Who ARE Some of These Directors?

In a perfect world, all International Schools would be created with the admirable intent to provide a top-quality education for children of expats and host-country nationals, alike. If, however, you’ve been on the circuit for any length of time, you know this is not always the case. Created with an eye on pure profit, some International Schools are not what they have been deviously crafted to look like.

Ask any veteran of a purely for-profit school to relate the experience of teaching under a school owner hellbent on extracting every last penny from the business, and you’ll understand why teachers post some extremely negative School Reviews on ISR. Education and a purely-for-profit motive do not mix.

The question is: Who directs these so-called schools? Who among us is a sell-out? To complete the façade needed to look like an International School, a greedy school owner may install in the leadership position an individual from the West with some impressive letters following his/her name, a helmsman, so to speak, who steers the ship to profitability strictly following the captain’s orders. Some teachers may prefer to refer to this person as the ‘henchman.’

Dedicated educational leaders have found themselves tricked into these positions. As such, all they can do is the best they can to protect teachers and students. On the other hand, and to their discredit, some School Directors seem to delight in rough-riding their teachers in exchange for a hefty salary. They are obviously not educators at heart. And they are certainly complicit in the charade.

ISR asks: Why are some school Directors, specifically those who’ve been identified multiple times on ISR as someone complicit in robbing teachers of integrity and students of education, exempt from the same rigorous scrutiny as teachers? How is it that some Directors, who with a litany of poor Reviews, are still able to move from school to school to school so easily? Should recruiting agencies require schools to demonstrate their Director meets certain academic standards along with a favorable work history before being allowed to recruit teachers?

Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

31 thoughts on “Who ARE Some of These Directors?

  1. Worked in a multiplicity of schools/countries.
    Most directors were mediocre to awful and in one case – completely mad. Likewise, too many ticked numerous boxes in psychopath surveys. I can only think of one that I would happily run to again – that’s out of fifty or more. The best ones simply left me alone, trusting me to do my job well.
    The absolute worst – and remember we’re getting near the ‘Grim’ end of a long continuum – were both employed by British companies Cognita and, worst of all, Nord Anglia. In both cases I was working happily in schools prior to them being taken over by one or other of these companies – and left soon after. In both cases the directors were more like asset stripping managers than anything remotely connected with teaching and learning.


  2. I have encountered my fair share of mercenaries, that’s what they are, guns for hire. But the thing is there is no quick money in education, certainly not in the international sector. The mercenaries in cahoots with their investors/owners do not appreciate that folk who can afford even the bottom end $20,000.00 US in tuition fees are the ultimate consumers: they have choice and the longest they are likely to be frustrated by selecting a dodgy school is an academic year, and the smarter among them will only pay fees on a semester basis. In this context a school’s reputation is everything and the word soon gets out. It means the cowboys and mercenaries lose their investments and their jobs. If they had come up with a proper investment strategy to support investment then they may have some possibility long term of securing a handsome return on their investment. It’s not rocket science.


  3. Honestly, any director who has been in education for a while gets to know the good directors and the bad ones. As a teacher, you are not privy to a lot of this since it happens at higher level conferences and workshops. And there is a bit of an understanding among directors and admin to support each other, improve, get better, etc… There are some excellent directors and principals and there are very bad ones who somehow keep getting hired, in spite of real complaints, lack of qualifications, made-up qualifications and references…

    I’ve noticed it most with British schools, but that may just be coincidence. This one director somehow became an Ofsted inspector and that qualified this person to run a school. Shrugs.

    Sometimes, these directors don’t really care about education – they were “project managers,” or “CEOs of their own company,” or whatever. Most sound like car salesmen, especially the ones at larger schools and chains. ***cough, GEMS, cough, cough, Nord Anglia, cough, cough***. They DO get used to a certain way of living and feel entitled to it. It would never work that way for a teacher.

    Often, I have noticed it is the Board and Owner who set the tenor for the director. Most directors are “Yes people,” meaning that they have to follow the will of the owner and the board. Many were nice to hang out with but fully submerged in the corporate mindset and never shake the boat, even where it would benefit teachers, students, and parents.

    So, the same question could be asked of teachers – why are there so many bad teachers? Somehow they keep getting passed along, school to school, showing up in your school where they perform a disservice to the profession. Directors and high level admin are the same – it’s easier to not address the problem until it really is unavoidable.

    As for the comments about the voice of the site, well, I would much rather hear about the negatives of schools than to only hear glowing reviews all the time. In this case, no news is closer to good news. But there are other sites as well that have both sides and are anonymous. Directors and principals HATE this site because teachers and parents get to talk freely.


