that our teachers are dedicated to student learning, growth and success. However, parents also think we can improve two-way communication regarding programs, activities and decision making in the school.
  6. Teaching and learning: 90% who responded think the school’s leadership promotes a strong vision of learning and academic excellence. There is also strong agreement (87%) that ICS students are learning important skills such as inquiry, research and problem solving. However, parents feel we need to improve our sports, activities and other programs outside the classroom.
  7. Student Support Services: many parents did not know or said this program was “not applicable” to them, but of those who shared an agree/disagree opinion, there were high levels of satisfaction (from 86% to 96%) with the range and quality of learning support services provided by ICS teachers (including counseling and our child protection curriculum).
  8. Health and safety: 93% of our parent respondents feel the school provides adequate health care during school hours and at school functions. However, 21% feel we can improve our access controls for guests to the campus.
  9. Parent communications: the weekly Yezare newsletter is read by 86% of those parents who responded to the survey. Only 64% of those parents feel our website is easy to use and informative…this was good confirmation that we need to improve it.
  10. Parent involvement: there were very low numbers of parents indicating involvement or volunteering in classrooms or at school events. We are already working to improve our partnerships with parents for next year!

Twelve Years an ICS Eagle

I joined ICS Addis in July 2005 as the Middle and High School Principal. At that time, there were less than 400 students and only 45 teachers. We had an IB Diploma programme, but only a handful of teachers had recent training or good experience in other IB schools, and only 30% of our students participated. There was no Wi-Fi and we had one (old) computer per classroom. We didn’t do any internationally-normed testing to know how students were learning at ICS.

A lot has changed since 2005. There’s a new cafeteria, dozens of new classrooms, and two satellite campuses. We’ve added offices and common areas, and many other classrooms or outdoor spaces have been renovated. The new classroom block and covered sports pavilion will be open for students in August.

The easiest changes to see are the physical changes, but I am more proud of the growth in student learning that ICS teachers have made happen. Across the grades, our reading and mathematics scores are already very high compared international or US norms, and we’re working to make them better. We are including diverse learners whom we would have denied enrollment to, ten years ago. Our IB diploma scores are at or above the world averages, with 95% of our senior students participating. We are purposefully addressing character and learning habits in our curriculum planning. Inquiry, reflection and action are embedded in our teaching and learning.

I have loved working at ICS. Everyone is a learner: teachers, carpenters, administrators, security guards —everyone. ICS is truly a learning organization, where everyone is working to make things better than they were. It’s been gratifying and humbling to be a part of all this growth and improvement. From including diverse learners, to using modern technologies, to new building projects, to innovative teaching and learning, it seems there’s always something that is fresh or better at ICS Addis.

Another reason I loved working here is the community. 30% of our students are new every year. We now have 950 students and almost 125 teachers. The ICS community does a good job of welcoming and including new students, colleagues and parents all the time. It’s a hallmark of our school. I’ve heard our elementary students singing with enthusiasm, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” So true, in our internationally mobile community.

ICS Addis will continue in good hands next year, with good continuity in the leadership team and with the new Head of School, Dr. Tim Stuart. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all the people who’ve made ICS such a good program. My two older girls graduated from ICS, and my two adopted daughters began their schooling career in our classrooms.

If I can leave any final words of wisdom, let me finish my tenure by repeating The ICS Way one last time. I hope you will take these words with you into the future, as I know I will…

I can make difference by:

  • Taking care of myself
  • Taking care of others
  • Taking care of this place

Jim Laney Jr.

MS/HS Principal, 2005–2008

HS Principal/Deputy Director, 2008–2010

Head of School, 2010–2017

The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Friday, June 2, 2017

Thank You to Our ICS Employees

Every year we officially recognize continuous service to the ICS community for all of our employees. On Friday 2 June, the entire staff at ICS Addis will gather to celebrate the end of a successful school year. We honor the commitment of our teachers, office staff, maintenance workers, guards, TAs and others, by recognizing those among us who have reached a “milestone” year of service with the school.

44 of our employees are marking their first year with ICS…and anyone who has changed jobs or moved countries knows how difficult that first year can be. 54 employees will be honored for five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five or THIRTY years of loyalty to ICS! Sadly, we are also saying farewell to 36 staff members, including two retirees: Ethiopia G/Yesus (ES Physical Education, 28 years) and Renate Tejiwe (Nurse, 23 years).

Our 343 ICS employees have offered 2,338 years of service to our students and community! A full list of those honored is available here in our program on our website HERE.

