Head of School's Corner

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

At the end of this first week with our students back, and what good energy and enthusiasm they have brought to our campus, I have some excellent news for all.  I am so very pleased to tell you all that Dr. Régine de Blegiers will take over as Head of the High School at Keystone in July this year, after Dr. Diana Martelly leaves.  This is such good news for Keystone. We have conducted an extensive and patient search, starting last summer, to end with this exciting outcome.   We had a first round of interviews with candidates from within China here on campus shortly before the break for the western New Year.  After that, we carried on searching on a rolling basis, with our consultant agents RSAcademics interviewing about 10 new selected candidates in January.  Régine met a number of senior leaders in extensive virtual discussions in February and came through this process as our top choice.  I feel very fortunate that we have someone of Régine’s expertise and experience to take up the outstanding legacy of Diana Martelly.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/03/01-2021/​03/​07

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Last week I wrote about some aspects of our school’s varied and innovative curricula that make me feel positive and optimistic.  I say ‘curricula’ in the plural as it is so important to understand what we offer our students at Keystone taking place both in and outside the classroom.   As we move into the Year of the Ox, here are a few more thoughts on this theme of positivity, this time linking our school to the world through service.  I’ll start with the two paragraphs below, that come from my graduation address to the Class of 2020.  I was asking them to consider my opinion that the use of the word ‘unprecedented’ is all too frequent in the context of COVID:

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/02/01-2021/​02/​07

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

A month or so ago, we were all hoping to move into the Year of the Ox with our students on campus, and with our usual creative celebrations.   Now we cannot do so.  This is sad for us all.  The virus is certainly keeping us vigilant, and health and safety have to be uppermost.  Think positive, test negative is my mantra of the moment.  Both are so important, and I keep on reminding myself that I have full control over the first, even if I do not over the second.  

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/01/25-2021/​01/​31

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I am collaborating this week with my colleagues in the leadership group of the Middle School.  They have done much of the work for this piece.  All of us are passionate readers, and advocates for the great richness in our lives of the love of language, and reading, not only joyful literature but many other types of text as well.  Clear, efficient, and purposeful uses of language are critically important for the ways in which we communicate, and grow, individually and as communities. 

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/01/11-2021/​01/​17

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I wish you all a happy New Year, now one week old.  Perhaps I should say ‘happier’, as many of the difficulties engendered by the pandemic are still with us globally, and locally. We have been suddenly awakened again to this as a result of a small outbreak in Shunyi, mostly contained now, and of how this will affect our school in January.  

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/01/04-2021/​01/​10

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Towards the end of October I wrote to you about commitments, and how the commitments that we make can be related to our five shared values.  I included a short document called: Keystone Shared Values and Supporting Faculty Commitments.  This had been put together by Keystone teachers a few years ago, in an attempt to show the types of behavior that might exemplify our five values.  When it comes to modeling behavior, it is so important to translate abstract values into concrete action types.  Our school and our students need this. 

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​12/14-2020/​12/​20

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Every Friday afternoon at Keystone, in our secondary division, the last period of the day, indeed the week, is given over to what we call a Head of School Assembly.   We meet in the Performing Arts Center.  In the earlier years of our school, it was easy to fit the whole secondary school, students and teachers, in there.  Last year, for the first time, we needed to split the High School and the Middle School, and so each group met on alternate weeks.  This year, with the need to distance socially, and to have a one-seat gap between each member of the audience, we have a three-way rotation in which the Middle School is split again, into Grades 6 and 7, and then Grades 8 and 9.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​12/7-2020/​12/​13

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I know only a few people who love meetings.  Most of my friends and colleagues do not.  I do not love them, for sure, but I can certainly find them enjoyable and useful. And they are, small or large, still one of the best ways of sharing and planning.  Many of our meeting types have changed in these pandemic months, and digital meeting spaces have come to rule our days, and nights.  Face-to-face meeting fashions come and go, and there are any number of guidebooks on how to run and participate in effective meetings.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​11/30-2020/​12/​6

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

On Tuesday, November 10, I was privileged to participate with others in a 90-minute Zoom conversation with Michael Sandel, the renowned Professor of Government at Harvard University.  He is perhaps best known for his book Justice, published just over 10 years ago, and the very popular course at Harvard that he teaches on this subject.  Sandel’s most recent book, just out, is The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good.   Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, writes this: “The Tyranny of Merit deftly exposes the flaws and fallacies of meritocratic philosophy. In lucid, illuminating prose, Sandel makes a compelling case for uprooting inequality and building a fairer society shaped by true principles of justice.”  Anyone and everyone connected to schools such as ours needs to be aware of some of the key ideas in this book.  I have not yet read it, but I can report in this short piece on Professor Sandel’s conversational summary of some of its main themes.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​11/23-2020/​11/​29

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I am so very pleased to tell you all that Meredith Phinney will take over as Head of the Middle School at Keystone in July next year, after Maureen McCoy retires. This is such good news, on so many levels. Meredith has been at Keystone since August 2017 and has shown us all that she is a distinguished teacher, administrator, and leader. The British recruitment company RSAcademics has been leading a search since early summer for the second Head of our Middle School Division. Meredith rose to the top of a strong group of applicants. It is so good for our school to have internal applicants apply for significant leadership positions and to do so successfully.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​11/​16-2020/​11/​​22

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Here is the second and final installment of reflections from the two Keystone graduates who wrote last week, Jacky Liang, 梁小龙 (2018) and John An, 安兆宁 (2019). Both are students in the hospitality industry, studying in Switzerland at the famed Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL). Their thoughtfulness epitomizes for me an essential quality of a Keystone graduate. We describe it like this in our mission when we say: “Our graduates will possess the intellectual, cultural, and ecological fluency to navigate gracefully the colleges, careers, and communities of their choice.”

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​11/​09-2020/​11/​​15

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

My weekly column this week, and next, is written by two Keystone graduates, Jacky Liang, 梁小龙 (2018) and John An, 安兆宁 (2019), with just a brief introduction from me. Both are students in the hospitality industry, studying in Switzerland at the famed Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL). Let me explain how this collaboration has come about. I have thought for a long time that schools can learn some valuable lessons from those who specialize in hospitality. The ways in which a top hotel presents itself, for example, might be taken up in part by a top school, to beneficial effect. And so, I asked Jacky and John to send me a few bullet points on this topic which I might then work up into this article. However, these young men being Keystone graduates, I received more than I had requested, or anticipated, from them. Here below, and only very lightly edited by me, are the first two of four points that they made, and explicated beautifully. I am sure you will enjoy hearing their views, so thoughtfully articulated. You will need to wait until next week for the other two. It will be worth the wait!

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​11/​02-2020/​11/​​08

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Last week I prepared a recorded speech for a conference called “The 21st China International Education Conference", the theme of which was “China's Education Quality Improvement and Innovative Talent Cultivation”. The gathering was hosted by China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE), organized by KingLead Education, and supported by the China Children and Teenagers' Fund. Owing to ongoing public health precautions, the forum was held online, last Saturday. I was given this topic: Cultivation of Innovative Talents in the Post-epidemic Era. It was a pleasure to prepare and record some thoughts to share with the participants, and to have my colleague and Associate Head Jia Lili assisting with the Chinese. In this article, I wish to share with you a summary of this address.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​10/​26-2020/​11/​1

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I wish to make a few points about ‘commitment’ this week. The root of our English word commitment lies in Latin, and it is a combination of two shorter words: ‘com’ means ‘with’ or ‘together’, and ‘mittere’ has as its standard or typical meaning ‘to send’, amongst a few related possibilities. Commitment, therefore, literally ‘sends us with each other, together’. If we are committed, we are sent, we journey, on the same path, or mission. If we are committed to someone, we do what we do and we go where we go together. If I am committed to someone or something, I am ‘sent together with’ that person or ideal or value. Commitment and community are allied, tied.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​10/19-2020/10/​25

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I hope that you can recall a piece that I wrote on leadership at the beginning of last year. This was, in essence, a report on a series of reflective exercises by your Keystone leaders at our June retreat in 2019. We believe strongly that it is crucial for us to think and talk deeply about how we want and aspire to lead Keystone, and also to model leadership. We know that at least two major positives flow from this, if we do it successfully. First, our school functions smoothly and successfully. Second, our students learn an essential skill from observing, consciously and unconsciously, the process of leading. A school with resources such as Keystone must set out to produce future leaders, and do so humbly. Wise and strong leadership is so high in demand everywhere, and yet so low in supply. In our school there are openings for student leadership posts and positions of responsibility for many, at all ages, and opportunities for developing leading skills for all.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​10/12-2020/10/​18

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

It was a pleasure speaking to some of you on Monday evening, September 21, with my colleague and Associate Head, Jia Lili. Just over 400 of you joined in the virtual townhall meeting arranged by the Keystone Parent Teacher Association (PTA). I said then that I would summarize in writing some of the important points that I made, and I shall do so in this article. I hope that these points are useful to you. Remember that I also said, as I have done before, that you are welcome to come to see me about anything, whether that be a request for information, clarification, or a suggestion for improvement. You may also ask the PTA to set up larger meetings to talk through particular issues. I hope that such meetings will not have to be virtual for too much longer. It will be such a pleasure to have you coming on to the campus in the ways that we used to.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​10/​05-2020/​10/​11

