In September 1973, Mr. Richard F. Underwood, then Headmaster of Seoul Foreign School [SFS], conferred with Mr. James L. Wootton, then Principal and later Headmaster of the Korea Christian Academy [now called Taejon Christian International School or TCIS] on the vision of a Korea-wide foreign school organization for the purpose of enhancing service training for non-DOD school professional staff. The vision seeds for the KOREA COUNCIL OF OVERSEAS SCHOOLS or KORCOS were sown during this initiative. Seoul International School [SIS] and the Sacred Heart (Academy) were invited to join in as charter members of KORCOS. Mr. Wootton was chosen to serve as the first KORCOS President. SIS was starting operations with around 40 students and three (3) teachers.
When the KITE or Educators’ Day of DoDDS was born in 1975 as initiated by the DoDD Schools in the Republic of Korea, KORCOS bowed out and stayed dormant until 1987. It was a long 12-year nap for KORCOS.
KORCOS Revival Beginnings
While KORCOS slept, revival discussions started as early as 1986 with informal meetings from among school leaders and staff. Eventually the meetings became formalized. Eight schools participated in the revival: Seoul Foreign School, Seoul Academy, Seoul International School, Korea Christian Academy, the Early Childhood Learning Center, Franciscan School, Liberty Christian School and the Indianhead School. SFS was represented by Dr. Richter, and SA by Alice Lavina. KORCOS Revival meetings from 1986 to its full revival in 1988 were hosted by Seoul Academy now called Seoul Academy International School. Seoul Academy founder, the late Thomas O’Connor graciously allowed the small group of KORCOS Revival Leaders to avail of the school’s space for its meetings.
KORCOS continues to flourish especially from 1994 to the present as its membership keeps rising. International schools in the Republic of Korea continue to collaborate, cooperate, interconnect and form consortia that benefit all KORCOS members. In 1997, the Department of Defense Schools in the peninsula joined forces with KORCOS via the leadership of Alice Lavina, Dennis Rozzi and Don Hedgepath. DoDDS abolished its Educators’ or Kite Day and collaborated with KORCOS by sharing the opportunity to serve as venue for KORCOS Conferences. It was also in 1997 that Walden University’s collaboration with KORCOS started. Walden University held exhibits at KORCOS Conferences to showcase graduate offerings for educational practitioners. The University of San Diego’s connection with KORCOS was also initiated during this period. Dr. William Byxbee facilitated the two connections for several years. DoDDS chose to separate from KORCOS in 2011. In the same year, the Teachers Education Association of Korea (TEAK) joined KORCOS.
In 1973, at its birth, KORCOS had two international school members. These were the Seoul Foreign School (SFS, as KORCOS founding school through the initiative of Mr. Richard Underwood) and the Korea Christian Academy now called Taejon Christian International School (TCIS). At its full rebirth in 1988, KORCOS had eight (8) active member schools. These were SFS, SIS, KCA (TCIS), SAIS, ECLC, FK, IIS, and LCS. By 1997, a dozen international schools were either associate or full pledged members and with the schools of DoDDS Korea joining, KORCOS membership ramified. In 2011 DoDDS separated from KORCOS leaving a dozen international schools in the membership with the Teachers Education Association of Korea included as full pledged member of KORCOS. From October 2012, membership rose up to 28, majority of which are full pledged members.
KORCOS Presidents include many prominent names in professional development programs for professional practitioners in education and other related fields: Mr. Richard Underwood, Dr. James Wootton, Dr. Ronald Richter, Ms. Cindy Farley, Mr. Joe Lemire, Ms. Muriel Durham, Jeremy Van Duyvendyk, Karen Wood, Robin Burrage, Alice Lavina and Einstein Lavina. Alice Lavina so far has served the longest number of years in the KORCOS organization in the capacities of Conference Coordinator (3 years), Vice President (2 years) and President (13 years and ongoing). The KORCOS Board has awarded her the position of President Emeritus on October 26, 2012 during the organization’s 28th International education Conference. As President Emeritus, Alice can enjoy a perpetual position of engagement in professional development (PD) with the organization, as PD Conference organizer, strategist and analyst. In this position, she remains as an active member of all KORCOS Committees and the KORCOS Board itself.
KORCOS Service Leadership
All representatives to the KORCOS Board render their services to the KORCOS membership voluntarily. The only monetary compensation is the fare reimbursement stipend received after a general board meeting. This stipend was started in 2011. There is no assurance that the stipend will continue as KORCOS funds are dependent totally upon membership. KORCOS leadership models service through voluntary commitment to inspire continuing professional development among its members.
