News Post

JHB MS Principal Weekly Update August 23, 2019
JHB MS Principal Weekly Update August 23, 2019

Dear Parents,

Thank you for reading this week’s news from the Middle School.   First and foremost, thank you to all the parents who turned out last night for Middle School Open House.   I hope that you left the Middle School feeling assured that throughout this year our teachers will provide your children with exciting, rich and developmentally appropriate learning experiences as well as creating a caring and nurturing community.   I always enjoy Open House. It is a great evening that strongly nurtures the home/school partnership and develops those vital relationships between parents and teachers. Successful schools rely on the partnership and sacred trust between home and school. Trust is vital to every facet of relationships within the school.  An event like Open House, where relationships between teachers and parents take hold, is critical to building that trust. Thank you again to all who attended this event.

It has been a great first full week of learning in the Middle School. The start of the school year always focuses on helping students settle into routines, adjust to new expectations, and the continued establishing of relationships between teachers and classmates. I have enjoyed visiting classrooms throughout the week, where that has been a consistent focus on creating positive classroom culture to set a successful tone for the year…academically, socially, and emotionally. From my own classroom observations this week, students are also fully into their learning. Examples of this include:

  • Grade 8 scientists learning about elements, atomic models, and their relationship in creating chemical bonds.
  • Grade 6 choir students who, on only their third day, already sound performance ready.
  • Grade 8 social scientists engaged in a provocation requiring them to reach consensus on creating their own form of government.
  • Grade 6 social scientists learning the valuable skill of using evidence to make inferences.
  • Visual artists creating their own tessellations modelled after MC Escher.

We also took time on Wednesday for grade level specific orientation sessions. Students participated in workshops around themes such as growth mindset, leaving a legacy, technology “boot camp,” and what it means to be a part of a community grounded in our CORE values. We concluded Wednesday with the introduction of this year’s House system, which created a lot of excitement. Check out our new House mascots!


Finally, today marked the beginning of our weekly Friday wellness sessions. Each Friday, we will devote the first twenty minutes of the day to student and faculty wellness. This could mean all-school yoga or wellness walks, mindfulness activities, and anything else to encourage our students and faculty to “be well.”   We believe wellness – physical, social, and emotional – is an essential component of helping our students and staff thrive in school.

Looking ahead to next week, we mark the official start of Season 1 Co-Curricular activities. I expect participation will be high for the variety of activities both sport and hobby-oriented being offered this term. Parents who signed their children up for activities should have received confirmation from the AISJ Activities Office. If you still have questions about co-curricular activities, please contact them.

We also offer a “drop in” Homework Club on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Students who wish to have a quiet place to complete homework or who need a little extra help, may stay after school in the Middle School Library from 3:00 – 4:15 pm on these days. Homework Club is chaperoned by Middle School faculty members.

For your information, the after school Late Bus schedule can be found in the Middle School Activities Coordinator section of this newsletter.

We invite parents to come to the first Principal’s Coffee Morning of the year on Tuesday, August 27th from 8:15 – 9:30 am in the Middle School Library. The morning will provide new parents with the opportunity to meet and interact with returning parents, learn more about Middle School initiatives for the 2019-20 school year, and hear from representatives of the Middle School Parent Association. We hope to see you there.

The first Middle School social of the year will take place on Friday, August 30th from 6:30 – 9:00 pm off campus at BOUNCE in Fourways Mall. The social is being organized by the Middle School teachers and administration. Students have already begun registering for the social and may continue to do so until this Tuesday. Bounce requires all information 72 hours in advance, so Tuesday’s registration deadline is a firm one. Admission to the social will be 100 Rand per student and the Middle School Parent Association will support the social by sponsoring food and drinks.   Bus transportation to and from the social will be provided for registered bus riders. We register bus riders when students sign-up and pay for the social. Final transportation details will be shared next week. This should be a fun way to get together and celebrate the start of the new school year at BOUNCE.

I wish all of you a great weekend.  Thank you for your support of the Middle School.


Andy Ferguson


Updating and Confirming Demographic Information in PowerSchool

Parents are asked to check, update if necessary, and confirm address, phone and medical information for each child in PowerSchool.

Steps on how to do so:

  1. Log onto PowerSchool. Click on your child's name. Click 'Forms/Signups' (towards the bottom of the navigation panel on the left). Click 'Demographic Update'.
  2. Review, and update if necessary, the data listed on the 'Address,' 'Parents,' 'Emergency Contact' and 'Medical' tabs.
  3. For each tab, even if you made no changes, check the confirmation at the bottom of the screen, and 'Submit.'
  4. If you have more than one child, click on their name, and follow the steps above - you will need to re-enter changes for each child.

Phone numbers and email addresses: It is critical that phone numbers and email addresses are entered correctly, as per the examples indicated. If not entered correctly, AISJ cannot guarantee parents will receive SMS and/or email messages. Do not enter text into phone fields. Do not enter more than one phone number in a phone field, or more than one email address in an email field.


Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Testing. Over the course of the next few weeks, your child will take tests called Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®).   The tentative MAP testing dates are: September 4 (Math), September 11 (Reading), and September 18 (Language Usage).   All students in grade 3 – 9 participate in MAP assessments.  Three assessments are taken:  Reading, Mathematics, and Language Usage.  At AISJ, we administer the MAP twice per year – in September and again in May.   We use MAP assessments to gather information about your child’s current instructional level and to measure academic growth throughout the school year, and from year to year.  Students will take MAP tests during the school day and your child will take the assessments on their computer. If your child is absent on the day they are meant to take a test, there will be make-up sessions scheduled.



