Low Morale Lowers Further

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A few weeks ago, administration notified teachers that we would be switching our airline from Lufthansa to Qatar. On its face, this may seem like a neutral switch. If it were a change for the following school year, it would be. But the timing of the switch and the way in which it communicated has only helped to sink morale to new lows at ASK. This post will examine some of the effects of the airline change.

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There go the frequent flier miles you saved with Lufthansa.

Side Trips

For many years now, ASK teachers have been able to take advantage of the fact that Lufthansa flights had layovers in Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt is a giant hub and it is quite inexpensive to fly to other locations in Europe from Frankfurt. In addition, Lufthansa allows for “side trips” or extended layovers. This means that your trip from Kuwait to home can have a layover in Frankfurt that lasts for many days. During this layover, teachers would book a roundtrip flight from Frankfurt to the European destination of their choice. Upon returning to Frankfurt, they would collect and recheck their baggage and resume their original itinerary home.

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Because stopping over in Qatar will be just as enjoyable as Europe. Same same, habibi.

Many teachers have already booked their side trips, including flights and hotels, for their summer trips home this year. This is because the original form that was sent by school indicated that side trips were still allowed. Now that the airline has been changed, the school has been faced with whether or not to allow some people to use Lufthansa so they can have a side trip they already booked against allowing teachers who had not yet booked to do so as well. Teachers have had to individually meet with Becky in order to plead their case to still use Lufthansa, and have had to show paperwork that they had already booked travel arrangements.

Pets

Many teachers have cats or dogs that they take home each summer. Lufthansa had rules similar to most western airlines and allowed travel, both in-cabin and in cargo, for prices that were competitive with other European and North American Airlines. Qatar, on the other hand, does not allow cats or many breeds of dogs in the cabin.

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Why do so many of the pages in the information brochure they sent to teachers talk about amenities for first and business class passengers? Is ASK going to suddenly start buying us tickets for these classes?

From May to October, they are prohibited from flying in cargo, as well, unless they are placed in a special kennel which runs for about 500 KD (1,666 US Dollars as of today). This is exorbitant and many teachers can’t afford it. Many of these teachers came to ASK with pets and clearly asked about their ability to travel with pets home each summer before accepting contracts with ASK only to have the rugs pulled out from underneath them.

Canadians

If you’re Canadian, you should expect to have much longer travel times home when compared with Lufthansa, as well as a greater number of layovers. We can only imagine being a Canadian family with children and having to take an already stressful trip and make it longer and more stressful.

The Conclusion

The way that this change was handled is very much standard operating procedure for changes at ASK. A similar change was made many years ago when ASK changed medical insurance mid year. The new insurance coverage was worse (because it was less expensive). The overall coverage amounts were lower, including coverage for maternity and chronic conditions. Many claims were being denied for treatments that had been approved under the previous insurer. Maternity coverage went from 100% to 50% and several teachers who were pregnant found themselves immediately changing from having their care paid for to having to pay for half of each test or appointment. The school immediately said that they would, for the remainder of that year, cover in cash the difference between the previous insurance and the new insurance. Unfortunately, they only did this in some cases, and we are aware of multiple people that did not receive the money they were promised. Some people were hired with medical conditions and told that they were covered, only to arrive to Kuwait and find that they were not. There are reports that the superintendent suggested to these people that they volunteer to sponsor more extracurricular activities so that they could pay for their medical care with the extracurricular stipend that they would receive.

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Another amenity that we won’t be getting.

A mathematical analysis of Lufthansa vs Qatar:

It is cheaper to fly Qatar than Lufthansa. But the layovers are longer. If you are flying to Canada, then you’re really in trouble, because Qatar will fly you into JFK and then make you bus to LaGuardia for your outbound flight. Returning to Kuwait, you’ll do the same airport switch in reverse. Fun. Here are some numbers:

Kuwait – Toronto Round Trip (June 8 to August 27)

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While Lufthansa and Qatar both have 2 outbound layovers, Qatar makes you switch airports, so there is no tie here. Lufthansa is going to save you 4 hours and 30 minutes and a bus ride through New York City.

Kuwait – Chicago Round Trip (June 8 to August 27)

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While both airlines tie on the number of layovers, Lufthansa is the clear winner in the duration. The layovers are incredibly shorter with Lufthansa, and you’ll be traveling for 10 hours and 25 minutes less time, as well. If you have children or if you have to make a third flight after Chicago, then the time differences will really be important to you.

ASK gives you the option to take cash for your flights. They usually will not tell you how much cash you get until after the deadline to choose whether you’re taking cash or letting the school book your flights. However, in practice, if you wait till the last minute and apply some pressure, you can usually get the cash price. This year, teachers have been told that they can have cash equivalent to 175 KD if they don’t want to take the Qatar flights. Looking at the prices above, it is clear that 175 KD is not going to come anywhere close to paying for a flight, so you’d lose enormous amounts of money taking the cash option to book yourself.

