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Leader in Excellence

Leader in Excellence

For more than 50 years, Frankfurt International School has been offering A World of Opportunities for its students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni to celebrate. Following in that long tradition, FIS recently celebrated Head of School Dr. Paul Fochtman being named 2018 Superintendent of the Year by the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE).

The award is a tremendous honor for any head of school, but particularly so when it comes as a surprise. “I was sitting in the FIS Auditorium before a middle school concert when an email came through that said I’d won,” said Dr. Fochtman. “It was the perfect place to receive the news – at my own school and surrounded by our community.”    
In 2009, FIS was fortunate to receive Dr. Fochtman’s Curriculum Vitae among a handful of others for the position of Head of School. “We heavily recruited Dr. Fochtman because he had established a reputation as one of the strongest leaders among all international schools,” said Board of Trustees Chair, Jonathan Clenshaw. “I can say unequivocally that he has exceeded our expectations and has led FIS through what may be the most transformational period of our school’s history.”

That transformational period was one of the many qualifiers that led the AAIE to select Dr. Fochtman for the award, which until now has largely been given to those nearing retirement; Dr. Fochtman is the youngest recipient of the award to date.

Over the past eight years, significant changes have taken place at FIS, both in terms of its facilities and its scope of educational offerings. From state-of-the art classrooms and science labs, to new athletic fields and the impressive Stroth Center, Dr. Fochtman has led the charge in bringing the physical landscape of the school to a new level of excellence – along the way, seeking feedback and consensus from all members of the community.

But changes to the school’s facilities are just part of it. Dr. Fochtman’s commitment to remaining ahead of the curve has helped bring innovative technology and teaching methods into the fold, enabling faculty, staff and students to grow both as teachers and learners – and allowing FIS itself to grow in stature as a leader among international schools around the world. In the coming year, additional enhancements to the school’s services and programs will propel FIS even further. 

Evaluating the merits of any potential Superintendent of the Year Award recipient requires looking at the tangible accomplishments of a school leader. But an equally important factor – if not more so – is uncovering the meaningful impacts they have made through personal connections within their school’s community. From First Steps classrooms to the boardroom, Dr. Fochtman has accomplished this exceedingly well. His visibility, interest and engagement with each and every member of the school’s community all speak to the deep commitment   he has not only to FIS as an educational institution, but to education itself. 

During his acceptance of the Superintendent of the Year Award in New York, Dr. Fochtman delivered a 30-minute speech* to other school leaders. He outlined three educational challenges he sees as paramount, to ensure the best possible future for our children — and our world:

Build Bridges by implementing a curriculum and culture of learning that ensures our students mature into individuals who can heal the divisions that continue to splinter our world; 
Raise Voices for our children so that they, too, may find the confidence and courage to speak out and pursue the truths they need to fully live their lives; 
Plant Seeds by constantly seeking, mentoring and sending forth those who will effect positive change in whatever they do and wherever they go. This last point, Dr. Fochtman noted, applied not only to students, but to all those who make up the fabric of a school.

Although the award is certainly a highlight in Dr. Fochtman’s career, the accomplishments that helped him earn don’t just belong to him. “This really is an award for our community and I feel privileged to work at a school that so highly values all of the experiences connected to learning,” he said. “With that mindset, anything is possible.” TheThat excitement and optimistic outlook for all that is possible is what makes schools – and in this case, their leaders – exceptional. And that is certainly something to celebrate. 

*A version of Dr. Fochtman’s full speech will be posted to his blog ( in the coming weeks.

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