    1. Very true – I think we all know at least one school killer that hops between countries. Nothing funnier than hearing one of them is involved in a start-up somewhere.


  4. What’s at the center of all this trouble with directors that teachers are having is the greed and dishonesty of the two major recruiting agencies, Search and ISS, who refuse to critically vet schools sufficiently to at least prevent school administrators from outright lying during their presentations at fairs about conditions in the countries where they work. I don’t necessarily expect them to detail woeful episodes of their schools’ histories, but when you have directors such as those of Egyptian international schools proclaiming, in the wake of Giulio Regeni’s death by torture, that conditions in that country are safe for expats, and representatives of the recruiting agency standing by and smiling while listening to that lie, something is seriously askew with their due diligence.


    1. since expat teachers don’t engage in investigative journalism that the government looks askance on, they are perfectly safe. This caveat would apply to an amazing number of countries worldwide.


    2. Regeni wasn’t involved in “investigative journalism”; he was collecting information for his PhD dissertation at Cambridge. I assure you that there a lot of well-educated teachers and volunteers from the West who might easily ask the wrong questions of Third World kleptocrats and end up in deep trouble. It’s happened to friends of mine.


  5. Even the Directors get screwed by the owners. As a three time school Director when I left I was cheated and could not get schools to explain why my last pay check had been raided for money i “owed” the school. Beware Beaconhouse in Malaysia.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I absolutely do think that recruiting fairs need to turn a critical lens on directors and school that they allow to use their services. Why not create a set of standards schools must meet, or alternatively, a list of red flags, the accumulation of which would bar future participation? Items could include a high rate of staff turnover, or mid year staff firings.

    Too many directors abuse their power, and one of the most egregious methods is to withhold references or outright lie about a teacher’s professional ability. Too much power with little or no accountability is a recipe for disaster.


    1. True.
      Yet, you know it will turn into “plans” to pay, where the Premium will void certain things.

      I also feel those same services should allow for schools to do the same with employees who were NOT what their profiles stated.


    2. I agree with this 100%, but as things stand right now the recruiting agencies can’t be trusted to vet the schools’ administrators or even the candidates, for competency or honesty. They’d rather trust the word of some sketchy school administrator regarding a candidate’s record or qualifications than recommendations by colleagues or home country supervisors. They work exclusively for school administrators and their pretense of caring for teachers or students’ education is a charade; if it weren’t, for example, they’d check to see what their candidates know about things like “differentiation” or “backward design,” etc.


  7. School directors have structural constraints placed upon them, particularly when the school is privately owned and looked to as a source of profit for its owner, though this varies in intensity. Even in non for profit situations, directors have to deal with school boards. The most virtuous will likely be unemployed, and directors have bills to pay too, along with spouses that have become accustomed to a lifestyle, etc.


  8. I think there is a huge disparity between schools which have good intentions and those that do not. In defence of directors, sometimes there can be a dramatic difference between the understanding of Western standards of education, health and safety, and student wellbeing and that can cause friction between directors and staff but the intention is good. At other times, there can be a lack of awareness of the financial issues and what is genuinely achievable in a country. It can be really easy to be critical as teachers that things aren’t what they are like at home, but perhaps in the long run with patience and a longterm plan, the school could get there. However, there are also unscrupulous business owners who are also unwilling to listen to those who are supposed to be bringing in these standards. That is where there is a real problem. I was once unlock enough to be employed by one of those. It was not ok. This is why it is worth looking for schools who have or are at least seeking external creditation by boards like COBIS.


  9. As a school director myself, I believe everyone should be held under the same lens. I believe that is why this site is important; however, what do you do if the school you are looking for has switched head?

    I also feel that the article basically plants this negative seed; looking at some random reviews, there are good owners, Boards, and directors out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree with you. Just like teachers – some of whom are dedicated professionals and some only overseas for a free ride, there are good and bad directors and good and bad owners. This is as expected from ISR a demonstration of negativity towards Boards and directors.


    2. Jorge, I read the article differently. It is highlighting BAD directors and SCHOOL owners and Boards who don’t put education first, nor the wellbeing of their staff,students or parents. Of course there are many great directors out there, I’ve worked for a few, but there are as many poor ones.
      What does one do if the school has switched Heads…..once you sign a contract you go and do your best but if the situation quickly becomes untenable, you finish your contract and look elsewhere…doing a runner is the absolutely last option one should resort to.


    3. Yes. I agree.
      A runner is the worse option.

      In itself, there are few options to protect employers and employees.

