Board Matters

FACT: PERSISTENT RUMOURS AND MISINFORMATION

There has been a number of rumors circulating in our GSIS community that are clearly untrue.  Below, we will address some of the most virulent ones:

  1. The English stream parents want to abolish the German stream” - FALSE

This has been one of the most damaging and persistent rumors in our community and one that is completely unfounded.  In fact, very much the opposite is true: the English stream needs the German stream just as the German stream needs to English stream.  Our Articles also state specifically that the school has to have both a German stream and an “International” stream (Art. 3.2).  The draft amended Articles that were proposed at the December 2019 EGM would have further strengthened this requirement by including the following to the objectives of GSISA:

ensure that in the German Stream of the School, the curricula meet the requirements of the competent authority of the Federal Republic of Germany including the criteria to provide the German International Abitur and to be accredited as a “German School Abroad”. The integration of the German students into the educational system of Germany must always be possible.”

A real threat to GSIS are the declining enrollment numbers in the German stream: over the past 4 years, the number of students in the German stream has dropped by nearly 100 students.  Not only does this place a very significant financial burden on the school, but it also takes away from the learning and social experience of the students who would prefer more classmates.  It is an absolute priority for this Board and for the school’s management team to increase the number of students in the German stream, as we wrote to you in our letter on April 14.

Even more egregious rumors that anyone would want to replace the German stream with a Chinese stream should not be taken seriously.  No one we know aspires for GSIS to become another CIS.  It is exactly the cultural mix of German and European values and traditions with those of Asia that makes GSIS the school we want our children to grow up and learn in and that we are proud of.

  1. The school will change the curriculum in the entire English stream to the IB system” - FALSE

There is absolutely no basis for this claim.  Only Years 12 and 13 follow the IB system while the curriculum in Years 1-11 are based on the British system.  There has never been any discussion about changing that at the school.  Anyone who has concerns about this should contact our Principal, Mr. Weghoff, who would initiate and lead any effort to change the curricula at our school.  As we had promised at the EGM in December last year, we added language to the draft amended Articles proposed under Resolution 1 at the upcoming EGM that remedies the current breach of the Articles (that we teach IB in Years 12 and 13 rather than A-Levels) while confirming the British system for the curriculum in Years 1-11.

  1. The English stream will replace German with Mandarin as the mandatory second language”- FALSE

Simply not true.  Never discussed at the Board and never proposed by the school’s management.  In fact, the draft Articles proposed at the EGM last December specifically added that the English stream would “foster the study of the German language” in Article 1.3.2(c).

  1. “The Association’s membership includes a large number of members who have no affiliation with GSIS.” - FALSE

The breakdown of our membership is as follows:

Parents of current students

1,675

Parents of alumni

241

Alumni

238

Total

2,154

Since late 2018 at least, the Board has only admitted parents of current students at GSIS and alumni as new members.  Our current Articles permit the Board to accept anyone of 21 years or older, regardless of affiliation with GSIS, to become a member of the GSIS Association.  The draft Articles proposed at the EGM last December, if adopted, would have limited new membership to only parents of current students and to alumni.

 

  1. “The German Government will withdraw its support of GSIS.” - FALSE

GSIS’s status as a German School Abroad is determined by the ZfA (the German authority that oversees German schools abroad) based on a set of guidelines.  As a German School Abroad, we are entitled to subsidies, the level of which is also determined by the ZfA.  The draft amended Articles that were voted on by the members at the December 2019 EGM were the product of extensive direct negotiations with the ZfA and were fully supported by them.  The ZfA has given us no indication that our status as a German School Abroad is under threat.  In fact, during calls the Board had with them on May 11 and May 20, they expressed strong support for our school.

  1. “The Board wants to day-to-day manage the School and its curricula” - FALSE

The Board oversees the School and its management but does not run it.  The Board certainly does not get involved in the curriculum.  A major focus of this Board over the past year has been to strengthen the management function and structure of the School.  Hiring a new MD was a critical piece of that.  The purpose of this effort is to put our school in a better position to face today’s challenges of a top private international school and to allow this Board and future Boards to step back more from any day-to-day involvement.  The Board does not consist of educators and neither it should.  That task is left to the School’s highly capable management team and our devoted teachers.

  1. “The Board wants to make GSIS a private for-profit school” - FALSE

This is, of course, entirely impossible.  Our Articles and our lease agreements specifically state that GSIS has to be non-for profit.  The amendments proposed under Resolutions 1 and 2 at the July 6 EGM and our current Articles also contain provisions to that effect.  For example, the GSIS Association cannot distribute profits to its members and if the GSIS Association were wound up for any reason, any net proceeds from such winding up could not be distributed to its members.

Any initiatives to start GSIS branded schools on a private or for-profit bases at any location, such as Shenzhen or Korea, for example, would not be approved by this Board but strongly opposed.

  1. “The Board has obtained 4 opinions on the German Fluency Constraint from 4 different Senior Counsels” - FALSE

The first opinion on the German Fluency Constraint in Art. 47.2 was hastily obtained 2 days before the AGM in March 2019 by the Board under the chairmanship of Mrs. Desiree Jebsen.  Senior Counsel Ashley Burns had been instructed only 2 days earlier.  He considered that, on a fine balance (later explained by Burns SC as “not far from 50-50”), a court would find the German Fluency Constraint not in breach of the Race Discrimination Ordinance (“RDO”).  He also agreed that the constraint falls under the RDO’s definition of racial discrimination (paragraph 44 of his Supplemental Joint Opinion).  This opinion resulted in the uncertainty around the validity of Art. 47.2 because it was “on a fine balance”, i.e. not far from 50%.

In March of this year, partly at the urging of the Education Bureau of Hong Kong to resolve the legal uncertainty around Art 47.2, this Board obtained a second legal opinion, from Mrs. Monica Carss-Frisk QC (“Carss-Frisk QC”).  Carss-Frisk QC is based in London and is an authority in the field of discrimination.  In her opinion, she considers that Articles 47.2, 63 and 68 “involve unlawful race discrimination contrary to” the RDO.  Carss-Frisk QC concludes her opinion by stating:

I consider that Articles 47.2, 63 and 68 of the Articles of Association involve unlawful race discrimination contrary to the RDO.”

Contrary to the opinion by Burns SC, this opinion is not qualified by an “on fine balance” disclaimer.

Apparently, two previous directors obtained their own legal opinions from various Senior Counsels on the issue.  These opinions were not instructed by GSIS, not paid for by GSIS and not shared with the Board.  As a matter of good governance, GSIS can only rely on opinions from Senior Counsels who were instructed and paid for by GSIS.

  1. “Jelmar de Jong’s wife is the puppet master behind him and our MD, Clare Chiu” - FALSE

Jelmar’s wife, Ming, did indeed encourage him to join the Board in the summer of 2017, something she regrets to this day.  Fortunately, her day-time job, 3 kids and a heavy running schedule keep her from minding his business.  Jelmar should take offense at the notion that he would not be his own man but he doesn’t since the allegation is so outlandish.

Until 2010, our MD Clare Chiu worked for a number of years at the same company as Ming.  They worked in different departments and there was no reporting line between them whatsoever.  Clare was hired with the help of a professional executive search firm, led by our Personal Matters Committee.  Jelmar had no role in this process and neither did Ming.  Clare and Ming first met again at the 50th celebrations in Ocean Park.  There is nothing more to this rumor than a coincidence very typical to Hong Kong.