The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, May 25, 2017

Congratulations to our Graduates!

On Friday 26 May, 49 Grade 12 students will walk across the stage in our Gym and become alumni. 40 of them are full IB Diploma candidates, and eight are taking at least one IB exam. Almost all of our graduates have already accepted college placements, including many at selective universities in the US, Canada and the UK. We are proud of their accomplishments, and wish them all the best!

Advancement Efforts to Change Next Year…

Next year we are restructuring our advancement efforts to be more cost efficient. We are closing our Advancement Office. I want to thank Mr William Graham for his work in establishing our 501c3 charitable foundation in the USA, our scholarship endowment, and leading our first community Galas and Annual Fund campaigns. Mr Graham will be working for the WHO very soon, and his family will remain a part of the school community. We also thank Betty Tameru for all her work in organizing volunteers and community-wide events such as our International Day and the recent Spring Festival.

The decision to restructure our efforts was made with the consultation of staff, the Board of Governors and with our incoming Head of School, Tim Stuart. Next year we are still planning to hold a community Gala celebration, our big community events and the Annual Fund campaign.

Mr Schooler to Leave in 2018…

Michael Schooler has recently accepted a contract to become the Head of School in Alexandria Egypt, to begin in July 2018. Mr Schooler will be moving with his wife, Patricia Powell, to the Schutz American School, which has a 90-year history. Ms Powell will also be teaching at the school. Mr Schooler has provided positive leadership to our elementary and student support services for the past four years, and he will be just as enthusiastic and supportive next school year too. They have both embraced Ethiopia and the ICS Addis community, and I know that everyone will be sad to see Mr Schooler and Ms Powell leave.

The Elementary Principal’s position will be advertised internationally before the summer holiday begins. The selection process will take place early in the school year, with the new Elementary Principal beginning his/her responsibilities in July 2018.

MS Assistant Principal to Leave in 2017…

I am also sad to announce that Ms Theresa Davis has made the difficult decision to leave ICS Addis in just a few weeks. Family issues are calling her home to Canada in June 2017. Ms Davis has contributed much to the lives of our students and the culture of our school. She has taught Choir and Music to middle/high school students at ICS since 2010. She has also served as our Middle School Assistant Principal and provided leadership and support for initiatives such as our middle school’s effort grades which are now based on the ICS Learner Profile. She has also helped us recruit good teachers here at ICS. 

We have advertised Ms Davis’s role internally and internationally, and we hope to appoint a replacement very quickly.


The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, May 4, 2017

Teachers are Superheroes!

Many cultures celebrate teachers at some point in the school year. In the USA, Teacher Appreciation Week is 8–12 May. We believe our teachers are great—even superheroes! Every day, teachers are thinking about YOUR children, and they work hard to ensure that all of their students are learning.

Please take time this week to thank your children’s teachers. It doesn’t have to be a gift on the desk to make a teacher feel appreciated. A personal greeting and thank you on the sidewalk, a quick email note or even a card can go a long way to giving a teacher fresh energy. The end of the year can be very, very busy, and knowing that parents notice and care is a BIG boost to teachers.


A Super Spring Festival!

The rain held off, the weather was cool and everyone who came out for our annual Spring Festival had a great time! More than 1,000 community members—including 200 student performers and volunteers—enjoyed music, food and fun last Saturday. Student bands and choirs were joined by two professional bands. One of the bands was sponsored by an ICS parent, so we say THANKS! There were eight food vendors, a Farmers Market, and an Autism Awareness campaign. The student-led Blood Drive netted 57 pints of life-giving blood for the Ethiopian Blood Bank!

The Spring Festival is not a fund raiser, but a community-building event for families. Nevertheless, this event raised about 50,000 birr that will be added to the Scholarship Endowment, and the High School Student Council also raised money for their service activities. Our corporate sponsors included Yes Water, Coca Cola, BGI and the Hilton Hotel.

Thank you to Diana M, Karin S, Courtney M and Sara N for their time and efforts to organize the day and for all the volunteers, teachers and staff members who worked on the day to make this community event special and successful.

The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cheers to a great ISSEA tournament!

A BIG Thank You to all the parents, students and teachers who’ve hosted student athletes and to everyone in our community for organizing, volunteering and supporting all the athletes, and for making the ISSEA tournament be a huge success.

And Congratulations to all the ISSEA athletes!


The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, April 20, 2017


This morning’s “walk of fame” and opening ceremony were raucous, loud fun, and the ISSEA soccer tournament has begun! Be sure to come out with your children to enjoy a few games on Saturday! The enthusiasm and spirit of this ISSEA weekend might just inspire your children to play on a varsity team when they’re older.

