International School Azerbaijan2018-04-10T09:51:26+00:00
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International School of Azerbaijan

Dates covered: 20xx – 20xx
School Website: http://www.tiza.az

School Review #6
The academic year was very difficult for The International School of Azerbaijan. The school faced a financial crisis and cuts had to be made. Tuition was increased from $18,000 to $28,000, salaries were frozen, benefits cut, and redundancies were in the offing. However, through investigative efforts by staff and finally an audit by BP, it was discovered in April of 2009 that BP employees in the business office had perpetuated corruption in the millions of dollars. Staff at International School of Azerbaijan sighed in relief. We had saved our colleagues from losing their jobs. Or so we had thought.

In June of 2009, contracts for the following academic year were given out. Salaries were still frozen, benefits cut and 26 of our colleagues lost their jobs. International School of Azerbaijan staff passed a “Vote of No Confidence” in the then Director, Larry Crouch. The results were 82 – 4 – 7 in favor of the measure. It had become clear that the so-called “financial crisis” was not the root cause of slashes to employment or salaries and benefits, as the Director and Board had previously indicated.

For years the faculty had been informing the Board and Director of evidence of widespread corruption within the Business Office. For years the Board, BP and the school leadership had resisted an internal audit. Finally, and only as a result of irrefutable evidence from teachers, did the Board finally agree to have an audit completed. The result of the audit showed that specific personnel had been stealing millions of dollars from the school and BP for years. These personnel have since been fired, but not prosecuted. Neither BP nor the school has been able to claw back the stolen money.

Despite the fact that the corruption and the theft of millions of dollars were the result of the Board’s and Directors’ incompetence and fiduciary negligence, the Board still mandated that International School of Azerbaijan had to balance its budget. On the surface this sounds very logical, however, the school cannot be expected to balance its budget when it continues to act as a clearinghouse of corruption for BP. This year alone International School of Azerbaijan has been charged $150,000 for $50,000 worth of art supplies. Basically, BP is over paying for supplies and expecting International School of Azerbaijan to carry the burden. There continues to be corruption in the BP / International School of Azerbaijan ranks.

International School of Azerbaijan now has a new Director, Mr. John Gillespie, and a new Chairperson of the Board. However, the school remains horribly non-resourced with the Director stating that with top teachers, the school doesn’t need to worry about resources. Meanwhile, some IB courses are using outdated textbooks, some departments of the school haven’t received new resources for a couple years, and many of the computers and support technology throughout the school are routinely broken or out of order. All this while the school charges $28,000 per student.

Additionally, the Board and Director at International School of Azerbaijan are again reducing salaries and benefits for all teachers and support staff for 2009 – 2010. For example, in the face of rampant inflation salaries have stayed constant. Other benefits are also being eroded away. For example, teachers are given an allowance for a round trip airfare to London for Xmas. The allowance is set at an amount much lower than tickets that can be purchased at any time of year, let alone Xmas.

The contract terms and conditions at International School of Azerbaijan are no longer as generous as they used to be, and if the present is any indication of the future, there will continue to be cost saving efforts that will ultimately take money from teachers.

One additional benefit to pay very close attention to is that of housing. While the current housing situation remains acceptable for some teachers, this will not be the same for incoming teachers. The new contract has a very vague reference to housing quality and whether BP will pay for utilities. The Board has stated that teacher accommodation is too expensive and wants to reduce its costs in this area. They will be moving teachers into some of the substandard housing they previously used in past years. These downtown apartments often have water and electrical outages. Some of them are security risks and have trouble with rodents and other pests. Many teachers have had their personal property stolen from their apartments, yet the school and BP have taken few measures to address this issue. These will be the same apartments BP will be trying to put future teachers in.

In face of cost cutting the administration at International School of Azerbaijan has stated that the professional development funds for teachers have been slashed. International School of Azerbaijan is not a school you want to consider if you want to teach in a well-resourced school that values teachers who want to improve professionally.