The final conclusion here is that if you are considering a contract at ASK, you should know that many of the benefits they offer you are subject to change, at any time, with no prior notice. There is also very little transparency in how decisions are made. While ASK will offer a cash amount to “reimburse” you, don’t expect it to actually cover the needed amount. Remember that the school is run as a for profit business and that the priority is the bottom line, not staff morale. When recruiting, whether you are now considering an offer from ASK or you are a current ASK teacher considering going elsewhere, an important aspect to look for is transparency. The best schools provide extensive details about their policies on their website – salary scale, insurance details, flight reimbursement amounts and policies. Look for schools that are transparent in these ways and more, and hopefully you can avoid a few more headaches in your future.

worthdemotivator

ASK Pays Less Than Other Schools

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It is well known that ASK does not pay as much as other schools in Kuwait. 10 years ago, when ASK had a better reputation, teachers would regularly take pay cuts of 100-200 KD monthly (300-600 USD) to come to ASK because it was a better school. Lately, however, the trend is that of teachers leaving ASK to go to other schools – getting a pay raise and a job that they enjoy more.

So, how much more can you make at other schools in Kuwait? Today we will look at the pay at the newest American school in Kuwait – the American United School of Kuwait (AUS). We should note that there are rumors that Wael, the CEO of ASK, has a conflicting ownership stake in AUS. These rumors have some bite, but we are unable to substantiate them at this time. If you can provide proof of these rumors, please contact us.

Below is the salary scale for teachers at AUS:

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Note – To protect the privacy of the teachers that shared this document, we have retyped it and changed the format a bit.

AUS increases by 4.5% each year, for all 30 years. ASK increases by an astonishingly low 0.6% in Year 0, and every year after has a smaller percentage increase.

We created some graphs to show how large the pay gap gets:

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Unlike teachers with a Bachelors degree, these teachers begin making more money at AUSK on day 1. By the end of 30 years, the teachers are earning almost double. Below is a graph showing your lifetime earnings difference. Note that this graph is in US Dollars, where the previous graphs have been in Kuwaiti Dinars.

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A teacher who works at AUSK (with a Masters degree) for 30 years will earn at least $214,000 more than a teacher who does the same at ASK.  AUS – A better choice indeed.

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ASK’s Illegal Contract

As part of the ASK contract, teachers sign and agree to the following:

ASK Contract

The first sentence has been emphasized by administration at the school to mean that you cannot tutor or accept any other positions of employment while living in Kuwait. It is difficult to say how widely this is enforced, as many teachers tutor, some boosting their salary quite significantly. Even the secondary principal tutors (and plays golf with students). This is a significant conflict of interest, even though it is widely known amongst the faculty to be occurring. This part of the contract is legal – in fact – it is Kuwaiti labor law.

The second part of the statement says that you may not work for another school in Kuwait for 2 years after leaving ASK.

To be clear – this is illegal, and clearly violates Kuwaiti labor law. If you are a teacher who has accepted a contract at ASK or are considering doing so, I strongly suggest that you inquire about this part of the contract and request that it be removed.  While some teachers have successfully negotiated with ASK to be permitted to transfer to a different school at the conclusion of their contract, many have not.

Mahboula – The Mad Area

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Mahboula is the neighborhood where all ASK teachers live. Below is a collection of articles from the Kuwait Times about Mahboula. It is not uncommon for crimes such as prostitution, rape, or stalking to occur in Mahboula. In fact, teachers in the past have been victims of crimes, including an attempted abduction of a teacher and their child. A British teacher from a different school that lived a few doors down was raped after a delivery man forced their way into her apartment. It is also common for police to set up traffic stops at all of the entrances to the neighborhood, looking for people without proper visas. These are usually expatriate workers from the Indian subcontinent; however there are several teachers at ASK hired each year without a proper visa and they must be extra cautious to avoid being stopped.

Mahboula Raid Nets 1023 Violators

More than 200 Arrested in Mahboula Crackdown

Two Romanian Prostitutes Arrested in Mahboula

Mahboula – The Mad Area

1,527 Arrested in Mahboula Raid (Updated: Link fixed)

Human Trafficking Network Busted

 

International Schools Review

International School Reviews, or ISR (www.internationalschoolreviews.com), is a website where teachers post feedback about schools in which they have previously worked.*

* Note: As with many reviews, people who leave in an unhappy manner tend to be more likely to leave a review. Also, school leaders can leave posts pretending to be happy teachers that left, so every review should be read with awareness for possible contexts and motivations.

Many schools have only 5 reviews or fewer, making the reviews more difficult to parse for authentic information. The American School of Kuwait has 53 reviews (as of this posting) dating back to 2006. Obviously, more recent reviews are more valuable and informative, so that will be our focus.