Thank you to the 75 families who are hosting our visiting athletes! 150 varsity boys and girls require a lot of beds and food. Staying with host families is part of the ISSEA experience, and we appreciate your care for our visiting players.

Go Eagles!!

Meet the Incoming Head of School Next Week

Our incoming Head of School will be on campus next week, and parents have a special opportunity to meet him. Join Dr. Tim Stuart and his wife Mona Stuart, at the Community Commons on Wednesday 26 April at 8:00 AM for a special Parent Coffee morning. To be sure the Stuarts experience an enthusiastic Ethiopian welcome, some of our families are hosting an Ethiopian breakfast that you won’t want to miss. Put this coffee morning on your calendar and help us welcome Tim and Mona!

The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, April 13, 2017

ISSEA Soccer

We are preparing the upper field areas for the International Schools of Southern and Eastern Africa (ISSEA) Soccer Tournament next week. It will begin with an opening ceremony in the gym on Thursday morning. The tournament will run from Thursday morning to Saturday night. Be sure to come out with your children to enjoy a few games next week! Your children may want to play on a varsity team someday, inspired by the spirit of this ISSEA weekend.

Thank you to the many families who are hosting our visiting athletes! 150 varsity boys and girls require a lot of spaces and food. Staying with host families is part of the ISSEA experience, and we appreciate your care.

At the same time we will be sending out our own ISSEA teams for STEM and robotics to Mozambique, and tennis and golf to Harare. 25 students will be traveling with their hardworking coaches. I know they will represent ICS very well as they travel and compete. Go Eagles!!

Paul Olson: in Memoriam

December 29, 1948 - April 7, 2017

Paul Olson was the ICS Director from 2000–2005. Under his leadership the school built the MS/HS classroom block with the science labs, the all-weather 300-meter track, and the school’s first-ever cafeteria (which only had the capacity to serve 200 people at a time). All of these projects were completed without loans, and he left the school with healthy reserves.

Paul was a dedicated learner and educator in Africa. He graduated from the American School in Kinshasa in the late 1960s and was a teacher and principal in many schools across the continent. His other directorships included the Harare International School and the International School of Dakar.

Paul loved the African continent and was an avid outdoorsman, birder and fisherman, and many friends and colleagues have stories to tell about him. This story from David Redmond, was typical:

“I have been in Ethiopia since 2011 and have been a regular angler on one of Paul's old haunts, the Webb River in the Bale Mountains. When we fish the river, our guide Taha often tells me stories and points out locations where Paul would spend an entire afternoon working just one pool. I have landed several fish using Paul’s advice via Taha, who claims that Paul is the best fisherman to cast a fly on that water.

‘In the world of fly fishing where I come from (Nova Scotia, Canada) it is a tradition to name pools after people who discovered them or spent a good deal of time on them angling for prospects. These favourite spots eventually become known by the name of the angler to all who fish there. So on the Webb, please let Paul know that we have named a particularly productive, long and steep pool after him. Next season, I will make ‘Paul's pool’ my first stop on the river.”

Since last September, Paul had been suffering with a form of bone marrow cancer. Due to his weakened state after an earlier liver transplant, chemotherapy was unsuccessful. He passed away peacefully at home last week with his family at his side.

Rest in peace, Paul Olson.

(ነፍስ ይማር  አቶ ፖል)

Paul Olson, June 2014 in Giverny, France

The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, April 6, 2017

Annual Fund Results!

Friday was the final day for our 2017 Annual Fund campaign but traveling parents asked if they could contribute this week. We are still accepting donations for the Annual Fund this week, and next week as well.  You can fill in a pledge form at the main reception desk, or you can stop at the cashier's office. We want to thank the many families and teachers who contributed to the Annual Fund this year. The results so far are: 

  • Total participants so far: 145
  • Faculty participation is 33.8%
  • Total funds raised so far: over $30,000
  • Percentage of goal: almost 86%

Last year we had 133 donors to the Annual Fund, so we’ve exceeded our target for the total number of participants!

Thanks again to everyone for your support of our special projects.

Busy, Busy, Busy

March and April offers many good learning experiences for our students that are different than normal classroom learning.

