Leading a school through challenging times

Published on 22nd August, 2018 by Wendy Hartrey. Published in For Candidates / TIC News

David Lowder is from the UK and has been leading international schools for 20 years. He is currently Principal of the International School of Koje in South Korea. TIC Recruitment helped David find his leadership position there.

We recently spoke to David about the challenges and experiences of working and living in Geoje:

“All the children who attend the International School of Koje (ISK) are from families from the shipbuilding or related oil industry. At its height, before I joined the school, there were 500 students, but during the last two years the ship building industry has been adversely affected by world economics.

As the new Principal of ISK, I had to respect the turbulent period the school had gone through in the year prior to my appointment. Consequently, my leadership approach at ISK has been quite different to other posts. I needed to stabilise a school that had to recover from a drop of 500 to 140 students, and a staff downsizing of 65 to 25!

A new start for the school

When I arrived, there was a lack of confidence in the school from parents, so much so that some families left to join other schools. I made it clear to the teaching and support staff that ISK was now a new school, with a new leadership structure, five new staff and new pressures. We collectively needed to understand the school would operate differently.

I have worked in many international schools across the world. The big difference between the ISK and my previous schools, is that ISK has totally embraced an international curriculum in the form of the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC), International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC). The success of the curriculum is down to the ISK teachers’ commitment and passion.

The school is currently re-establishing itself. Since being here, we have added more facilities like a state-of-the-art science lab. The most dramatic change will happen this September, when the school extends its age range to offer Year 10 and 11 (IGCSE). We have also recruited five new secondary teachers to help with this expansion. This will be an attraction to families with secondary aged children, who previously had to commute for two hours a day.

There is now a strong, quality alternative schooling option in Geoje, and I hope to make the school the first-choice international school in the region.”

To read more about how David Lowder is re-establishing and improving the International School of KOJE, the challenges he has faced as a Principal, and his advice to Senior Leaders aspiring to become an international school Principal, read his full case study here.

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Wendy Hartrey