Head of School's Welcome

I had well over a year to anticipate the start of my tenure at Washington International School. It’s a long time to be excited—and yes, perhaps even a bit apprehensive—about settling in to a new place and taking on the responsibility of being WIS’s eighth head of school.

The extended lead time gave me the advantage of getting to know WIS gradually and to learn about the community through others’ stories and experiences. I’ll offer a few impressions of things that have stuck out as being a bit different. You may be intrigued as well.

WIS has a dual identity: it has characteristics typical of Washington, DC independent schools as well as international schools around the world. The international qualities are clearly evident in the curriculum and the origins of our community members, who hail from nearly 100 countries. In terms of business management and the admissions cycle, WIS operates much more like our peer DC schools. And here’s a statistic that may surprise: 38.5% of WIS graduates over the past 10 years are “lifers”—meaning they attended WIS continually from at least Grades 1 through 12. This is not typical of international schools abroad, but it makes our community a fascinating mix of long-term residents and new arrivals.

While my WIS colleagues come from over 30 countries, they have much in common, including their deep belief in the benefits of an international education. They also seem to enjoy their time together. At our Primary School in particular I understand there’s quite a reputation for dancing at social events. I await the opportunity to witness this.... I’ve also learned that Fridays are something to look forward to on the Tregaron Campus, as the day begins with early morning faculty/staff breakfast socials.

Fridays are also the occasion for an amazing show of volunteerism. Each week a small cadre of parents comes together to prepare a grilled lunch, with salads and treats to accompany, for the entire campus. That’s 450 students plus faculty and staff—a tremendous feat on any day, not to mention during inclement weather. And I’m told this is a decades-old tradition.

While we all know parents choose independent schools because they believe their children will receive an exceptional education, it’s undeniable that the nature of the community contributes significantly to the experience. I’ve found this to be true at the schools where I’ve been previously, and I can’t wait to see how the WIS community surprises, challenges, and inspires.

Interested in learning more about Head of School Suzanna Jemsby? CLICK HERE for a video introduction.