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Students come back to new leaders and a series of campus upgrades
Posted 09/01/2016 04:00PM


A new school year always brings the promise of many exciting opportunities: new friends, new classrooms, new teachers, new learning and … perhaps a new wardrobe.

The 2016-17 school year at ACS is no exception: From a new Head of School to several campus facilities upgrades, this year’s student body will notice many changes.

Thanks to an international search led by the ACS Board of Trustees, the school now has a new Head of School, Greg MacGilpin, Jr., who brings with him fresh new ideas, a robust energy, and a passion for teaching and learning.

MacGilpin comes to Lebanon, with over two decades of educational leadership experience, after heading Costa Rica’s Country Day School, an American international school, for six years, and previously leading several independent schools in the United States.

Greg MacGilpin’s integrity and intelligence, his passion for helping young people find their best selves, and the respect and affection he inspires in students, faculty, and parents came through in his interviews here, as well as in all of his references,” said Nina Joukowsky Köprülü, President of the ACS Board of Trustees. “His enthusiasm and genuine enjoyment of being with students were still evident when he met with trustees, late in the evening after a marathon day of interviews! That bodes well for keeping up with the high energy of ACS’s students and faculty.”

MacGilpin’s first few weeks at ACS have revealed to him a warm and dedicated school community.

"I, along with my family, have had such a warm and enthusiastic welcome to ACS and Lebanon,” he said. “From meeting over 300 alumni in Boston to our current ACS staff and faculty, there has been a sincere combination of pride in our accomplishments and a desire to evolve as a school. This invigorates me." (For the Head of School's video address to parents, please click here)

MacGilpin added, “Our shared responsibility at ACS is to provide an environment that 'empowers students', and the past few weeks of preparations, in both our physical space and our professional development, will support our approach to student learning. I am so excited to engage and support our students as they become independent learners!"

Also transferring from Latin America is ACS’s new High School Principal, Rob Allison, who brings with him 20 years of international experience, from Venezuela, Egypt, Mumbai, and Bangkok. For the past several years, Allison has been the high school principal at the Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela.

“To be honest, I had not been looking to move to the Middle East, but when I came here for my interview, I was stunned by the city and the warmth of its people and the colleagues I met during my short stay,” said Allison.

The new high school principal reminded students that in addition to taking advantage of the robust and engaging academic program that ACS offers, they should also seek out new experiences that will take them outside of their comfort zones.

“We want students to have a well-rounded experience, and our role is to encourage them to take risks -- to try things they might not be comfortable doing -- and to be there for them to support them in case they stumble,” Allison said. “This way they develop into thoughtful, caring human beings who excel at critical thinking and problem-solving.” 

Athletic and Activities Director Ryan Naughton invited "all new and returning students to take advantage of the diverse range of activities that ACS makes available, and which few other schools offer."

On September 5, try-outs will be held for cross-country, rugby, volleyball, and swimming. Meanwhile, the Debate Team, Academic Games, MUN, the different musical groups, and the drama groups will all begin shortly after the start of the school year.

One way for students to gain new perspectives is to interact with their diverse faculty members, who hail from various parts of the world, having soaked up different cultures and international experiences.

This year 30 new faculty members join ACS, split evenly among locals and expatriates. (Please see full story on new faculty here)

From Early Years to High School, all ACS students will benefit from the upgrades and new facilities that were completed over the summer.

Physical Plant teams tirelessly worked to accomplish an impressive list of upgrades.

EY students can now play in a totally new Nature Playground, complete with a Monkey Bar, Climbing Wall, Spider Web, Tree Nest, Indian Teepee, Merry-Go-Round, Sand-Box, and so much more, all to feed into children’s imagination and social development.

“The therapeutic effects of interacting with nature are well-documented,” said Sawsan Yaseen, EY Principal. “Just the sight of an all-natural playground is soothing to the senses.”

Yaseen added that the playground will help teachers in their educational mission, as they are already planning to use the Tree Nest as an inspiring spot for reading sessions to the little ones.

“The playground will be used as a learning resource where children can practice fine motor skills, explore different materials, and have their curiosity stimulated. It will provide them with a joyful experience, in line with our vision, ‘Nothing without joy,’” added Yaseen.

Middle Schoolers, too, have been included in the recent upgrades, with the completion of the new MS Science Wing, barely a year after the top-notch High School Science Wing was created.

All furniture and equipment (for the HS and MS science wings) were provided thanks to a grant by the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad program, which is under the United States Agency for International Development.

The MS Science Wing consists of a Maker Space, where students can create anything they can imagine with conventional and hi-tech tools, such as drills and grinders and 3-D printers. For the first time, MS students and teachers will also have a Robotics lab where they can carry out coding projects. What’s more, the open-plan design of the science wing encourages collaboration and facilitates the simultaneous supervision of several student groups working on different tasks.

“This new design incorporates a Teachers’ Workspace that boosts collaboration among teachers, as they are no longer bound by one classroom,” said Simon Barakat, MS Science Teacher. “The entire floor can be used based on learning needs.”

Barakat explained that the open space creates a Classroom Without Walls setup where students can learn from each other while having access to all teachers. “We moved away from segregation and built a kind of unity within the MS science section.”

He added,”This setup helps us in our mission of developing independent learners, responsible students, critical thinkers, and problem solvers who will be well-prepared for an ever-changing future.”

Enhanced play and science areas were not the only objectives of the summer upgrades.

Physical Plant teams also started installing solar panels on building rooftops, as part of the schools 2020 Green School Road Map, which aims to reduce the school’s carbon footprint by 20 percent by the year 2020. The roadmap also promotes sustainable, cost-saving measures while teaching students to be stewards of their communities.

Over the summer, the roofs of the BD building and of the Lower School Playground were covered with water-tight, see-through panels. “By the time they will become operational in the coming months, these panels will be able to provide electric power to 40 classrooms throughout the year,” explained Ziad El-Hdary, Director of Facilities and Operations.

With these installations, 30 percent of the project has been accomplished.
“When the entire project would have been completed by the end of 2017, the solar panels will generate 20-25 percent of the electric power needs of the entire campus,” added El-Hdary. The solar panel project is financed at 80 percent by ASHA with a $855K grant.

In addition to the three flagship projects of this summer, a number of other upgrades were carried out. These included adding a new 500KV power generator to the two existing ones; renovating the electric power grid; refurbishing the daycare playground; and completing other renovations around campus.

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