The State of the School Address from Dr. Dodge

By Lindsey Kundel, Director of Communications and Marketing

Dr. Grace Cheng Dodge recently spoke at the Board of Directors Spring General Meeting on April 26, 2022, sharing her reflections on her first year of headship.

She began her speech with an obvious and necessary reflection on the impact of the pandemic on this school year, especially on school operations within the last few weeks. While she says that she hopes that Taiwan soon discovers the best way to live with endemic COVID-19, she knows that it's more challenging than one might think to get used to living alongside a virus. 

"Taiwan has hit the beginning of exponential growth of cases, and more and more of us in this community will be identified as either a close contact or even contract the virus ourselves. Can we handle this?," asked Dodge. "Of course, we can, but I need each and every family’s help in this effort in order to continue to balance every individual's safety with the undeniable power of in-person learning as Taiwan manages to keep schools open as long as possible."

However, the pandemic has not been (nor should it have been) the major focus for the school this year. What has been the focus then? Our students, of course!

"As you know, we put heavy emphasis on ensuring that the whole child thrives under our care – not just academically, but socially, physically, and mentally," said Dodge. "I would say our students have demonstrated great resilience and a growth mindset, something that many parents admitted was a top reason they have chosen TAS over local schools. I am lucky to be able to walk around the campus and see student learning in action. As we have also said for years, learning does not, nor should not, only come in the form of being lectured at and being forced to take notes."  

Dodge says that she is "proud" of the incredible moments of learning and teaching she has witnessed across all divisions. "Disruptions have always accelerated changes and have also provided us the space for reflection. Our days in the building continue to be filled with much action and joy, which is a concept I truly believe students must possess in order to be ready to move on to college, and perhaps more importantly, to live a happy and successful life," said Dodge.

One area of particular importance to student learning is that of high-quality teacher retention. Although there has been a pervasive rumor that TAS has had low teacher retention this year due to the pandemic, Dodge took time to assuage parental concerns in this area. 

"I am happy to report that faculty turnover is low this year, below our pre-COVID average in the double digits," said Dodge. "While we had a low 9% turnover this year, we still recognize that COVID may have something to do with some peer expat schools in Taiwan losing over 45% of their faculty this year," Dodge says she is grateful that TAS has still been able to both retain and recruit high-quality teachers in order to stay true to its mission to equip our students with a love of learning.

Dodge is also proud of the work that two parent groups - the PTA and the TASCC - have done in community building, faculty and staff partnership, and support of both our students and our larger community audience, including parents and alumni.

"Our PTA parents have been a wonderful and critically important partner to us," said Dodge. For example, this year alone, the PTA has helped the school to offer three different styles of dance workshops for each division, a Chinese visiting author and illustrator, several visiting scholars highlighting Taiwanese and Indigenous art and culture, a visiting artist who worked with every student in the lower school, and a diversity and inclusion scholar in residence with us all year. 

The PTA and TASCC also partnered with one another to sponsor the Community Coffee Conversations as part of the PTA grants program. " As the head of school, it is exciting to me to see the powerful learning opportunities we can provide to our ENTIRE community when we band together. The TASCC, although a relatively new presence on our campus, has also been instrumental in helping to create bridges between our current parent community and our alumni community through several additional JEDI-related events this year," said Dodge.

Dodge says that, just like our students are expected to embrace a growth mindset, she, as the school's leader looks forward to continued growth and partnership with parents. "I vow, on behalf of all of TAS, to always communicate with you as parents so that you will always know the school's stance on any issue."

To help better facilitate parent-school communication, Dodge was excited to share two new initiatives she has been working on with the communications office: a newly redesigned parent portal and a new parent email initiative.

"As part of our strategic plan, we have also looked at ways we have been currently communicating with you. We realize, especially for parents with students in all three divisions, you have been inundated with many emails daily that may, unfortunately, get lost or ignored," said Dodge. "Based on the community feedback of hundreds of parents, I am excited to introduce to you two new ways that we believe will streamline and strengthen parent-school communication at TAS: a newly redesigned Parent Zone website and a new once-a-week email digest, The Parent Post."

While she admitted that changing parent communication can be hard - both for the school and for parents - she is excited to bring these changes that will have a direct and positive impact on every member of our community.

For additional information on these two initiatives, please stay tuned for Dr. Dodge's upcoming Head of School Holiday Headlines email to parents. The Parent Zone goes live on April 29, and the first edition of The Parent Post will reach parent inboxes on Friday, May 6.