  • Grade 12 students took their IB mock exams last week, and they’re revising now for the real exams in May.
  • Thank you to the 29 internship sponsors who hosted our 59 Grade 11 students for a week-long internship in hospitals, offices, hotel kitchens and main reception desks…even in the auto shops! Few of our students can work legally in Ethiopia, so this internship gives them priceless real-world learning experiences. Thanks!
  • Grade 9–10 students had three days of project-based learning last week, with local field trips to Born Free and the Botanical Gardens, First Responder training and other experiences. Student teams also competed in a Science, Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) tourney by building catapults, arbalests, trebuchets and ballistas to compete in a live-action Angry Birds simulation on the final day!
  • Author Andrew Hallam is meeting high school math classes this week to talk about The Philosophy of Money and other interesting financial topics. Mr. Hallam is a former international school teacher and is famous for his book “How to Become a Millionaire Teacher” with self-managed investment strategies.
  • This is National Poetry Month in the USA and poet David Greenberg is visiting ICS next week. His hilarious poems are a hit with anyone who is young at heart, and Mr. Greenberg will be working with students from EC to Grade 8 during the week.
  • Middle and High School parents should plan to join us next week for student-led conferences. Sign-ups can be done on the Internet through Picka-time.
  • Incoming Head of School Dr. Tim Stuart will be on campus 24–27 April for a transition visit to prepare for next year. Parents are invited to meet Dr. Stuart at a special Parent Coffee at 8:00 AM on Wednesday 26 April at the Community Commons.

Board Elections Next Week

Board elections will open on 12 April; packets and voting information will be sent to all association members by email. You can vote by paper ballots in our main office, or by electronic balloting (anonymously) via the internet. Voting will end at the Association’s General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday, 19 April.

The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, March 30, 2017

Progress on our Building Projects

I am pleased to report that our two major building projects—the New Classroom Block (NCB) and the Sports Pavilion—are within budget. Of course, I am less pleased with the delays we’ve experienced. City bureaucracy, difficulties making orders for imported finishing materials and equipment, and other problems have caused delays.

We will have a “soft opening” and ribbon cutting for the NCB on 12 May. The building should be handed over to us later, so that we can prepare for classes there in August 2017. Grades 5–8 will be in the NCB, as well as MS/HS Modern Languages and some of our student support classes. We also very excited about the Small Theatre that it includes!

The Sports Pavilion will also be ready in May, we believe. Some of the imported items have been received but we’re waiting for the basketball backboards, LED lighting and other systems. It will be a wonderful addition to the school’s PE and afterschool sports programs when it’s handed over for our use. Right now we do not have a date for a ribbon-cutting or the handover.

The Association’s General Meeting

Plan now to attend our Association’s General Meeting (AGM) at 7 PM on Wednesday, 19 April. All parents, teachers and TAs at ICS Addis are de facto members of the Association. All members of the association are invited to attend the AGM. The association “owns” the school and it operates as a non-profit, almost entirely sustained by tuition, capital levies and other fees.

At the April AGM there will be a report by the Board Treasurer regarding our projections for the end-of-year finances and for next year’s budget. The leadership team will provide an update on student learning, school programs, building projects and other initiatives. Of course, a very important agenda item is closing the elections for open Board seats, and announcing next year’s Board.

You will also have the opportunity to ask questions of our Board and the Head of School. I look forward to seeing many Association members at the AGM.

Board Elections Soon

Board elections will open on 12 April. You can vote by paper ballots in our main office, or by electronic balloting (anonymously) via the internet. Voting will end at the Association’s General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday, 19 April.

The Talking Head

Blog Type: 
Date Posted: 
Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dear Parents, Friends and Colleagues,

Budgets are always a difficult and complex issue, but they are essential to the life, quality and success of our school. A good budget provides all of us—students, teachers, parents, administrators and other benefactors—the peace of mind that we are planning well, and that we have the resources and the framework to provide the quality education and inclusive, safe and stable environment we want our students to have. We are a learning community, and we need to make the investments necessary to ensure our learning is at the standard we all want and expect.

I am writing today to share with you the approved school fee increases for next year. The Board of Governors and the ICS Administration have approved the budget plan. I want to be as clear and transparent as possible on this, and welcome comments and feedback from parents, friends and colleagues as we move forward.

Due to continued upward pressure on costs, especially from the housing rental market, teacher salaries, and program costs, we are instituting a modest increase in tuition to defray these costs. We are also adding modest fees to partially cover the costs of some of the individualized Learning Support services ICS is proud to provide. We are doing this to ensure we will continue to have the resources to provide the quality education we all want for our students.

