Stories to Tell; Mid-Year Reflections

Midway through my first year at Hisar School marks a good time to reflect upon my observations of the last few months. As the new director, I am often asked for my impressions of Hisar. “What do you think of our school,” has been a frequent question to which I now owe an answer. I have met hundreds of students, alumni, parents, teachers, colleagues and board members since I arrived and, as we arrive to the close of this first semester – there are stories to tell.David Cardenas


Hisar is a Very Good School

Over the years I have had the opportunity to visit dozens of schools in various countries and have developed a pretty good idea of what a good school looks like. Believe it or not, there is a distinct “feel” about a good school, a unique chemistry displayed among the various personalities involved. With its very positive culture, Hisar is such a school.

We are a distinctive school with a very clear mission. More than simply filling our students full of information, we help them develop, in order to achieve their full potential. And critically important to our success is that we continue to pursue this mission. We continue to be guided by an underlying philosophy that very importantly – gave start to this school more than 17 years ago.

Perhaps stated more clearly: “Hisar is guided by its underlying principles and we continue to adjust our direction according to these principles.” And sticking to the mission is the mark of a truly good school.


Good Schools, Good Alumni

The truest measure of a great school is its alumni. Who are they and where are they going?


I recently met Hisar alumni as they returned to campus for their annual reunion in December. They came from Yale and Columbia, Bosphorus University, Brown and other top universities and spoke with me, proud to introduce themselves, and with such a degree of eloquence, self-confidence and respect – that I was impressed in a way few students have impressed me. Though I had never worked with them previously, through our meeting I was suddenly proud to be a part of Hisar. And informal reports indicate that our alumni have been resoundingly successful in their university studies, most with academic scores of 3.5 or better.


This year’s graduates? Already many of our students have been accepted to good schools around the world. The list includes:


Brown, Cornell, Northwestern, Oxford, Kings University, University of Virginia, and a host of others. More will be announced later in the school year.


Excellent Schools are devoted to Developing Global Awareness

This semester I saw a JMUN (Junior Model United Nations), organized and attended by dozens of Hisar students, and probably the best JMUN I have ever seen. Our students in their opening and closing remarks were incredibly poised, intelligent and completely confident at speaking in English in public, and professionally efficient at organizing the event. With schools from as far away as Paris, Cairo and Atlanta, Georgia, we presented a program to be proud of! In this second semester, our students will now participate in similar events in The Hague and other key European capitals.


Additionally, I received visits from representatives of NEASC and CIS (the Northeastern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Council of International Schools) who applauded us for the noteworthy progress we have made with our high school program in just 6 short years.


NEASC/CIS were notably impressed with our extra-curricular activities and our college placements and recommended that we continue to develop international programs such as MUN and Advanced Placement (AP).


Academic Initiatives

The very progressive mission of Hisar School has placed us among the top performers in Istanbul. If we use the Advanced Placement test scores as a measure, we are at the top of the list among our type of school in Turkey. Some of our scores, such as math, were among the highest in the world. Hisar has also built strong and growing programs in the performance arts and sports that compliment our academic programs.


The Future at Hisar?

Many parents have asked about our plans for the future. Though this is a good school, it is a good school that strives to become a better school. It is not good enough to be good, we must seek beyond good, to excellence. And yes, there is much work before us. We have identified a number of areas for on-going, continuous improvement and of course, at the top of the list is student learning.


In general, our plan is developed but constantly evolving to seek improvement, growth and excellence in the following keu areas:


1. The Art and Science of Teaching and Learning; Just about everything we do at Hisar has to do with learning and seeking better ways to improve learning.

We know, for example, that we must continue to provide greater opportunities for a more dynamic, student-active learning environment, where the student is the worker and performer rather than the passive learner.


Additional training for teachers and administrators is also required in order to keep up with the demands of the 21st century. Like other top professions, teachers must continue to train, exchange ideas and grow within his or her art to keep up with the demands of the 21st century. With Creativity and Innovation emerging as key skills for the future, we must reflect upon our educator skills to remain current.


2. Effective Communication; Today’s parents at Hisar want to be a part of their children’s education and to achieve a successful “partnership in education” we must communicate transparently with our community. We also feel that Hisar deserves greater prestige in Istanbul, and this can be achieved best through parents who serve as Ambassadors of our mission.


3. Leadership for Learning; It is not enough that we be organizers and liaisons between school and the parent community, we have to go well beyond this in becoming Academic Leaders, the living example of Academic Excellence.


4. Reviewing Data; We can and will become much better at reviewing student learning data to determine our strengths and weaknesses and design academic programs accordingly.


5. Fiscal Responsibility; We will continue to make financial decisions based upon the integrity of our Academic Quality and the Long-Term Viability and Stability of The Hisar School.


In summary, what I have seen at the Hisar School in my first semester has been very good. This is a young school that has achieved impressive stability and quality in a very short time.


But I have also seen excellent opportunities for Hisar to continue to grow and improve and it is toward this growth and improvement that we shall dedicate our efforts. I invite you to join in our campaign to build one of the best schools in Eastern Europe!


David Cardenas
HEV Board of Directors Educational Consultant