Purchasing Uniforms: Please click here for instructions on how to purchase uniforms for your child. It can take over one week to get numbers printed, so please be sure to take care of this ASAP. As a coach, I can tell you that we struggle wiail: On Wednesday, August 21st, you should have received an email confirming your child’s Season 1 CCAs. This email should have included dates and location, as well. Additionally, this email included a link, along with payment instructions, for any activity that comes with a fee.

th referees and opposing teams when we have players who do not have their jerseys in time for our first games.

Season 1 CCA Confirmation EmShout-outs:

House Captains: Shout-out to our 8th grade House Captains. This past Wednesday, this group of 16 8th graders planned and ran an hour-long community building event. This group of House Captains are committed to increasing feelings of belonginess across grade-levels and have begun the commendable task of making their houses feel like a home. I am constantly in awe at this group’s competence, empathy, and work-ethic, and I’m excited to see their transformative impact on the Middle School this year. To learn more about the value of a House System, check out this article.

New Faculty: Shout-out to Jay, Constance, and Tamara – three new MS faculty members who are leading CCAs in only their first couple of weeks here. The impact of their presence and commitment has already proven measurable, as Jr. Track and Field – which Constance is involved in – has seen student enrolment in the MS nearly double.

Milestone: Shout-out to the 16 students who are coming with me to play in a friendly soccer match against The Milestone School. Milestone is a long-time service partner of ours and has come to our campus twice-per-year for the past four years to play our students in basketball and soccer. Over these four years, we have raised upwards of R15,000 for their sports program, and now, they are ready to host us. It’s an exciting time for all involved, and it’s awesome to have a group of students to share in this experience.

Team Moms: With Season 1 CCAs starting next week, I want to give a BIG shout-out to our team moms. This is a relatively new position, but I can tell you that it has had a major impact. Their endless efforts to communicate and coordinate have made for a vastly improved playing and coaching experience. Thank you for all that you will do this year!

Important Dates:

August 26th

3:00 pm


Season 1 CCAs begin


August 30th

3:00 pm



Hilton Arts Festival documents deadline

August 30th

1:30 pm

MS Amphitheater

MS House Event


August 31st

8:00 am

Upper Field

Jr. Track and Field Clinic


September 9th

10:45 am


MS Soccer Field

MS Soccer Intramurals begin

September 12th – 14th



Hilton Arts Festival


September 13th



ISSA MS Basketball Tournament documents and payment due

September 18th

1:00 pm

Pinnacle College

Jr. Track and Field meet


September 22nd – 28th



World Scholars Cup


September 25th

12:00 pm

Beaulieu College

Jr. Track and Field meet


September 26th – 28th

1:30 pm




September 27th

1:30 pm

MS Amphitheater

MS House Event


September 27th – 29th


International School of South Africa

ISSA U14 Basketball Tournament

Bus Schedule


3:00 pm

4:30 pm

5:30 pm


3:00 pm

4:30 pm



1:40 pm

3:00 pm

5:00 pm (only for select students in specific programs)


3:00 pm

4:30 pm



3:00 pm

4:30 pm



The schedule is a live document containing all information regarding MS Basketball and Jr./Sr. Track and Field. Since this is a live document, I will include this link every week. I encourage you to check it every week, as well, so that you are up-to-date on exactly when and where practices, matches, and meets are being held.

Activities Note:

In 2012, Dan Stevenson and his wife, Lu, grew fed up with the decline of Oakland, California’s Eastlake neighborhood. As long-time residents, they had moved to the area during the height of the Flower Power movement in the Bay Area but had come to find that the neighborhood was now beginning to change for the worse. The end of their cul-de-sac had even become a makeshift garbage dump. As Stevenson recalls, “The block was constantly being filled up with couches and junk, and there was a lot of graffiti.” After repeated calls to the city’s public works department failed to rectify the situation, the couple took it upon themselves to do something. Instead of merely picking up trash, though, they came up with something of a novel solution: they purchased a 60-centimeter stone Buddha from a hardware store, cleaned up the cul-de-sac, and placed it prominently on the street. The statue had a remarkable effect.

Almost overnight, the garbage stopped piling up. Soon after that, a kind stranger painted the Buddha statue. A few weeks later, another stranger painted it again. And eventually, people began to leave behind items of a different sort – flowers, fruit, even coins, as those living in the area began to visit the statue with offerings. After a time, Buddhists members of the local community began to act as caretakers, sweeping and cleaning the area, and building a platform for the statue to sit on. As more people joined, the renovations grew more elaborate.

After years, the Buddha of Oakland became a pilgrimage destination for American Buddhists.


I share this story with you this week because small changes can oftentimes have the most significant impact. These are known as leverage points. In the Middle School, I like to think that we’re constantly looking for leverage points to improve the Middle School experience. Whether it’s converting a locker bank into a Chill Zone, creating a garden out of an abandoned patch of dirt, or transforming the entrance to the Maker Space with some beautiful student-made Ndebele pots, small changes can have a huge impact for our students.

With the year underway, we will continue to have our eyes open for such leverage points, and we hope that you, as stakeholders in this community, will consider sharing with us your thinking on what we can do to make small changes that will have a BIG impact.

Zak Cohen

Middle School Activities Coordinator 

Other Important Dates and Events for the Months of August and September

August 26

Season 1 Co-Curricular Activities begin for Middle School

August 27

Principal’s Coffee Morning @ 8:15 am in the MS Library

August 30

House Event

August 30

Welcome Back Social at Bounce from 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

September 6

Early Release at 1:30 pm

September 9

In-Service Day – No School for Students

September 12 - 15

Hilton Arts Festival

September 20

Heritage Day & ArtsFest – No regular classes

September 24

School Holiday – Heritage Day

September 26 – 29



Three Cheers for all the parents who attended Middle School Open House.

Three Cheers for the return of the Middle School House system.

Three Cheers for all the students who have registered for co-curricular activities and for the teachers and coaches who will support them.