New ISR Review


Checking ISR reviews for the American School of Kuwait reveals that a few new ISR reviews have posted for Michael Murphy. Michael was previously the High School Principal, though he is scheduled to move into a new role next year. We have one of the reviews below:

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Some additional comments were left:

Mike is a good ‘ol average guy that, at an expedient pace, has found himself in assistant principal, principal, and apparently soon, superintendent positions. Rather than distinguished professional performance, I believe the uncanny situation is an indication of American School of Kuwait’s desperation to stay alive. Mike’s leadership does improves with each passing year of experience. He seems most comfortable fraternizing with students and I find is awkwardly cold with his faculty. In my opinion, engaging authentically with faculty with authenticity and genuinely nurturing staff morale is his kryptonite. But I think, for ASK to stay afloat, the school will need a proper credentialed, experienced superintendent to intervene and save the day.

We find it interesting that the reviewer only gave one “Good” check, and that was for strong ability to relate to kids. The reviewer then went on to describe this as a weakness in their comments. We’ll post some other administrator reviews, both old and new, over the course of the next few weeks.

Update on Job Vacancies


It looks like the American School of Kuwait has filled a few of the previously open positions. It seems they still have two high school math jobs open and one IT job. It looks like the IT and Math job were added quite recently, so it seems that more people may have resigned or been fired.

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Keep enjoying your summer.


How many schools does Wael operate?


A few years ago, Wael addressed the faculty in the ASK auditorium in order to dispel rumors that he was affiliated with what is now known as AUS (The American United School of Kuwait). At the time of its founding, it was initially called the American University School of Kuwait. This is because of its affiliation with the American University of Kuwait. The name was rejected because it is not a university, and so it was renamed The American United School of Kuwait (keeping similar initials). Here is a photograph showing the original signage.

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A digital mockup from the KIPCO newsletter. (Source)

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So we did some research. Wael is a founding member of the American University School of Kuwait:

“AUK is governed by a 15-member Board of Trustees. The Executive Committee is composed of the three AUK co-founders: Sheikha Dana Nasser Sabah Al-Sabah, Mr. Meshal Ali, and Mr. Wael Abdul-Ghafoor and is particularly active and interacts with the President on a regular basis. It is an impressive Board strongly dedicated to the mission of the institution and well positioned to advance the university’s objectives including the financing of a larger campus. Consistent with Kuwaiti law, which does not have U.S.- styled “nonprofit” corporations, AUK is operated by the United Education Company, a privately held concern owned by the co-founders.”


Wael’s name also comes up in WikiLeaks.

We said WikiLeaks. Here is the source.

This is from a meeting he attended with Shaykha Dana Nasser Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. She is also mentioned in the above quote as a founder of AUK.

“Classified By: Ambassador Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 (b), (d).

1. (C) President of the American University of Kuwait (AUK) Dr. Shafiq Al-Ghabra recently invited the Ambassador to meet the chair of the university’s board of trustees Shaykha Dana Nasser Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, granddaughter of the Prime Minister. Accompanying her at the June 13 meeting were Dr. Al-Ghabra and two other investors/board members/founders of AUK — Wael Abdul Ghafoor (well-known to the Embassy as head of the American School of Kuwait) and Mishaal Al-Ali (a businessman/major AUK investor). Shaykha Dana turned out to be a relaxed, informal interlocutor. She met the Ambassador in her office at the University, dressed informally in western-style slacks and blouse. Now in her mid-thirties, she said that she had spent a year as a student at the University of Indiana, a year she characterized as equivalent to or better than the three years she spent at Kuwait University. She was dismissive of the quality of education provided currently at Kuwait University and clearly delighted to be leading a private effort to supply a U.S.-style liberal arts education. She and her associates commented on the difference in student behavior at AUK when compared to public institutions. For example, students are much more likely to stay around the campus and socialize after hours. They are more open to discussion, and gender barriers are greatly reduced. During the discussion with the Ambassador, Shaykha Dana and her partners talked about plans for a military academy (for troubled students) that they were considering placing on Failaka Island and indicated an interest in pursuing private options for a special needs school. Dr. Al-Ghabra told the Ambassador later that Shaykha Dana does not get involved in the day-to-day operations of AUK. He meets with her for about an hour a week and briefs her on major financial issues. She also takes an interest in building projects and campus expansion plans.”