International School of Azerbaijan used to be a place where teachers and students were happy and motivated. We had regular social events. Last year’s Director and Board were successful at taking a school that was very healthy and making it a place where teachers couldn’t leave fast enough. The largest concern for the school moving forward is that the current Director doesn’t seem up to the task of redirecting the school back in a positive direction. Time will tell whether John Gillespie is a school leader.

The school community has just been notified that the elementary principal, David Tigchelaar, is leaving. Whether he is leaving of his own accord or being forced out by complaining parents, it is yet another example of how the Board and Director do not value personnel who are driven by excellence in education.

For all these reasons, I’m leaving International School of Azerbaijan at the end of this year.

On the positive side, Baku is a very interesting city, and Azerbaijan holds many hidden treasures that are off the beaten track. The Azerbaijan staff at the school is remarkably professional, hard working and very courteous. The students are highly motivated and fun to work with. Neighboring Georgia, and the countries to the east (the –Stans) are absolutely beautiful and a must see. If you can tolerate an un-resourced school that has few professional development opportunities, and like to travel to remote parts of the world without flushing toilets, then International School of Azerbaijan is the place for you.

School Review #5
I have been teaching in International schools for over 19 years and have worked for several directors and principals. This school is in a Country that is up and coming. For a school that is 10 years old, they have been continually expanding and developing. Peter Harding the Director has been a fair and kind Director. He listens to the problems of the teachers and tries to assist where he can. This is a “challenging” Country and not the easiest to adjust to and work in.

I work for the Primary school and have a daughter in the Early Years program. The new Early Years Learning building and program is by far one of the best facilities and programs in the world, and it being my area of expertise, I would challenge anyone to differ. It is fantastic! The school has abundant resources and I have never been turned down for an order.

I work in the Primary School and being a true International School Review critic that I am, and working for many of the “old boys’ club” members over the years, it is my pleasure to recommend David Tigchelaar as the principal that you would want to work for. Not only is he very knowledgeable on curriculum, but he is fair and honest as the day is long. He doesn’t play favorites and acknowledges hard work and effort where needed. I would work for him in whatever school he is in. A great leader. He empowers others, which is rare in the International school setting.

The staff are very professional, friendly and the package is hard to beat. Housing has been the “bane of everyone existence” for a while now, but new housing regulations have allowed the teachers to move into fabulous apartments.

You may not have heard of this school, but it is not one to miss! Expectations are high, but if you have children, you will be happy they are here. Baku, may not be well known to you now, but in the future the oil and other natural resources will call your attention to here. Again, I can’t recommend any principal higher than David Tigchelaar and for your young child, The Early Years Learning Center.

If you get an offer this year, you better take it!

School Review #4
Azerbaijan is a former Soviet Republic and an important oil producer. Most of the school’s students are children of British Petroleum executives. Baku is a fairly practical place to live. Shopping for food and other necessities is not difficult and people are very hospitable. Traffic, noise and pollution are the drawbacks of living in this city. The positive side is security, this is a very safe place to live. Moderate Islam is the prevailing religious orientation.

Although living in Azerbaijan is interesting, working for International School of Azerbaijan is very stressful. The school is presently experiencing an exodus of an alarming number of its staff. While the teaching staff at this school is highly qualified and experienced the back office staff and the administration are not helpful, and tend to ignore any issues raised by the staff concerning housing and academics.

The school does not respect its contracts. Pay checks and moving allowances are late. Most procedures and decisions at this school involve masses of paper work which are promptly lost or disregarded by the administration.

Rumors circulate that our business manager is getting rich on office supplies and perhaps on housing. In some cases the quality of the apartments offered by the school is truly substandard. Hygiene is also a problem: a fetid smell pervades the primary school and some of the secondary school classrooms.

School Review #3
Baku can be frustrating at times. It is loud and there seems to be more cars on its few roads everyday. The people here aren’t rude, but they’re not that open either. The dress of men can be quite bland, but women tend to go all out. If you like to wear shorts and you are a male, leave them behind or save them for the gym. Shorts on a male is a definite fashion crime here!

