News Post

Principal's Weekly Update - November 1, 2019

November 1, 2019

Dear Parents,

Thank you for reading this week's news from the Middle School.  I had the great pleasure of spending the week at Sugar Bay in KwaZulu Natal with the Grade 8 students and their teachers. We celebrate the success of this trip and the safe return of all students and teachers.   As much as I enjoy these trips and do believe strongly in their value on many levels, it is always a great feeling when the busses roll into campus and students are safely reconnected with their families.    I know that this week created many, many positive experiences for our students.  Your children, I hope, will home from CWW with some tales of adventure, of how they pushed themselves outside of the comforts of the walls of school, how they helped communities through service, and how they enjoyed being away from school and spending time with friends and teachers in new environments.  As I wrote last week prior to the trips, I do believe that these trips change students for the better in many, many ways.   Thank you again to all of the teachers who supported the Grade 8 CWW experience:  Ms. Roberts, Mr. Megaffin, Mr. Lingo, Mr. Warnecke, Mr. Cuyamendous, Mr. Barton, & Ms. Rollon

Next week is the Grade 6 and Grade 7 students' turn for their own CWW adventures.  The Grade 7 CWW trip at the Blyde Adventure Camp near Hoedspruit will take place from Monday, November 4 through November 8.  A reminder that 7th grade students must be at school by no later than 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, November 4th.  Students should arrive to school that Monday with their luggage and meet in the parking lot just above the Theater/Covered Courts.  With a long road trip ahead of them that day, it is important that our transportation to the Grade 7 CWW location leaves on time. We expect the students to return to campus by 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon in time to catch the 3:00 p.m. bus.  Parents may also pick their children up at school upon their arrival back to campus.

The Grade 6 CWW trip at the Blyde Adventure Camp near Hoedspruit will take place from Monday, November 4 through November 8.  A reminder that 6th grade students must be at school by no later than 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, November 4th.  Students should arrive to school that Monday with their luggage and meet in the parking lot just above the Theater/Covered Courts.  With a long road trip ahead of them that day, it is important that our transportation to the Grade 6 CWW location leaves on time. We expect the students to return to campus by 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon in time to catch the 3:00 p.m. bus.  Parents may also pick their children up at school upon their arrival back to campus.

For each of these trips, parents can expect to receive updates about our safe arrival to CWW venues as well as a daily update around 9:00 a.m. with daily highlights from the trips.  Thank you for your support.  Thank you to the following teachers who are accompanying students on CWW trips this week:

Grade 6:                             Ms. Kaplan, Ms. Collins, Ms. Evans, Ms. Moller, Mr. Kader, Mr. Hills, & Ms. Leet

Grade 7:                             Ms. Tucker, Ms. Arnott, Mr. Cohen, Mr. Bellamy, Mr. Balthazor, & Ms. Wood

I want to congratulate all of the students who were involved with the end of season Middle School basketball tournament last Saturday.   The MS Eagles' played well and represented our school with sportsmanship and class on the courts.   Our Under 14 girls' team also won the gold medal.  Congratulations to them!   Thank you to the coaches for their hard work and efforts throughout the season and thanks as well to our very supportive Middle School parents.  

With a brief respite from co-curricular activities this week, a reminder that Season 2 CCAs begin on Monday.  There is a lot on offer in terms of sport, service, and hobby oriented activities.   I hope to see many students involved and thank all of the coaches and CCA sponsors who will give of their time to support Season 2 CCAs.

I want to wish the best of luck and safe travels to our team of World Scholars, a mix of 9th, 8th, and 7th graders, who depart for New Haven, Connecticut on Wednesday to participate in the World Scholars' Cup Tournament of Champions at Yale University.   The students qualified after a very impressive showing at the regional round in Durban in September.  The ToC at Yale should be an awesome experience for:

Jr. Team #1:        Ava Serna, Diego Gutierrez, & Kate Ahn

Jr. Team #2:        Zac de Castro, Bernice Mendes, & John Verga

Sr. Team #1:       Max de Castro, Irene Sung, and Sydney tucker

Thank you as well to the WSC coach, Ms. Moreau and some special parents – Sonja de Castro, Marybeth Lynch-Verga, and Marco Serna – who have done a great deal to support this trip. 

