Board Matters

FACT: RESOLUTION 4

Summary:

  • The amendments proposed by the Requisitionists are designed to place control of GSIS in the hands of a small group of vested German interests in Hong Kong
  • Splitting the Board in German and English stream representatives will institutionalize division and could end up being the first step in splitting up the school
  • The proposal would not allow the alumni members to vote; this is undemocratic and counterproductive for a school that cares about perpetuating its reputation, culture and support network
  • Resolution 4 at the EGM transfers control of the Board’s election process to the Board at the expense of the members
  • These proposals do NOT reflect requirements of the ZfA, the German regulator, but only those of a small group of entrenched German interests in Hong Kong
  1. The Requisitionists, in new articles 50.1 and 50.2, propose that:
    • The Board includes an equal number of “German Stream Representatives” and “English Stream Representatives”, elected separately by the parents in the corresponding streams;
    • These “Representatives” would not need to comply with any language requirement but would need to declare their fluency in German and English when standing for election
    • Only parents would be allowed to vote for these “Representatives”, not alumni or other non-parent members
    • The Chairperson, who would not be one of the “Representatives”, needs to be fluent in both written and spoken German and English
    • The German and Swiss consulates would appoint additional directors
    • Any vacancies arising on the Board during the year can only be filled by members fluent in written and spoken German
    • The Board itself would be authorized to create rules (by-laws) for the election process
  2. The proposed amendments are both objectionable and unworkable for a number of reasons:
    1. It aims to put control of GSIS in the hands of a small minority of parents at the school. Fifty percent of the German Stream parents could elect half of the directors plus the Chairperson who would need to be fluent in both written and spoken German.  Decision making at the Board could be controlled by this group of directors.  Fifty percent of the German Stream parents currently would constitute about 1/7 of all parents, i.e. 1/7 of all parents could control the school.  In reality, the number of parents needed to control voting in the German Stream will be even much smaller than that.  This is neither democratic, fair nor good governance.
    2. Directors appointed by the German and/or Swiss consulates would only add to the voting majority or the German Stream “Representatives”.
    3. Why could vacancies only be filled by fluent German speakers? Our current Articles don’t even require this.  This could still be in breach of the Race Discrimination Ordinance.
    4. Splitting the Board in two blocks of representatives for the Streams will institutionalize division on the Board. Rather than having directors who look to serve the entire school and membership, we would have directors who prioritize the interests of their respective constituencies.  It is difficult to see how this will help unite the community at GSIS.  At worst, this may end up being the first step towards splitting GSIS into two separate schools, which would be a tragic outcome.
    5. Requiring the Chairperson to be fluent in German doesn’t address one of the main issues that we are trying to solve: the removal of discrimination from our Articles. This provision will likely be challenged by members again in the near future, resulting in more division and legal costs for GSIS.  Please note that the Chairperson of the German school in Singapore, GESS, does not speak German.  We almost certainly have more Cantonese speakers than German speakers among our parents and our lead regulator is the Education Bureau of Hong Kong, yet no one suggests that the Chairperson must speak Cantonese.
    6. The proposed resolution entirely disenfranchises alumni members, who would not be able to vote in the election of Directors. The resolution stipulates that only parents at the school can vote for Directors from the two streams.  Separate from the fact that this is highly objectionable, it is also likely to be challenged in Court by disenfranchised members. This resolution appears to have been designed specifically to place control of GSIS in the hands of a small group of people at the expense of everyone else.
    7. The notion that the proposed amendment is necessary to ensure that GSIS retains its status as a German School Abroad is a blatant fabrication. It is the ZfA who determines whether we retain such status and the ZfA unequivocally and enthusiastically supported the draft amended Articles that were voted on at the EGM in December 2019 (the “December Draft Articles”).  The December Draft Articles in Art. 1.3.2(b) specifically state that an objective of the Association is to“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.”
    8. Possibly most importantly, it appears that by granting the Board powers to create rules for its own election process, any future Board may use that power to retain control of GSIS. Can the by-laws state, for example, that all candidates first need to be approved by the Board?  Or that the German Chamber of Commerce gets a Board seat?  Or that a number of independent directors need to be on the Board, to be elected from candidates nominated by the Board?
  3. The resolution proposed by the Requisitionists (Resolution 4 at the EGM) appears designed to place control of our School back in the hands of a small group of vested German interests in Hong Kong. It cannot be in the interest of an international private school of GSIS’s standing to be governed by such a group.
  4. It is disturbing that the Requisitionists, in their effort to put control of our school in the hands of a few, resort to rumor milling and fear mongering so easily. The notion that English Stream parents would somehow want to diminish or abolish the German Stream is completely unfounded.  In fact, such fears appear to have been fomented by the very same people who are now looking to take control of GSIS.
  5. At a “spring reception” at the Goethe Institute in Hong Kong on March 5, 2018, to which only parents of the German stream had been invited, the then acting Consul General made a rousing speech in which he claimed that the German stream was under threat from the English stream and urged parents to vote for candidates from the German stream at the then upcoming AGM. The then Chairperson of the Board Mrs. Jebsen characterized the speech as a “call to arms” hurtful to the school.
  6. To dispel any doubts, this Board views the good health of our German stream of critical importance for the continued success of GSIS as we know it and as we like it. One of our main priorities has been to reverse the steady decline in the number of students in the German stream.  We established a task force to address this and worked with the Senior Management Team to make improvements to the German stream curriculum to attract more students.  The Fast Track program, the bi-lingual kindergarten and extending mandarin teaching into the upper years of GSD are only a few examples of this Board’s efforts in that regard.