      Background checks are limited and costly at times.
      If there is a runner, you rarely have somewhere to return and evaluate that employee.

      I also feel that websites like these lend themselves to those wishing to complain, rather than truly rate.

      Think of RateMyTeacher.Com


    4. If ISR took the side of the board and directors, there would be no reason for its existence!

      The school website/ official FB page/ etc are all there to display the management’s version of the story.

      It’s good that directors and teachers shares views in ISR side by side.


      Physics Teacher and School Principal


    5. I feel your way of thinking is a bit jaded.

      ISR should be helpful for ALL.
      When I took my current position, I came on ISR to view the institution and what others thought. I was able to make a list of my predecessor’s faults, verify them, and fix them.

      However, I believe ISR could easily be a champion of creating a rubric (let’s just call it that) of exemplary leadership.

      Again, let’s think of websites like RateMyTeacher so we can find a common ground. More often than not, it is a place to destroy teachers; no one rates the good ones, or the master teachers.

      I think it would be phenomenal if rating leadership were continuous, across the board.


  10. In my two decades of experience, they have all been failed teachers. Got about 3-4 years into their careers and realised they weren’t very good at it, didn’t like it much. But by then it was too late to turn back and so the question became “how do I stay in education, but never teach a class, much less every have to set foot in one?” Ahhh….administration. Jackpot. And it’s these characters who get hired and rehired because the whole thing is a Dance of the Lemons / Boys Club racket.


  11. I’ve been teaching within the international circuit for over 40 years.

    I’ve worked with over 18 different Directors and for me, among the most important aspects of the job, is too take the side of the staff; not the parents, board of directors or owners.

    If the Director does not have a teacher’s back they should never be in that position and he held accountable.

    Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.


  12. I worked in about half a dozen international schools in South America, the Middle East, and Western Europe. I made sure the schools were “not for profit” schools. The directors were mostly motivated by what was best for the students. Of course, some of them did not act ethically at times, but I concluded that is par for the course in private schools in countries where there is maybe a lack of due process. On the plus side, they had the power to get rid of lousy teachers without the burden of having to deal with a union (which often protects the incompetent). So make sure you do your homework, read the reviews, and pick the best school for you, without the misguided belief that administration does what is best for the students. Otherwise you will be a sucker.


  13. I once left a school cause of a certain henchmen. With my bad luck, he ends up at my new school a year later, in a more senior role than before even though he was extremely poor in his role as vice president of education. He ended up discrediting me to the gullible owner and then went ahead with bringing all his cronies and destroyed the reputation of a school that once held high asteem of everyone in the community.


  14. The core problems begin with the school ownership. If the owner is not interested in education but rather pure profit at the expense of everything and everyone else educational, then they’ll hire a puppet they can manipulate, whose character and ethical/moral/educational values match their own, or better still are inferior. I worked at a school where the owner was totally incompetent in management and education but very rich. She hired a man who was very good at PR and spoke the language but couldn’t tie his shoelaces educationally speaking and was a total asskisser. North American and toher foreign staff hated dealing with these two because it was all about saving face and money-making. As ctbeachbm said, due diligence,research and networking are the only sure ways to avoid falling into the cash cow schools, whether for-profit or board managed.


  15. “Why are some school Directors . . . exempt from the same rigorous scrutiny as teachers?”

    Because they sign the check.


    1. Because they are responsible for the wellbeing and education of young people and therefore have a duty of care.for them. The very fact anonymous put cheque says there is no intention to take responsibility for the young an deputy them first.


  16. It’s always been “buyer beware” in the international recruitment game and it always will be. Every teacher needs to read the reviews of schools and network carefully.


    1. But I’ve just finished up at a school that was once (or so I believed) run with some integretity.
      The new director was appalling and was never really engaged with the school for a number of very worrying reasons. The Board, we speculate, completely manipulated this and just got them to carry out their money saving plot. There was no care or concern about students or staff. I ended up in a school with zero integretity which will probably take a long time to regain any balance. The Board have appeared to sweep away most ‘issues’ under the rug and truly put staff and pupils at risk, by trying to save face and reputation. The wrong people have been protected whilst others have been scapegoats or completely thrown under the bus. Nobody has ever been made to be accountable and too many of SMT are complicit. This particular one came from an excellent school. I wonder where he ends up…. Cynically I think he will resurface. It’s how the system works.


    2. From a school owner’s perspective if you have appointed a head of school that is not up to standard, do you admit your mistake and dump them, or pretend that everything is okay so as to not lose face. Most will not lose face, which is understandable, but painful.


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