By George Herrig
As we draw to the close of our current mission trip in the Philippines, I would like to write some of the current accomplishments, future changes and challenges before us concerning the KMM School.
- We were able to agree to a new 3-year lease on the school building. In addition to what we already have, we were able to secure the first floor of the adjoining building next to our current one. We had the opportunity to walk through it and found that the first floor consists of three rooms: One very large rectangular room and another large room with an additional small room attached. It also consists of a kitchen area and one small toilet area with a shower room next to it. We can easily divide the very large room into two ones which will enable us to have sufficient growth for the next three years. Due to the recent flood, the rooms will need to be entirely cleaned, the walls will be painted to brighten them, and a room divider would possibly be built. We would also need to do some improvements to the wiring, lighting and fans. We were able to procure, under the new lease, the removal of the three vehicles that are currently stored on the premises. This will enable us to clean up the whole front area giving us much needed open space. In addition, the owner is allowing us to use a lot behind the main building for a play area. This land borders a deep ravine in the rear so it will be necessary for us to build a fence around the area (wooden, similar to the front) so that it will be safe for the children. The cost of the new lease is significantly higher, but essential and necessary in order for us to have the space needed during the next 3 years. It is our hope that during that 3-year period we will be able to build a new school on property that has been donated to us for that purpose.
- With the labors of Kristyna and Lucy from the Czech Republic, we were able to do preliminary eye screening for all the children and staff. To our very pleasant surprise, we found that the vast majority of the children have good eyesight. Three of the children, after a more detailed examination, were provided with the required glasses.
- Interviews were held with most of the staff. Most seemed satisfied with their jobs. The teachers had a common thread when asked about needs, personal improvement and improvement for the school. We addressed each of those issues:
- There is a need for the children to be more orderly, respectful and supervised outside the classroom: We addressed the whole staff that the first priority for this year is to make the children behave in an orderly fashion; in outside activities, play time, walking the halls and in the classrooms. The staff have agreed to make this a priority and promised we will see a greater improvement when we return in the summer. The staff meets once a month to discuss needs and they will be bringing forth suggestions as to what they can do. One suggestion to them is to see if they can get good, quality volunteers from the parents to help supervise the children during break times outside and in the playground area.
- Better cleaning with the school is a must: Changes are being made in the way the school is maintained by the custodian. In the new school year there will be only one full-time janitorial position instead of two alternating positions in order to make a more unified cleaning schedule. There was a time of training of proper cleaning practices and schedules given to staff members so that they may be implemented immediately.
- The teachers need more training seminars to improve their teaching skills: We will look into seeing what is available in this arena and how we might be able to make it available to the teachers. We will also have to look into how we might be able to facilitate this training in the schedules of the teachers so that they might be able to attend such venues.
- Need for world maps and other materials for the walls: We will look to provide the needed charts, maps, and teaching tools.
- Martin spent time in training Melody, the school’s administrative assistant who is responsible for keeping the books, with Excel as well as reviewing the books and accounting practices. Martin also met with our external bookkeeper, Lorna, and was able to set up a schedule of working days for her in the coming year in order for the books to be reconciled monthly instead of at the end of the year as has been a custom so far.
- Assessments were made as to summer improvements to the current building, which will include some painting, more fans and more lighting to the school. Also, minor repair is needed to some of the floors and walls.
- Beginning June, we will have a need for one more full-time teacher for the addition of the fifth grade. Also, two of our current teachers, Rio and Dharine, are expecting babies; one is due in May, the other one in July. Both will have two months maternity leave. We will be hiring a sub-teacher that will fill in for them both for four months total.
- I also made a personal evaluation on our Principal, Marissa, who has been with us for two years now. I had general input from the teachers concerning her and overall they gave positive feedback. She is diligent in her duties as well as her work with Cherry, the school Administrator. She is very proactive with all the necessary forms that the government requires for licenses and approval for our increased grades. She has done an excellent job in her assembly of a book of documents that are required by the government. My assessment of Marissa is that she is doing a good job, helping us in furthering the development and growth of KMM School.
- We have included an additional duty for Allan, the school’s Counsellor, in the coming school year. He will conduct more home visits to encourage the parents to help their children who are consistently absent to be more diligent in their attendance. This encouragement will also apply to those students who are not meeting the minimum grade requirements. All of these children will be required to attend the summer school.
In closing there are a couple additional comments:
- Marissa, the Principal, explained the current thought of the splitting of classes from Kindergarten through the Third Grade. The current need is to split up our classes into two groups for one main reason: “Quality of Education.” Marissa informed me that the teachers teach better in a shortened class with 15 students than to have a full day class with 30 students. It gives more quality time with each student and still fulfills the state requirement for teaching (this being approved each year by the government). The school will continue in that same fashion in the coming school year.
- In talks with the teachers we found that there are no parent-teacher conferences here in the Philippines. We encouraged them to set up one that is similarly used in the USA. That is, in the middle of each semester two days are set aside so that appointments are made with each child’s parents and the student’s teacher. The teacher can then have one on one with the parents to discuss the child’s development, strengths, weaknesses and encourage the parents to work towards the betterment of the student. The teachers and principal were very interested in the concept and will discuss this option to be possibly used in the coming school year.
In addition to these, we were able to take individual pictures of the children so all the sponsors will receive an updated picture of their child/children in the weeks to come.:-)
Finally, we are very pleased with the growth and development of the school. We continue to see improvements in its overall administration. Our hopes and aims are that the school, its staff and students will continue to grow not only in education but also in the knowledge and glory of God.