Page 12 - FIS World June 2021
P. 12

Leading Through Crisis
FIS forms a special team to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic
   Members of the FIS Crisis Team during their daily meeting via Zoom. From left: (top row) Paul Fochtman, Constantin Loebus and Karen McEwan; (middle
row) Evelyn Torrealba Sinclair, Alec Aspinwall
and Donna Krekelberg; (bottom
row) Jana Schlichtenberg, Michael Johnston and Karen Wilkinson
When FIS Head of School Paul Fochtman was in graduate school, he took a course called “How to lead a school during war.” The premise was how school leaders should approach various crises, whether within their own school community or the world around them. While the pandemic’s grip on the globe doesn’t literally translate to war, there are certainly elements of the past 16 months that have felt like a never-ending battle. “The pandemic has impacted every single person in our community at the same time,” said Dr. Fochtman. “It’s different than an acute crisis – something that’s sudden and devastating – but it’s a crisis nevertheless because it just keeps coming back. It’s like a marathon.”
Calling upon some of the lessons learned, Dr. Fochtman pulled together a group of inside FIS experts – head nurses from both campuses, and those with oversight for campus safety, security, facilities and communications – and thus, the FIS Crisis Team was formed.
Since March of 2020, the Crisis Team has met every single school day for at least an hour – many times for much longer, and on holidays, weekends or late at night to address urgent concerns or make plans based on new mandates from the German government. The team’s agenda, which now includes three separate Google Docs, is more than 1,000 pages long.
“Early on there were lots of questions as we were trying to understand the pandemic and the disease itself,” said Karen Wilkinson, who serves on the Crisis Team and is also the Administrative Assistant to the Head of School. “Now more of our work revolves around understanding what the health and safety regulations, on both a national and local level, mean for our school.”
Like most of us have experienced during the pandemic, there have been highs and lows for the Crisis Team. “It’s kind of like a heart monitor reading,” said Dr. Fochtman.“You have these high points with kids in class and low infection rates, juxtaposed with big dips where we’re faced with school closures or cancelled activities and an overall sense of loss.”
Despite kids being out for periods of time, we have really maximized learning through all of this.
Finding the right balance has been another challenge for the group. Faced with government restrictions, a responsibility to keep community members as safe as possible, and the general unpredictability of Covid-19, the Crisis Team has had to make difficult decisions. Not all of them have been easy, nor have they always been met with universal approval. But as Dr. Fochtman points out, “Some of our biggest wins have been figuring out how to work within the constraints of government decisions. Despite kids being out for periods of time, we have really maximized learning through all of this.”
As affirmation of the good work the group has done on behalf of the school, the Crisis Team was recently nominated for the Mark E. Ulfers Award, which is given to a member of the FIS community who has shown outstanding leadership. It’s the first time in the award’s 10-year history that a group has been nominated, rather than just an individual. Perhaps fittingly, in the end two of the Crisis Team’s members
– head nurses Karen McEwan and Evelyn Torrealba Sinclair – received the award. While both were nominated separately as individuals, both have been an integral part of the Crisis Team since the beginning.
Despite the intensity of the past 14 months, Ms. Wilkinson says that working as part of the Crisis Team "has been one of the most interesting and valuable things I've done this year.” Nevertheless, as the second pandemic-era school year comes to a close, all members are looking forward to a well- deserved break to relax and recharge, knowing that as a team, they are well prepared for whatever may come.
Ryan Karr
FIS World Writer
10 FIS World June 2021

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