The Whole World in the Heart of Tucson

September 15, 2016

At least half of the 35+ employees of the International School of Tucson (IST) are from countries other than the U.S. and many more are well traveled.

For example, IST Business Manager Kellie Zwickl and her family enjoyed living in Germany and traveling extensively across Europe. She and her husband wanted their children to continue their German studies when he retired from the Air Force, so she was pleased to discover IST a few years ago.

Head of School William Arthur, B.Sc Hons, PGCE, was born in Ghana, grew up in Great Britain, and boasts passport stamps from visiting 54 different countries. He is an experienced teacher and school leader with a resume that includes work in multicultural schools in the United Kingdom, Middle East and West Africa.

William is heading into his fourth year of leading the school, which he and his team have transformed. Not only is the financial stability of the school much improved, they’ve added a 6th grade class, three toddler classrooms and an infant room. The team also was delighted with recent recognition as the Confucius Classroom of the Year, which makes it one of the best Chinese immersion schools in the United States, and IST now boasts international accreditation.

Children who attend the school are immersed in five languages—English, Chinese, German, French and Spanish—but it’s not just language immersion that makes a school an international school. “The school has to have international accreditation,” according to William, who shepherded IST through the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) accreditation.

CIE is a provider of international education programs and qualifications for five-19 year olds, and part of the University of Cambridge. CIE accreditation gives this Tucson school access to CIE syllabuses and assessments, training and resources to administer CIE exams, regular support from Cambridge, and opportunities to exchange best practices and experiences with 10,000 schools in 160 countries.

The recently graduated 5th grade students took CIE examinations for the first time this year and did “remarkably well, especially in science,” according to William, who is understandably proud of their accomplishments. With undergraduate and graduate degrees are in the biological sciences, William will be teaching the new 6th grade science class in addition to his continuing leadership responsibilities.

How NPLF Helped

Head of School William Arthur contacted NPLF because the school needed bridge funding. When he heard “This is our specialty. We will help you make the school bankable,” he knew NPLF was the right resource at the right time.

This year, the school has applied for its third loan from NPLF, all of which have helped bridge cash flow from the end of one school year to the beginning of the next when tuition revenue flows in.

“NPLF works quickly and is non-judgmental,” said William. “We had challenges when we applied for our first loan but NPLF was willing to take the risk and work with us. Our latest loan was approved easily thanks to the school’s terrific financial turnaround.” He also appreciates that NPLF staff and board are so responsive and have made the process so easy.

Kathie Barnes, J.D., Ph.D., championed the NPLF idea when William presented it to the school’s board of directors, which she chaired until June, 2016. “It’s hard to be an upstart nonprofit and get credit. NPLF has been a godsend to the school and made cash flow so much easier to manage,” says Kathie, who is Associate Dean for Programs and Innovation at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona.