Good morning dear students, dear parents and dear OBS staff. Welcome to our new school building here in Wollerau.
Typically I am known for rather spontaneous and short speeches, but today I would like to go a bit further, so I will give my address in German and ask our English-speaking parents to bear with me. I will post my speech in English on the website so that you can read it there.
When I brought my son Kay to pre-kindergarten now 13 years ago, I would never have believed that I would run OBS as an owner one day. It has been a pretty long and depriving journey for my family until then.
It started when Klaus Tschira (one of the founders of SAP) asked me, as managing director of his family office, to work out an investment strategy for the education sector. My team of analysts at the time and I worked on it for two years, with the result that public schools were an attractive investment. During this time, I had the opportunity to visit and tour successful and innovative schools worldwide, many inspirations that I incorporated into our new campus.
I have had the great fortune to exchange ideas with many interesting people about how learning and schools should be designed in the future and what we need to pay particular attention to. Indeed, Ken Robinson was the one who impressed me the most. Many of you know his TED Talks. But, if you haven’t seen them yet, I can only recommend them. Because then you will also understand our educational goals better.
George Lucas’ vision of future-oriented and student-centred teaching and learning (edutopia.org). Goldie Hawn’s conviction that school education must also consider the developmental stages of children’s brains (MindUp.org). Remo Largo’s call for us to stop overtaxing children at an early age and subjecting them to grade dictates, but rather to support their creativity and development, have had a particularly lasting impact on my goals for OBS.
I had countless more exciting conversations with well-known and less well-known education experts. Still, the most lasting conversations and discussions I had here at OBS were with our teachers, who all go the extra mile to prepare our children and our pupils for their future lives in the best possible way.
In 2013, Klaus Tschira gave his blessing to our investment strategy for the education sector, and we began to look for investment opportunities. As it happened, Würth, then the main shareholder of OBS, was looking for investors for a new OBS campus, which ultimately led to us taking over OBS with the Family Office in April 2014. Myself moving up from being the father of now three children at OBS to Chairman of the Board of Directors. We initiated some changes simultaneously, artificial turf and playhouses for the pre-kindergarten, the accreditation process for the IB, a new corporate identity and much more.
The supposedly new school building offered to us did not meet our expectations of a modern and future-oriented learning environment. So we decided to look for an alternative and found this location in Wollerau. This was the beginning of the OBS Campus adventure.
We invited tenders from leading international school building architects for the project and finally chose Fielding Nair (www.fieldingintl.com) from Minneapolis. We have Isaac Williams and his team to thank for this great design, which Concept Architekten, led by Remo Stirnimann, then adapted for Switzerland and accompanied throughout the construction phase.
But I don’t want to hide the fact that we had to make some compromises because some concepts were so new for Switzerland that they fell victim to building specifications and regulations. But, nevertheless, I am proud of what we have created here together.
In 2015, we had the design for the new school building, and Klaus Tschira released the planning and the budget. Everything was great! But then Murphy’s Law struck mercilessly, Klaus Tschira died, and there was a hail of objections against our school building project.
In 2017, I took over OBS and rose from the board of directors to become the owner and managing director of OBS. This was not an easy decision but a necessary one to ensure the continued existence of OBS. Together with the OBS team, we started to work out an OBS strategy and write implementation plans, always to be able to implement them soon in a new campus. Many of you have witnessed how we have created a fresh and lively learning culture despite the confinement in the old buildings. For that, I thank OBS team members, those present and our alumni.
The fact that we can start the school year 2021/22 today in a new campus, in an innovative and inspiring learning environment, is only due to the commitment of many people involved in the project, specialist planners, architects, construction workers, craftsmen and many more.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people in particular: Barbara Lindermann, who represented the OBS interests in countless construction meetings and during the construction phase, and Simon Beerli, the construction manager of our landlord, who did his utmost to ensure that we finished this construction on schedule. Angela Mitra and Tanja Alvesalo and the OBS management and office team have had my back and supported me, especially in the past year. My Bold Brains team (boldbrains.ch) came from Germany to help me move. My right hand and my right arm Désirée Reichmuth have always been faithful and supported me through all the difficult years.
But my great thanks go to my family, my wife Nicola and my rascals Kay, Lilly and Jan, who always had to take a back seat because I had no time for them. Who always showed understanding that I had to work late and yet couldn’t spend the evening with them or play Fortnite with them. Who contributed cool ideas to the school building design, like the courtyard slides and the indoor playground, Lilly even researched the supplier online. So thank you, and I love you.
And yes, kids, you heard right, we have an actual indoor playground!
With today’s opening of the OBS campus, the adventure of the new OBS campus building comes to an end, but a new phase of the OBS journey begins. New adventures await us, because now we have to implement all our plans and projects and achieve our goals, be it “Authentic Assessment”, “OBS Space Agency”, “OBS Oceanic Explorers”, “OBS Film Academy”, “OBS CGDS” and many more.
Some bright local students have already pointed out that we in Wollerau are quite far away from Lake Obersee and should actually be called “Untersee Bilingual School”. I think a well-known major Swiss bank would have a problem with the resulting abbreviation. It is certainly not a priority, but I am convinced that our students will come up with something for which “OBS” should stand in the future.
Before I hand over to Angela Mitra and Tanja Alvesalo, I have a big request to all parents and students. Have a little patience!
Moving an entire school is a mammoth project. To move and set up the new campus, many OBS staff members have given up holidays, worked day and night clearing out and rearranging, cleaning and sorting. The last five weeks have been challenging and physical work for all of us. My record is 28,872 steps on 5 August and 9kg weight loss since the move began.
We will now spend the next six weeks adapting processes, routines and learning. As we all know, practice belies theory, so we have to expect that there will be teething problems. Missing equipment still will be delivered and installed, as we are also affected by the delivery bottlenecks. Despite ordering early, Apple is behind in deliveries, which is why we cannot equip all pupils with equipment in the first week. Our two new school buses are delayed. We are all working flat out to resolve all of this.
I would like to thank you all for your understanding if things do not run smoothly or if there are changes in procedures or times.
With this, I would like to close and pass on to Angela and Tanja.
Thank you and welcome to the new OBS Campus