Because ISR is a paid site, only excerpts will be posted here. Please consider purchasing an account. Remember that if you are a former teacher, you can post anonymously on ISR without needing to create or pay for an account.

Review #50

Review #50 was left by a teacher who claims to have worked at the school between 2015 and 2017. Below is their score of the school:

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A quote:

“The American School smacks of lack: in leadership, in innovation, in renovation, in technology, and in ownership. Systemic academic, administrative, student, and turnover issues prevent teachers from reaching their full potential. While most faculty and administrators have students at heart, everyone cycles through an unfocused juggling of workload, high maintenance students, and depleted enthusiasm. In a nugget: teaching at ASK is stultifying and sapping-tiresome. “

Review #49

Review 49 was left by a teacher who claimed to work at the school from 2013 until 2016.

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A quote:

“Overall, the school is an OK place to work if you’re a new teacher looking for experience. However, it’s a draining place to work and it gets harder and harder to thrive after each passing year. This is not a place to invest in in the long term.

Owner: The owner is nonexistent in the culture of the school. It’s a for-profit establishment, and it shows by the dilapidated infrastructure of the campus. The buildings are riddled with electrical and plumbing problems, and stray cats roam the campus. Little has been done to update the school in both aesthetics and technology. There are rumors of where the tuition money goes, but it’s definitely not going into the salary of teachers or development of the school as a whole.

Director: Becky is a sweet person. She has an open door policy and will lend an ear to anyone with questions or complaints. That’s about as far as she goes. Do not count on anything actually getting accomplished.”

Review #52

Review 52 was left by a teacher who claimed to work at the school from 2013 until 2017.

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A quote:

“Before accepting a position at the American School of Kuwait, I urge you to carefully think about your decision. After being very satisfied at the beginning of my time with ASK, a series of changes within the school over the past 2-3 years have caused the school to become a poor choice, in terms of both a place to work and, especially, as a place in which to send your children to learn. In brief, this institution is a for-profit business. Administration lacks integrity and competency. Even first year teachers with a thin (or non-existent) CV can certainly find a school that provides more compensation, a better learning environment, and a better professional environment.

Approximately 43% of teachers left last year. There are an extremely small number of teachers that have worked at the school more than four years. This information should be considered by candidates very carefully – I think it says all you really need to know. Unless you are a first year teacher that cannot find gainful employment elsewhere and desperately needs experience, I cannot recommend teaching at ASK. This school fails all of its stakeholders: faculty, students, and parents. It lacks in safety, quality of education, and in general quality of life for its employees.”

Review #53

Review 53 was left by a teacher who claimed to work at the school from 2016 until 2018. It should be noted that this post was left before the end of the school year in 2018, which is quite unusual – teachers tend to make their posts after they have departed for a variety of reasons.

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A quote:

“Kuwait itself is a curious place of contrasts. I stayed in two different buildings during my time here. First, in the annex, and later in Dina Dana towers. The latter is definitely superior accommodation compared to the former, but both were adequate for my needs. Families are placed in even larger three bedroom flats. As these are a free benefit of teaching at ASK, it is hard to find fault with the flats themselves. It is easy, though, to find fault with the neighborhood outside the walls of Dina Dana. Mahboula, while safe, is neither pretty nor clean nor interesting. It is about a 30-minute bus ride from the school, and has become congested with so-called “camps” for immigrant workers–blocks of simple, crowded flats. There are open dumpsters on the street that fill the air with foul odors. I have lived with this by rarely going outside for extended periods, but after a few years it has become the worst of only a few unpleasant aspects of living and working here. Another is the strict ban on alcohol that Kuwait employs–it is utterly illegal for everyone across the country. I find this makes people less merry. While drinks are a no-go, food is excellent in Kuwait, and there is a service called Talabat that will deliver meals to your home. Grocery stores such as Sultan Center perform the same service. Internet is by sim card, and while LTE speeds are promised, 1 megabyte/second is a better indication of the average speed in Mahboula. On the positive side, health care in Kuwait is excellent, and there is a modern international hospital about 5 minutes walk from the housing in Mahboula. I have used it frequently and it has never cost me a penny. You will be covered for emergencies in the USA during the summer, but not for routine medical visits, so keep that in mind. You will need to undergo various blood tests in your home country in preparation for your work visa, and I had to pay for those (costly!) out of pocket. “

The American School of Kuwait Reviews

This website provides reviews of The American School of Kuwait, beginning with excerpts of reviews from International Schools Review. To read complete reviews, please purchase a membership with their site – it is worth the money.

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If you would like to share a review on this site, please e-mail the administrator. If you would like to do so anonymously, then consider using a free anonymous e-mail service such as Guerrilla Mail – this site does not require an account and it permits attachments up to 150 MB.