“Dr. Gander has done a remarkable job as Superintendent, K-6 Principal of a 300 student school, Business Manager, and Maintenance Director. Brian has started a district (two- school) PTO organization that we have been lacking for years, led negotiations for a new labor contract with our association, and has worked hard to bring our budget difficulties under control.”

Daniel Lemke
Board Chair
Santiam Canyon School District 129J

Kuwait
Universal American School

August 2016 to present

Universal American School
Kuwait
P.O. Box 17035
Code: 72451
Mousa Bin Nassir
Block212
Khaldiya, Kuwait

Superintendent
Grades Pre-Primary – 12
1,800 students

What I learned in my time at the Universal American School:

  • The world of international private education is as diverse as our public school communities in our home countries.
  • The presence and retention of senior staff is as critical even more critical in a private overseas school because of the challenges you face in contract structures that lend themselves to staff turn over.
  • When you open yourself up to seeing your profession in a different business model context, you can learn a great deal about improving your skills.
  • Adolescents all over the world are more similar than they are different from each other.

What we are accomplishing at the Universal American School:

  • We are developing for implementation a set of pre-primary through grade 12 assessment protocols that will link our formative and summative assessment structures to new MAP outcomes in an attempt to ensure students are meeting the AERO standards; an approximate equivalency with the USA’s Common Core Standards.
  • We are preparing for the implementation of a new accreditation process using an approach offered by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. This revised accreditation process more closely aligns schools needs to the meeting of accreditation expectations.
  • Ongoing refinement of recruitment, hiring, and retention processes to ensure a highly qualified international teaching staff as UAS continues to grow.

Universal American School is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016.

The Universal American School-Kuwait is a non-profit, private co-educational, college-preparatory day school serving approximately 1800 international students ages 3 to 18. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Council of International Schools (CIS) accredit us. UAS offers a full American academic program based on the American Education Reaches Out (AERO) standards while maintaining Arabic language and Islamic religion classes for our Islamic families. As an international school we prepare our high schools students for overseas university life by offering a variety (12 annually) of College Board Advanced Placement courses as well as world languages such as French and Spanish. Our instruction in the core program and electives programs is 100% in English. Approximately 68% of our students go on to attend college in North America.

The school employs approximately 350 staff with the instructional program numbering about 225 teachers and support personnel. All teachers in grades KG2-HS hold a teaching certificate from their home country. We do employ Kuwaiti teachers in areas of Arabic, Islamic religion and in some of our general academic programs. However the majority of our teaching staff is from the United States, and Canada. Our emphasis in on native English speakers as a key to developing critical communication skills in our English as a Second Language students.

There are four things that UAS is bringing out in me as a leader:

  • It is a challenge to be an effective communicator and stay on track with our time-lines when working with a variety of cultures throughout our school. Effective communication has its basis in listening and as a leader of a larger staff listening has been magnified as a critical communication skill.
  • My ability to shape the five variables of the complex change model supported the communication necessary to bridge the cultural context and help our staff implement necessary changes almost seamlessly.
  • The ability to work along side experienced western administrators who have a variety of experiences in a consistent approach to program review and improvement has been a joy in our first few months together.
  • Within international schools staff relationships are more than good teaching teams, it is about fostering good social opportunities as well.

My first months in Kuwait have been an exciting and educational time, the diversity of the school’s professional community is much different that my time in China or my career in the United States. With a more experienced staff who hold a larger base of overseas experiences we are able to really push the instructional innovation practices to support both teachers and students daily experiences.

These varying perspectives on teaching methods, measuring learning and working with families has helped me reflect on what we do in schools around the world. Kuwait presents a richer educational context than does China as it has a larger set of private, expat run schools that serve Kuwaiti nationals who are heading overseas to being back degrees for use in their society. That makes for an exciting environment in which to work.

Click the arrow to watch a video about the school.