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

You all know by now how engaging it is for me, as I hope it is for you, to continue building our Keystone culture, all of us together, in our still new and evolving school. Many of my Friday pieces in In the Loop touch on this, at times quite directly. I wrote about courtesy two weeks ago. Five years ago, I wrote two short, direct pieces on six aspects of Keystone culture. Those were printed on August 28 and September 11, 2015, respectively, and both later republished in the first volume of my Keystone letters. These six aspects have not changed much, for me, and I want to revisit them now, with you. One of the many features of culture that intrigues me is the balance between what endures and what emerges, the old and the new. These six aspects have lasted well, but they perhaps need some refreshed interpretations.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​09/​21-2020/​09/​​27

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Two weeks ago, early on a Friday morning Beijing time, I was in a group Zoom discussion led by Maxine Williams, the Global Chief Diversity Officer at Facebook. About 50 people joined in from different time zones. The topics, advertised in advance, were these three:

  • How are global organizations responding to Black Lives Matter and approaching the issue of diversity in the workplace?
  • How might they innovate as the conversation moves from diversity and inclusion to ending systemic racism?
  • How might individual employees, organizational leaders, and board members alike navigate and catalyze change?
Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​09/​14-2020/​09/​​20

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

In this my second Friday article of the school year, I invite us all to start a new academic cycle with some old thoughts. Many of these opening-of-the-year thoughts below were in an article that I wrote for In the Loop some years back. I am updating that piece slightly here. My views on this topic are essentially the same as they were three years ago. The message seems to me fitting as we set out on a year that promises to be exciting and challenging, yet volatile and difficult, and in a world where civil discourse is more in demand and less in supply than before. May we emerge from it in June in harmony, and in health. This will not be easy. There are not many things that I feel certain about right now, but I know for sure that this will not be easy.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​09/​07-2020/​09/​​13

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

At the end of our orientation week in August, I spoke to all our Keystone employees, about 450 people, about various aspects of the year coming. At one point I touched on leadership, and I said this:

As adults in this learning community, we are all leaders. Our students, the children of the community, watch us all the time, consciously and subconsciously, and learn leading and other skills and values from us. That is as it should be. As leaders, we are the guardians and the creators of our Keystone culture. Guardians protect their territory and creators push new boundaries. Leaders must conserve, and also create. Think about this balance, please. It applies to all of us, in all that we do here. Although we are all leaders, we think often of senior administrators as our obvious leaders. In this regard, we have welcomed recently 5 wonderful administrators to our school.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​08/​31-2020/​09/​​06

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Graduates, Students, Trustees, and all Members of our Keystone Family:

In this second semester, 2020, I have written many more letters to you all than I usually do. I enjoy communicating in writing, and you are my favorite audience, but there have been times during the past semester when I have wished for some respite from the continual correspondence necessitated by coronavirus crises! So have we all.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​06/15-2020/06/21

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Anti-racist protests have roiled the United States in recent weeks. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 has ignited huge demonstrations against police brutality and against the scourge of racism. Solidarity marches have also taken place in other parts of the world. Anti-racist proponents are expressing a powerful message. It is easy, and absolutely right, to agree with their feelings, and philosophy, if not with every one of their actions. Only benighted white and other supremacists think differently.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​06/​08-2020/​06/​​14

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Over a month ago now, I was part of a most interesting virtual meeting of administrators from Round Square Schools across the world. I had been asked to initiate a conversation, which lasted about an hour and a half, about our experiences in developing quickly and effectively an online learning program, and then to share our ideas and plans for a gradual reopening of the campus and the return of students. This two-part discussion was about looking back, and then looking forward. I was joined by my colleagues Sandra Chow, Director of Digital and Innovative Learning, and Jia Lili, Associate Head of School, who has played a lead role in our Health and Safety arrangements for the immediate future. Their expertise was invaluable in responding to questions from those in regions where the pandemic is newer than it is here. What I am sharing with you in this article is a summary of my opening remarks.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​06/​01-2020/​06/​07

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

My piece two weeks ago quoted extensively from a recent speech given by two of our seniors on the day that they returned to the campus. Cady and Francis spoke in a most memorable way about the leadership handover ceremony that is so important in our school. Last week, I wrote about leadership from the perspective of a noted educator, Michael Fullan. This week I am featuring some of our Grade 9 students. They are both the current (because they are on their own here right now) and future leaders of our school.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​05/​25-2020/​05/​​31

Malcolm McKenzie

Malcolm McKenzie is the Founding Head of School of Keystone Academy. He grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and studied at the Universities of Cape Town, Oxford, and Lancaster.