June 13, 2017
Dear Friends, Members, and Advisors:
We’re very excited to introduce our first newsletter! As our team grows and as we make progress, we have decided that a newsletter is the best way to keep everyone in the loop. So, expect to receive our newsletter regularly, and as always, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, comments or suggestions. And our apologies – today’s newsletter is a little long as we do want to let you know all the details of our recent trip to Switzerland!
As you know, we have been waiting for the Bahamas Investment Authority to approve our proposal. There was recently an election and a new government came into power. With everything that comes with a new government – cabinet shuffle and new ministers being appointed – we are waiting for the dust to settle and hope to obtain the necessary approvals shortly.
Some of our team members recently visited six of the most premier boarding schools in the world, all of which happen to be in Switzerland.
- College du Lèman (“CdL”)
CdL is a large international school situated in Geneva. It has approximately 1,600 students of which 250 are boarders. Most of the students’ parents live and work in Geneva, often with the United Nations. Annual tuition and boarding fees are approximately US$100,000, which does not include additional expenses such as uniforms, books, school trips and other incidentals. CdL is a Nord Anglia school. Even with its high tuition rates, the school was quite basic with limited facilities. The boarding houses were very simple and classrooms were modest. Incidentally, the Head of CdL, Thomas Schadler, was the once the Head of Lyford Cay International School from the years 2000-2005. He has very fond memories of the Bahamas and still has close contacts there.
- Institut de Rosey (“Rosey”)
Rosey has a reputation for being the world’s most expensive boarding school, with annual tuition and boarding fees of US$135,000. Being situated in a small town called Rolle, it has an expansive campus which caters to only about 400 students, from ages 8-18, all of which are boarders. The campus has three swimming pools, several tennis courts and an extensive arts programs. With 26 music teachers and a world-class amphitheater, there is a strong emphasis on the arts. The art rooms are equipped with pottery kilns, three-dimensional printers, and other devices that one would not normally find in a school. For two months of every year, all students, teachers, and staff are transported to Rosey’s winter campus, in the city of Gstaad, located in the Swiss Alps. Students are required to ski 3-4 hours per day. Notwithstanding the expansive facilities, the classrooms and dormitories were quite modest and basic. All rooms were either doubles or triples and sometimes the seniors would get single rooms. Interestingly, when we met with the owner of Rosey, Christophe Gudin, he explained that he has been considering establishing a satellite campus. One of the locations of interest is the Caribbean, in order to offer students a marine biology focus. Mr. Gudin was very receptive to Casa Laxmi’s project and agreed that further discussions were warranted.
- La Garenne
La Garenne is a small school in the mountain village of Villars, in the Swiss Alps. It is a feeder school for the top Swiss schools, including Rosey, Aiglon, and Beau Soleil (discussed further below), as it enrolls students from the ages of 3.5 to 14. Incidentally, it is one of the only boarding schools in the world that accepts boarders at such a young age. The youngest students are cared for by house parents, generally with a ratio of 8:1. There is also a housekeeper who is responsible for washing the students’ clothes, tidying their rooms, and preparing them for the school day. The house parents are also teachers. This model allows the children to create an even stronger bond with their caretakers because they are able to interact with them throughout the day. The headmistress of the school explained to us that generally, the parents that enroll their children at such a young age are those that are always traveling. Instead of being raised by nannies and chauffeurs, they feel that a boarding school will give their children more of a family setting, with stability and a sense community. Oftentimes, parents (usually the mother), will stay in Villars for an extended period to ensure that the child is properly assimilating. They could stay for months, keep their child as a day student, and when the child is comfortable with his surroundings, the child would start boarding.
- Aiglon College
Aiglon is also located in Villars and serves students from the ages of 11-18. It is a non-for-profit school and is run by a Board of Trustees. Tuition and boarding fees per year are approximately US$120,000. The Headmaster, Richard McDonald, has expressed tremendous interest in our project and has agreed to speak to the Board about a possible collaboration. Aiglon prides itself on respect and building character of its students, with a strong charitable component. Unlike the other schools where partial scholarships are available when parents are having unanticipated financial difficulty, Aiglon reserves 20 out of its 360 spots for students on full scholarship. Interestingly, we met four students who were there on scholarship from the Starehe Boys and Girls
Schools in Kenya. One of our founding members, Manu Chandaria, was a co-founder of these schools. Mr. Chandaria’s nephew, Sach Chandaria, was traveling with us and it was truly an honor for him to be introduced to these students who immediately recognized the Chandaria name and had immense gratitude for the opportunity they had been given. Being based in the Swiss Alps, there is a large emphasis on winter sports, such as skiing, mountain climbing, and trekking. The Aga Khan, who owns an estate in the Bahamas, is a big supporter of Aiglon, as his son is an alumnus.
