NESA is approaching a significant milestone in its history. On July 1, 2017, David Chojnacki, after 20 years of service, will turn over the role of Executive Director of NESA to Madeleine Hewitt, currently Director of The KAUST School in Saudi Arabia.
To mark the closing of one chapter and the start of a new era, the recent Fall Leadership Conference in Doha concluded with a look at NESA's journey from its establishment in the early 1970s till today. In particular, this closing plenary session, "NESA: Celebrating the Journey", focused on the extraordinary role David has played in its development to the dynamic and respected learning organization it is today.
Board President Rose Puffer (ISOI-Islamabad) moderated two panels comprised of former students, heads, board members, presenters and colleagues. Each was invited to reflect on aspects of NESA's mission, vision and values through their individual experiences.
'NESA Past' Panel: Former NESA students Colby Seay and Emily Sargent-Beasley (formerly on NESA's PDAC) spoke on what was most valuable about growing up in NESA schools, and past NESA Board members Marsha Aaronson and Rob Ambrogi addressed how NESA's spirit of collaboration supported them as school leaders.
'NESA Present' Panel: Longtime NESA conference speakers and collaborators Carolyn McKanders and Tom Guskey discussed how NESA supports and sustains professional learning, and NESA PDAC Chair Gail Seay (ASD-Doha) and Director of Professional Learning Bridget Doogan answered the question, 'How does NESA support collaboration and respond to changing school needs?'
Video messages from colleagues and friends brought further reflections on the impact NESA, and David in particular, has had on their school communities and their personal journeys over the past twenty years, including the following selection:
- "Mesopotamia is called the cradle of civilization, and in so many mays NESA is the cradle of innovation in international schools. Over the years NESA has developed concepts and projects that have become models for the world. . . NESA's wise boards have always chosen the highest quality leaders, then empowered them to lead. And there is no better example in the international school world than the leadership of David Chojnacki. – Keith Miller, Director, Office of Overseas Schools, US State Department
- "The hallmark of NESA is providing relevant support to an incredibly diverse community of schools in a spirit of camaraderie and fun." — Rick Detwiler, former NESA Board Member and Superintendent, American International School, Dhaka
- "Through NESA's emphasis on school improvement through professional development, student learning becomes a principal goal and it is at the very core of its purpose for existing." — Tim Hansen, former NESA Vice-President and Superintendent, Saudi Aramco Expatriate Schools, 2000-2002, 2007-2014
- "Over the years, NESA has grown more purposeful, intelligently strategic, and profoundly effective." — Bob Garmston, Co-developer, Adaptive Schools and Cognitive Coaching
- "NESA brings people together for a common goal - for a purpose greater than any one school, administrator, teacher or leader. There's a sense of professional generosity and selflessness." — Laura Canellopoulou, NESA Staff
Although Bea Cameron, NESA's Regional Education Officer from the Office of Overseas Schools (A/OS), could not attend the FLC, former NESA Board President Kevin Schafer (TAISM-Muscat), read message from her to David and the delegates, highlighting the special collaboration and partnership between A/OS and NESA.
Looking to the future, Executive Director-elect Maddy Hewitt drew from Cavafy's poem Ithaca to honor David's leadership of NESA's Odyssey, and her commitment to continuing the journey. In her speech, she described why she views the NESA Executive Director position as a "dream job" [click here for Maddy's comments].
In closing his final Fall Leadership Conference, David expressed his gratitude to the organization for 20 productive years, and that he was confident NESA would continue in the same spirit of learning, collaboration, and service to students. He told the emotional audience that the NESA community is indeed a "family" and will always be "home".