First, I have sought to describe the process used by the ICS Administration and the Board of Governors to determine annual budgets, tuition and other fees at the International Community School of Addis Ababa. Second, I have detailed the fee increases for the 2017–2018 school year (SY1718) below.

Budgeting Processes

ICS Addis is a not-for-profit institution. Almost 100% of our expenses are currently covered through tuition, registration, capital levies and other fees that organizations and families pay to send students to ICS. While we may seek to change this through more active fundraising in the future, this is our reality for now.

The Board of Governors approves our operating and capital budgets every year, which includes tuition, capital fees, and operational and capital expenditures. We have a two-year rolling budget plan, and a longer-term capital budget plan. Our budgets are conservative, based on limited growth and limited increases to salaries, benefits and programs. We always look for ways to hold costs steady or even to cut costs. This year, several positions are being trimmed from our programs, and other positions are being changed from overseas-hired teaching positions to local hire positions, which will reduce costs.

Any positive net result at the end of the year goes into our emergency or capital reserve funds for future contingencies and projects.

To assist in our decision-making processes, ICS benchmarks tuition, fees, faculty salaries, demographic data, and other useful indicators with comparable U.S. State Department-sponsored schools in Europe, the Middle East, South-East Asia and Africa. The list includes the seven ISSEA schools, and other high quality international schools in Africa. We need to be competitive on the international stage, particularly in hiring and retaining good teachers, and in becoming a world class school per the Board of Governors’ vision.

Tuition and registration fees are the primary sources of funding and they cover all our annual operating costs. They pay for salaries, books and materials, student technology, small renovations and repairs, security and cleaning, and all our school programs.

Capital Levy fees are used only for building projects, major renovations, major equipment purchases, vehicles and any other large capital expenses. These fees are the main source of funds for our long-term infrastructure improvement plans and allow us to maintain our high-quality learning environment.

You can read more detail about our income and expenses in the Annual Reports that are provided online.

Tuition and Fees for SY1718

The Board of Governors has approved changes that reflect the needs and identity of the school, and will ensure we can maintain, and continue to improve on, the quality we have now. This year, the tuition increases are different for the high school as opposed to the early childhood, elementary or middle schools. These distinct parts of the school have different requirements, and we want to ensure our budgeting reflects that as fairly as possible.

You will also note several new fees for individualized Learning Support services. This is a distinct change, and an important one. ICS provides these services to many of our students, and is the only school in Ethiopia to do so. Few schools in Africa are able to provide them. The services ensure we can meet one of our main goals as a school—being inclusive and supporting children from many backgrounds, including some with learning disabilities. This is critical to the identity of our school, and we will not sacrifice it.

We have provided some of these services for about seven years now, and they have been covered by the general budget with small subsidies by some of the students in need of the most resources. However, our support programs are growing and we want to sustain quality and access to services. ICS recognizes that it has an obligation to provide these services, with the support of the entire community. But, we also recognize that some of the cost can and should be borne by the families that benefit directly from them. This is very much consistent with the way comparable schools around the world charge fees for similar services.

Changes for Tuition, Capital Levy and Registration Fees for 2017–2018

  • A 3% increase in tuition for early childhood, elementary and middle school.
  • A 5% increase in tuition for grades 9–12 (the high school).
  • There will no changes in the Capital Levy for new or returning students.
  • The application/registration fee will drop from $500 to $300. It will be non-refundable. Anyone who has already paid the $500 fee will have the extra money credited towards the tuition

Fees for Individual Learning Support Services

Fees for specific, individualized Learning Support services that are provided or required by ICS Addis will be instituted beginning in August 2017:

  • Speech Therapy services will be $1500 annually, billed by the semester.
  • Occupational Therapy services will be $1500 annually, billed by the semester.
  • Educational Psychological testing will be $500 if required by the school, or $2000 if requested by the family.
  • The current fee for Transition A students will rise from $4000 to $4500.
  • The current fee for Transition B students will remain unchanged.

These changes are consistent with our long-term financial planning. They will help us sustain program quality across the school. Our comparison international schools in Africa are making similar increments for tuition. With these increases, ICS will be closer to the median for fees, tuition and levies among our comparison schools.

Detailed information is included in the Tuition and Fee Schedule for the 2017–2018 school year. It is attached to this message and is also available online at .


The Head of School and Board of Governors will present the headlines of the SY1718 budget during the upcoming Association General Meeting (AGM) on 19 April 2017. If you have specific questions, you are invited to send them to before the meeting so that we can be better prepared to answer them. Thank you for your continued support to ICS.

James Laney Jr

Head of School