On Wednesday May 20th, members of the GSIS alumni community were invited to join a virtual Alumni Town Hall held by Roland Müksch, Chairman of the Boards of GSIS and Association Board members Sarah Heller (Head of Alumni Taskforce) and Ernest Ip (Head of Parents’ Committee); Suzannah Denness (Head of Advancement), Ulrich Weghoff (Principal) and Clare Chiu (Managing Director) and Gene Soo, leader of the GSIS Class Reps system for an opportunity to learn about recent developments at the school and engage in a Q&A with the board members and other panelists.
The presentation covered a series of topics in which participants expressed interest when registering for the event, including:
- GSIS Engage Platform + Future Events
- Class Reps System
- Association Article Changes
- Swiss Involvement at the School
- Business College
- GSIS Admissions
- Christmas Bazaar
Sarah Heller, class of ’06, opened the meeting with a quick introduction, thanking those in attendance (over 45 at the meeting’s peak) for their time and interest in helping rebuild the community. She acknowledged that the board and management are aware that there are many issues dividing the GSIS community and emphasized that the board is actively trying to provide more opportunities for members to learn about and understand the latest developments and decisions at the school and provide feedback.
To access the complete presentation PDF, please see below:
To view the Town Hall video, please see below:
GSIS Engage Platform + Future Events
Head of Advancement Suzannah Denness presented on the GSIS Engage platform, recognising the challenges that the Advancement team has encountered in trying to reconnect with alumni, including an outdated database and many years of lack of strategy and engagement. She introduced the various features of Engage, including the ability to post events and allow others to sign up, the ability to publish news stories and reconnect with old classmates. Finally, she shared the calendar of upcoming events including a Networking Breakfast (September 4th) and the Annual Alumni Reception (November 27th), encouraging Town Hall participants to consider signing up.
GSIS Class Reps System
Gene Soo, class of ’96, then presented the re-booted Class Reps system that he is spearheading with the mission to bring together the GSIS Alumni Community by facilitating accurate and timely communication between the school and alumni, many of whom are not captured by official school channels. Gene noted that many alumni are still connected to each other informally through WhatsApp groups and similar networks. The system capitalises on these by assigning a few people per year group to be in charge of forwarding messages from the central Class Reps WhatsApp group to their former classmates.
Association Article Changes
Roland Müksch then gave short presentations on the complex challenges currently facing the school. Starting with the Association Articles changes, Roland outlined the three year history of the Board’s attempt to remove article 47.2 of its Articles of Association to reflect the will of the majority of Association members (the December 2019 vote was 68% in favour of removing the article); the legal challenges that have arisen and the application to the High Court to rule on the article’s validity. It was also noted that other article changes are required imminently by the Education Bureau (EDB) and Companies Ordinance.
Swiss Government Involvement in the School
Continuing with a discussion on the Swiss government involvement at the school, Roland gave a brief history of the Swiss’ support for the school since its founding and outlined the government’s concerns, both longstanding worries about a lack of Swissness at the school and more specific concerns following the 2019 AGM around non German-speaking board members’ election and the use of proxies. He then explained each of the five requirements and the school’s compliance with each, noting that the Swiss government’s position was that all five had to be met in order to retain Swiss government subsidies.
He further explained the current state of affairs, with association members having voted against the requirements and the Swiss government’s decision to leave the school. He concluded with the strategic objectives of the Swiss Taskforce, formed before the Swiss departure, explaining how more Swiss cultural values and character will be introduced at the school and attempts will be made to re-engage with the government.
The next topic was the Business College (BC), which Roland explained has been operated by GSIS under a contract with GIC (German Industry and Commerce Ltd) since 1984. He further explained that the HKEDB’s ordered the school to stop operating the BC due to its lack of appropriate licensing, noting that EDB’s concerns about the BC predate the current board and the importance of maintaining a good relationship with the EDB (on whom the school depends for its licenses and campuses). He concluded by noting that the school has worked with BC students and the EDB to find an alternative location and service provider for the BC, which will no longer operate as part of GSIS.
Finally, Roland gave a brief overview of GSIS’ English International Stream admissions policies as they apply to alumni. Note was made of the shift in admissions testing from internal testing and interviewing to a combination of Tier 1 externally set tests (CAT4) and Tier 2 internal testing and interviewing. While alumni children previously received priority for invitations for admissions, from 2020 onwards all applicants are invited to test at Tier 1. The alumni priority’s main effect is after each round of testing, when alumni priority applicants who are above or close to the threshold are preferentially accepted above even the top-performing non-priority applicants.
The final presentation was delivered by Ernest Ip, head of the Parents’ Committee, who explained the Parents’ Committee’s 2019 decision not to organise a Christmas Bazaar concurrent with the 50th anniversary celebrations based on feedback from the parent community about the amount of work involved and the pressure to spend while at the event. Ernest announced that the Parents’ Committee has renewed its commitment to organising a Christmas Bazaar in 2020 (November 28th) and invited alumni to consider joining the organising committee or running or helping run a stall.
The floor was then opened for questions and answers, which can be viewed in the Alumni Town Hall Recording starting at minute 43:00