- College Alpin International Beau Soleil (“Beau Soleil”)
Beau Soleil is also located in Villars and is a Nord Anglia school. It was owned by the de Meyer family for three generations until it was recently sold by Jerome de Meyer to Nord Anglia in 2012. Mr. de Meyer was able to turn this school from an average one charging US$35,000 per year, to an elite one which now commands tuition and boarding fees of US$135,000 per year. In 2016, the Daily Telegraph hailed it as “One of the Most Exclusive Schools in the World”. There is a strong philanthropic component to the approach to education at Beau Soleil. Mr. de Meyer found a way to keep students grounded even though some are celebrities, some are royalty, and all are from the upper echelon of society. The philosophy of teaching students that who they are is far more important than what they have is something that resonates throughout the campus. All students are
required to perform social service and charitable work. They are taken on expeditions throughout the world, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, camping in the bushlands of Tanzania, and working in orphanages in India. These humanitarian expeditions are mandatory. Students are required to wear a uniform so that the focus is placed on uniformity and education, not on luxury and material goods. In addition, all students are
permitted to wear wristwatches, but their cost may not exceed $50. These rules, seemingly benign, have been instrumental in shaping the graduates of this school and preparing them for the real world. This is something that we would truly like to emulate at Casa Laxmi. These experiences are ones that attract parents to Beau
Soleil – they are ones that parents could never give to their children. The notion that most of the people in this world do not live in nearly the same luxury as them, is something that is generally lost; Beau Soleil ensures that this is engrained in its students from the outset.
Mr. de Meyer will be discussing the possibility of joining hands with Nord Anglia, with its CEO, Andrew Fitzmaurice, in the coming days. We are very hopeful that an arrangement will be made shortly.
- Institut auf dem Rosenberg (“Rosenberg”)
Rosenberg is a small school of 250 students from Grade 1-12, located east of Zurich on the German side of Switzerland. Nearly all students are boarders, and the school enrolls children as young as the age of 6. Rosenberg was quite luxurious as compared to the other schools we visited. The dormitory rooms were larger, the furniture was more modern and Persian rugs were standard in each room. All of the buildings were mixed use, in that residences, administrative offices and classrooms were all interspersed. This allows for additional oversight so that no building is completely empty at any given time. Interestingly, this school was the only one that did not offer the IB program. It offered five other streams, including the US High School. The reason is that the IB program is quite rigorous and many students were struggling with it. Accordingly, they removed it from the curriculum and with the US High School, students can take the Advanced Placement courses if they need to be challenged. Another interesting note is that many students do not go home for school holidays. This is especially the case when parents are traveling and feel that the children will be better cared for on campus. Accordingly, the school organizes trips for the students during these breaks, which are quite popular. This would be a great model for Casa Laxmi to follow, given that half of its students will not have families to return to.
Mooseheart Child City & School
We visited Mooseheart, which is a residential school in Chicago for children from newborn to age 18 whose parents or guardians are unable to care for them. This would include children whose parents have passed away, are incarcerated, or suffer from mental health issues. It was truly a fascinating experience. We toured their “Baby Village” which houses children under 6. There are 6 houses in this area which each have 4 children. There are two house parents per house and are responsible for raising the children. Mooseheart provided us with a binder on their child care policies – everything from discipline, to praise, to the rewards/consequence system and how to address and respond in certain situations. This information will be invaluable as we devise methods of communicating with, disciplining and raising non-verbal children. Mooseheart also agreed that they would refer our school to parents or guardians as a possible option, assuming that the child otherwise meets the criteria for admission.
Think Global School
We connected with Joann McPike, the founder of Think Global School (“TGS”). TGS is the world’s first traveling high school for students from Grade 9-12. The students visit 4 countries each year, spending 3 months in each. The curriculum is project-based, and the focus is on creative problem-solving. You can read more about TGS at www.thinkglobalschool.org. Joann is from the Bahamas and started the school for her son when none of the boarding schools she visited provided enough of an emphasis on global education. Joann is visiting us later this month, and we’re very excited to host her in Toronto.
New York University
We spoke with Dr. Joshua Aronson who is a developmental psychologist and professor at NYU (http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty/Joshua_Aronson). He has dedicated his research to studying the connection between happiness and learning, and he has come to the conclusion that when children are happy, academics will work themselves out. He has worked with schools in impoverished neighborhoods where children have statistically performed very poorly on standardized testing. In particular, he has taught the children about meditation and mindfulness and changed the school culture to focus on student character development. In doing so, the results of their standardized tests have improved exponentially. Dr. Aronson is very excited to be involved in our school and has invited us to visit one of the schools he has been working with very closely in Maryland.
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