We know that both AUK and AUS are owned by the United Education Company (UEC). We can find proof of this in the following photographs (Source 1 | Source 2):

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Given that ASK has transitioned from referring to Wael Abdul Ghafoor as the “owner” to “Chairman and CEO,” we wonder if ASK is owned by United Education Company, as well?

Well, it turns out that Wael is a board member of Al Rayan Holding Company. Al Rayan Holding Company owns the following schools in Kuwait (Source):

  1. International British School
  2. Kuwait International English School
  3. New Pakistan International School
  4. Fahaheel Al Watanieh Indian Private School

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Al Rayan Holding Company is 82% owned by, United Education Company. So Wael Abdul Ghafoor is on the Board of Trustees of a company that owns 4 competitors to school. That company, is in turn, owned by another school that owns a direct competitor – the American United School of Kuwait.

This is important. This shows that Wael is actively invested in direct competitors with ASK. This is a gigantic conflict of interest, and it leads to a lot of speculation about the current state of affairs at the school. We have previously encouraged transparency from the school. We would like to reiterate this encouragement – transparency is the key to increased morale and the improvement of outcomes at the American School of Kuwait.


Well… it’s the last day. Only a few more hours (as of posting) until you can go home, (pack) and go to the airport. For some of you, this will be your last time at the Kuwait airport (the worst airport in the world). We here at American School of Kuwait Reviews are hoping that all of you make it to international airspace as quickly as possible. We particularly hope that you enjoy the traditional beer and bacon breakfast shared by many staff members upon reaching the airport in Frankfurt.


Oh… wait.. we meant to post this instead. We’re sure you’ll also enjoy the airport in Doha just as much.


Safe travels, everybody.

International Schools Review


International Schools Review (ISR) is an invaluable resource. We have previously previewed some of their articles (link), but we have had many teachers contact us to ask what we thought of particular reviews – either general reviews or reviews or particular administrators. Some administrators have more reviews than others. We at the American School of Kuwait Reviews feel like ISR is a much more valuable resource when a large number of reviews are available from multiple viewpoints, showing both positive and negative aspects of a school or administrator.

We want to take this time to encourage all teachers that are leaving ASK to complete a review. Rather than leaving a school review first, though, we ask you to first leave reviews of your administrators. We ask this because many administrators lack a significant number of reviews.

Posting to ISR is free.

Posting to ISR does not require that you sign up for an account.

You can submit a director-level review to ISR here.

You ca submit a review of other administrators here.

You can submit a school review to ISR here.

The image below shows the current state of administrator reviews:

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Let’s show a breakdown only with current administrators. We will break down the reviews into groups. First, the school-wide superintendent and director positions:


Title # of Reviews

Wael Abdul Ghafoor

Chairman and CEO 1

Becky Ness

Superintendent 0

Scott Dennison

Superintendent of Learning


Phillip Parkinson Activities and Athletics Director


Abhay Dhanak Director of Technology


It seems incredible that the Superintendent of the school has no reviews. Now, let’s move on to the high school:


Title # of Reviews

Michael Murphy

High School Principal


Monique Livesy

High School Assistant Principal 0
Justin Hazel High School Assistant Principal


The assistant principals are both in their first year, so we expect to see some reviews show up soon. Michael Murphy has been in his position for a few years now, though, so we encourage past faculty and current faculty that are leaving this year to leave a review. Now, we move on to the middle school:


Title # of Reviews

Nancy Abdul Ghafor

Middle School Principal 1
Tim Allen Middle School Assistant Principal


Note – we spelled the names using the spelling from ISR – we are not sure that they are correct. The middle school administration has also been around awhile, so we hope past and current faculty will leave reviews. Remember, many people only leave reviews when they are unhappy. For the reviews on this site to be valuable, they need to reflect all different perspectives – it is possible for these to also show someone in a positive light. This could potentially boost their prospects when they recruit in the future as well. If you asked these people to leave reviews for you, then it is basically a professional courtesy to do the same for them. Let’s move on to the elementary school:


Title # of Reviews

Steve Caley

Elementary School Principal 1
Pauline Roberts Elementary School Assistant Principal


Ana Allen

Elementary School Assistant Principal


The elementary school principal has been around quite awhile, occupying a director level position that no longer exists before he became principal, so it is quite surprising to see that he only has one review.