The school certainly has its heart in the right place. The school is in the process of expanding once again, and there have been the inevitable growing pains. The Secondary head wants everyone to do well and enjoy their time at the school and will listen to everyone before making a decision. Sometimes this can be a bit frustrating, but at least his heart is in the right place. I feel that the school has been mostly honest with me. Occasionally there are promises made that don’t come through – for example a new bus for teachers, the correct equipment as ordered — but you learn quickly not to expect too much.

If shopping is your desire, then Baku is not for you. Outside of the exquisite carpets, there is little to spend your money on. There are no malls and the brand name stores carry last year’s style at next year’s prices. Best to save up for a shopping excursion to Dubai during a long weekend.

I don’t teach in the Primary wing, but from those who have had dealings with the Primary head, the general consensus is that he is a driven person with a single minded vision. He has a penchant for frequent meetings that don’t seem to accomplish much and this had made more than a few frustrated.

Most of the kids come from BP, as Baku is an oil town. The school is run by BP, and this brings its own frustrations as well as benefits. It is difficult to order supplies as it takes months for things to arrive. BP refuses to pay bribes, so orders often spend weeks in customs.

Corruption is still an issue here, but the gov’t is making a few token gestures to show that it wants things to change. Police no longer pull you over looking for a bribe, but now they have incentive to write more tickets as their wages will go up.

Medical here is minimal at best. There is a German clinic that can do most of the basics, but anything serious is flown to Vienna, Helsinki, or Dubai.

There’s not too much to do here and if you are single, you’ll find it doubly hard. On the other hand, there is a large expat community, and depending on your taste in entertainment, you may find a group or pub to your liking. There are plenty of restaurants that appeal to expat tastes, but they tend to be a little expensive. If you have lower standards, local restaurants can be quite interesting and inexpensive. What is explained in the menu may not always be what comes on your plate! There are no theatres or cinemas in English, but occasionally a large performance that everyone can enjoy is put on at the Republican Palace, ie – Stomp or something similar. There is an excellent jazz festival every year and a plethora of classical music venues.

Baku is not for everyone. Its exoticness wears off quickly and the winters can be cold, but the package is sound and the teaching is good. The students are lovely. Some are high achievers, and some are not.

School Review #2
The International School of Azerbaijan – International School of Azerbaijan – is a preschool to IB 2 International Baccalaureate World School situated on the Caspian Sea in the capital city of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic. The school was originally set up for the children of British Petroleum employees.

Baku, and International School of Azerbaijan, is not a posting for families with children. While most basic consumer goods are available, services of a western standard (such as medical and dental etc.) are lacking. Most housing is substandard. There is no standardization between how flats are provisioned and what is promised is most often not provided. Utility bills (paid by the school) are often paid late, resulting in utilities being cut off. There are no play areas for children. Recent complaints include: insufficient or non-functioning basic household effects, mould, cockroaches, filthy carpeting, water supply and unsafe entries or stairwells.

Traffic, pollution and noise are an issue, since all teacher housing is in the city centre. Driving is extremely hazardous and not recommended for beginners. Traffic regulations are ignored and the local police regularly stop foreigners (easily identifiable by their yellow number plates) in an attempt to extract bribes. While Baku is generally a safe city to live in, there has been a recent sharp increase in crime against foreigners.

International School of Azerbaijan is not a positive work experience. High staff turnover, resource shortages and an administrative and decision making system that is mired down in paperwork and cleverly designed to lead nowhere all lead to an above-average level of frustration and stress. Academic concerns are routinely ignored and very little support is given to teachers, particularly in the secondary school.

Late payment of salaries and delayed (two months or more is not unusual) reimbursement of expenditures and benefits such as moving allowances, airline tickets, R & R allowances and conference expenses are the norm. Most of these have to go through the business manager and office support staff, where suspicions of corruption run rampant.

School Review #1
Very Professional. On top of things. Excellent leadership. A welcome change from a lot of the leadership that is out there!

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