As the weekend approaches, I hope to see many of you on campus tomorrow morning to support the second annual Steph Sprint, a 3 KM fun run for charity that supports cancer research.  The run is in honor of former AISJ student, Stephanie Stough, a cancer survivor, and is being organized by two of her closest friends, 11th graders Maia Ferguson and Caity Porteous.   The fun run is a great community event and fundraiser for a worthy cause.  The Steph Sprint starts at 8:00 a.m. and it will be over well in time for the Rugby World Cup Final.  Go Steph Sprinters and go Bokke!

I also want to wish good luck to our Middle School students who are competing in the First Lego League competition on Saturday.   Along with two elementary school teams, they will be designing and programming their Lego robots to face off against students from over twenty schools.  Good luck and thank to their coaches, Mr. Barton and Mr. Marshall.  Again, good luck to our Middle School Lego League teams:

Mad Hatters:      Seoah Lee, Kaiya Hill, Arjun Bajwa, Rafael Olierhoek, & Zander Van Wyk

Robosquids:        Hrehaan Bhutada, Eddie Barton, Matteo Reverdito, Clara Bixell, & Reece McCabe

Finally, excitement is building for the premiere of the Middle/High School musical, "Matilda," which premieres on Thursday, November 13th.   Tickets for the three shows will begin being sold later this week and can be purchased at the Middle School Office.   Showtimes are as follows:

·        Thursday, November 14 @ 3:15 p.m. (5:30 late busses will run that day)

·        Friday, November 15 @ 6:00 p.m.

·        Saturday, November 16 @ 1:30 p.m.

I wish all of you an enjoyable weekend and a successful CWW experience for your grade 6 and grade 7 children next week.  Thank you for your continued support of the Middle School.


Andy Ferguson




Dear AISJ Community,

The JHB Middle School Student Council, together with ES STUCO are hosting a Christmas Party at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto on the 16th of November.  This hospital is for children with an underprivileged background and it is also the third largest hospital in the world. For these children, Christmas looks different from yours!

We need your help to make this an amazing Christmas party for these hospitalized children. The Middle School needs to collect at least 150 presents for Middle Schoolers. The presents must be new and nicely wrapped.  The presents must be labelled with the gender and be appropriate for 11-14-year-old kids. The presents should cost around 150R and should be something you or your brother or sister would like too.

When you have your presents nicely wrapped and labelled you can drop your presents off at the Middle School Library HUB.  The deadline is the 15th of November. Please help us, because everybody deserves a Christmas with nice presents!  Thank you!

Middle School Student Council



AISJ Middle School Instagram: with more than 70 followers already, the MS Activities Instagram account is becoming quite popular.  If you'd like to check out all of the great things happening each day in the Middle School, please consider following the IG account. If interested, please click on this link. Once the Communications Office confirms that you are a parent, they will grant you access. With a new photo being posted each day, don't miss out!

The Steph Sprint: On Saturday, November 2nd at 8:00am, Maia Ferguson and Caity Porteous, Grade 11, will be hosting the annual Steph Sprint. This 3k run/walk costs R50 to enter with all proceeds going to The Rainbows and Smiles Foundation to fight childhood cancer. It's a great cause, and one that I hope everyone will come out to support. As a side note: the event will end by 10:00am, which gives us all plenty of time to park ourselves in front of a TV for the rugby finals.

Middle School Athletics Awards: As Mr. Goetz has shared, we're revamping our "awards" model in the Middle School. Instead of hosting three separate ceremonies, we're going to host one larger, inclusive ceremony recognizing all MS Athletes at the end of the year. A date is soon to follow. In addition to this end-of-year ceremony, we will recognize our Season 1 Athletes during the November 15th CWW assembly in the FAC at 1:30pm. This will not be the time when coaches give speeches or certificates are presented; instead, we'll just hear a few words from each team's captain. Parents, of course, are welcome to attend. 


Team Moms: Shout-out to those of you who served as team moms for Season 1 and to those of you who will take on this role for Season 2. As a coach, teacher, and coordinator, I can hardly express how deeply we appreciate your efforts. If you're curious about what the role entails, please reach out to me for more information.