In summary, we implore you to leave reviews of all of your administrators, whether the review be positive, negative, or mixed. We also hope that you will leave a full review of the school. Remember that the school is currently recruiting for about 6 teaching positions, so your timely reviews could possibly influence whether someone can make an informed decision about accepting a contract at ASK.

This is our last big post before summer vacation. We do not intend to post during the summer unless we receive news that is substantial enough to warrant doing so. We will post a few smaller pieces tomorrow to celebrate the last day of school and then the freedom flight (Qantas – Going Places Together – as long as those places aren’t an extended stopover in Europe). We look forward to posting much more when the 2018-2019 school year commences. In the meantime, we hope that all of you have a relaxing, and enjoyable summer.

Seal your windows

A friendly reminder to seal your windows if you’re returning to the same apartment next year – you don’t want to show up with dust everywhere just because there are gaps in your windows.





























S40 should be fine, don’t worry about that one.

Absentee Leadership


We came across an article from the Harvard Business Review discussing incompetent leadership. It included a segment on absentee leadership. With administrators that never seem to step into classrooms, even when they are supposed to for formal observations, and a superintendent who isn’t even at the school for half of the year, it seemed appropriate to include the article here.

Below is an excerpt, followed by a link to the full article:

Absentee leadership rarely comes up in today’s leadership or business literature, but research shows that it is the most common form of incompetent leadership.

Absentee leaders are people in leadership roles who are psychologically absent from them. They were promoted into management, and enjoy the privileges and rewards of a leadership role, but avoid meaningful involvement with their teams. Absentee leadership resembles the concept of rent-seeking in economics — taking value out of an organization without putting value in. As such, they represent a special case of laissez-faire leadership, but one that is distinguished by its destructiveness.

Having a boss who lets you do as you please may sound ideal, especially if you are being bullied and micromanaged by your current boss. However, a 2015 survey of 1,000 working adults showed that eight of the top nine complaints about leaders concerned behaviors that were absent; employees were most concerned about what their bosses didn’t do. Clearly, from the employee’s perspective, absentee leadership is a significant problem, and it is even more troublesome than other, more overt forms of bad leadership.

Research shows that being ignored by one’s boss is more alienating than being treated poorly. The impact of absentee leadership on job satisfaction outlasts the impact of both constructive and overtly destructive forms of leadership. Constructive leadership immediately improves job satisfaction, but the effects dwindle quickly. Destructive leadership immediately degrades job satisfaction, but the effects dissipate after about six months. In contrast, the impact of absentee leadership takes longer to appear, but it degrades subordinates’ job satisfaction for at least two years. It also is related to a number of other negative outcomes for employees, like role ambiguityhealth complaints, and increased bullying from team members. Absentee leadership creates employee stress, which can lead to poor employee health outcomes and talent drain, which then impact an organization’s bottom line.

If absentee leadership is so destructive, why don’t we read more about it in the business literature? Consider a story I recently heard about the dean of a well-known law school: Two senior, well-regarded faculty members called the provost to complain about their dean because, they said, he wouldn’t do anything. The provost responded by saying that he had a dean who was a drunk, a dean who was accused of sexual harassment, and a dean who was accused of misusing funds, but the law school dean never caused him any problems. So, the provost said, the faculty members would just have to deal with their dean.

Like the provost in this example, many organizations don’t confront absentee leaders because they have other managers whose behavior is more overtly destructive. Because absentee leaders don’t actively make trouble, their negative impact on organizations can be difficult to detect, and when it is detected, it often is considered a low-priority problem. Thus, absentee leaders are often silent organization killers. Left unchecked, absentee leaders clog an organization’s succession arteries, blocking potentially more effective people from moving into important roles while adding little to productivity. Absentee leaders rarely engage in unforgivable bouts of bad behavior, and are rarely the subject of ethics investigations resulting from employee hotline calls. As a result, their negative effect on organizations accumulates over time, largely unchecked.

You can read the full article by clicking here.