Theatre for Young Audiences: Today, 6th and 7th graders performed an original theatre piece about bullying. As always, this performance was thoughtful and thought-provoking. Shout-out to all of those students involved in the performance, and to Ms. Willis for her efforts.

Parents: shout-out to all of you for successfully navigating the CHQ platform to register for Season 2 Activities. There were only a few isolated issues. Thank you for your efforts to smoothly register your children.

Important Dates: 

November 2nd


JHB Field

Steph Sprint for Cancer Awareness


November 4th



Season 2 CCA Activities begin


November 13th – 17th




SAISA Swim Meet

November 15th



CWW/Season 1 Athletics Celebration


November 22nd – 23rd



Aquatics Center

AISJ Sr. Swim Meet

November 26th



MS/HS Band Concert


Bus Schedule 












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










The schedule is a live document containing all information regarding Swimming, Rugby, and Soccer. 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:

When a new teacher arrives to a new school, it's rarely one's principal, colleagues, or community who set the tone for the year. In my experience, it's one's advisory. When I arrived to AISJ in 2015, I didn't know exactly what to expect – it was my first international school after all – but what I found waiting for me was nine of the most rambunctious, spirited, and hysterical young adolescents that one could imagine. Over the course of the year, we engaged in conversations and activities ranging from the serious to the absurd. On a Tuesday, we'd chat deeply and thoughtfully about diversity; on Thursday, we'd hold makeshift jousting sessions. Of course, every group has a leader and, in some cases, an instigator. That year, the leader of the advisory was inarguably Stephanie Stough. Whether it was keeping her peers on-task when engaged in our more serious work or leading the charge when developing the rules for Cohen Ball, the advisory went as Stephanie went.

As this group of students moved into the 8th grade, I remained close with them. Stephanie, though, was always the advisee whom I remained closest to. Her sharp wit and dry humor lent an irreverent edge to an otherwise caring and respectful personality. For example, on Twins Day during Sprit Week that year, she dressed up as me – tattoos and all. I guess, some would say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, though I doubt that's what Stephanie thought. Really, it was just awesome to have a young person like Stephanie in the Middle School.

At the start of her 9th grade year, though, Stephanie was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a type of cancer that forms in the bone or soft tissue. She left school and underwent treatment back in the States. Fortunately, her strong and courageous personality helped her to pull through, and last year she came back to AISJ for her sophomore year. In an effort to show support for their friend, Maia and Caity, Grade 11, used their passion project time to found a now annual event, the Steph Sprint – an event that raises money to combat childhood cancer. It's a wonderful show by these high schoolers to take initiative and make a positive impact on their community.

I share this story this week because tomorrow is the Steph Sprint. More than that though, I share this story because regardless of whether you knew Stephanie, we are all part of the AISJ community. As such, we should all be here tomorrow to support this cause. Whether it's a student or a staff member, Johannesburg or Pretoria, we are one community, and the well-being of our community takes priority over other things in our lives. I encourage everyone to take two hours out of their Saturday morning to attend the Steph Sprint and show their support.

Zak Cohen

Middle School Activities Coordinator

Other Important Dates and Events for the Months of October through December

November 2

Steph Sprint 3 km Run for Cancer Awareness

November 4 – November 8

Grade 6 & 7 Classroom Without Walls – Blyde Adventure Camp

November 7 – 13

World Scholars' Cup Tournament of Champions @ Yale University

November 14 – 16

Grade 6 – 12 Musical Production – "Matilda"

November 19

Principal's Coffee Morning @ 8:15 a.m. in the Library.   Topic:  Digital Safety and Raising Teens in the Social Media Age

November 26

MS/HS Band Concert @ 6:00 p.m. in the Theater

November 28 – 29

U.S. Thanksgiving Holidays – No School

December 4 - 7

Umoya Band Festival in Maputo, Mozambique

December 5

MS/HS Choir Concert @ 6:00 p.m.

December 13

Early Release @ 1:30 p.m.

December 14 – January 6

School Holidays


Three Cheers for the successful completion of grade 8 CWW and to the students and teachers who made the trip so fun and memorable.

Three Cheers to all the AISJ community members who will turn out tomorrow to support the Steph Sprint.

Three Cheers for our World Scholars.   Good luck at the Tournament of Champions.

Three Cheers to all of the families donating gifts for the children at Chris Hani Hospital.