KORCOS Conferences: A Quick Overview
In the spring of 1987, the first KORCOS conference was hosted by Seoul Foreign School. The first formalized conference coordination was a tandem effort between Karen Link of Seoul Foreign School and Alice Lavina of then Seoul Academy. This was the first time that job-alike meetings were held in addition to the presentations. Educators and administrators from eight (8) schools attended that conference. Fully revived in 1988 and with the logistic and financial support of EARCOS, KORCOS held its 2nd annual conference at the Hotel Intercontinental in the fall of that year. Cindy Farley served as Conference Coordinator. The conference format was patterned after Educators’ Day. In 1990, Pat Lee served as coordinator. More than a hundred delegates participated. In 1991, with Jean Brouer as Coordinator, KORCOS took a bold step into an assembly type of conference setting. This strengthened the keynote strategy. The idea was strongly suggested by Alice Lavina in response to the consistent feedback from participants about how they constantly missed meeting the imported experts. This strategy evolved into the opening and closing assemblies. In certain cases such as when DoDDS was hosting, with two assembly halls available, two keynotes were held simultaneously and then an audience exchange was made for another delivery. In this manner, keynotes delivered twice and covered the whole population of delegates. The conference theme in 1992 was “Resources Within Reach” and Rick Neumann served as Coordinator. “Cultural Links Through Education” was the theme in 1993. Embassies participated in the exhibits. Countries represented included Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. The Intercontinental Travel Service, Inc. (now called BTNI) donated a round trip ticket to fly in one of the conference resource experts from the USA. BTNI became active with KORCOS for several years. During the 28th KIEC, BTNI donated two tickets to Jeju for the closing assembly raffle. In 1993, the first conference newsletter was released and the first conference rubric was designed to ease conference planning. Conference Coordinator was Alice Lavina. “Learn Earth C.A.R.E.” was the theme in 1994. C.A.R.E. meant Conserving and Recycling Earth [or Environment]. Conference Coordinator was Priscilla Kumpe. In 1995 the theme was “Connecting the world”. The overseas school parent communities were represented at this conference. Job-Alike sessions made a comeback due to popular demand. Tim Gray, Head Teacher of the SFS British School Division coordinated the conference. Alice Lavina served as SFS In-House Coordinator. The KORCOS Professional Development Scholarship was activated granting up to 500 USD per proposal. The objective was to enhance a KORCOS member school curriculum. The first recipient was Richard Huyge. The San Diego State University opened its doors for KORCOS University credit for the first time.
In the following years, Seoul Foreign School (SFS) and Seoul International School (SIS) alternated the role of venue hosting. Venue hosting involves hosting schools more than just the space made available to the delegates, presenters, job-alike meetings, administrators’ meetings, exhibitors and vendors. Hosting involves both the staff and the facilities of the school venue. From 1997, the Seoul American High School of DoDDS Korea alternated hosting with SFS and SIS. KORCOS tried hotel hosting but this was a one-time trial. It was the most expensive annual conference endeavor of KORCOS. KORCOS looked back at when EARCOS jumped in to help with its 2nd conference back in 1988 and realized how fortunate that there was such a strong support, both in the aspects of finances and logistics. Indianhead International School hosted at one time in early 2000. Then SFS, SIS and the SAHS of DoDDS continued taking turns with venue hosting. In 2011, KORCOS held its 26th International Education Conference (KIEC) at the Korea International School (KIS). The conference was very well organized with around 900 professionals in attendance. Conference Coordinator was Krystal Germain. The conference theme was “Balance in Education”. In March 2012, around 1,200 delegates attended the 27th KIEC hosted by Chadwick International located in Songdo City of Metro Incheon. Conference Coordinator was Soleiman Dias and the theme was “Inspiring Education”. At this excellent conference, the Youth Leadership Institute was initiated. This program will now become an annual endeavor geared towards youth leadership development. On October 26,
2012, the Songdo Global University Foundation (SGUF) of Metro Incheon hosted the 28th KIEC. Conference Coordinator was Lisa Walker. The theme was “Inspiring Global Leaders”. KORCOS primed the facilities of SGUF, testing its Grand Theater for the first time. The SUNY campus of the SGUF complex offered use of their rooms. From this conference has rooted a strong collaboration between SUNY Korea and KORCOS.
KORCOS Scholarships, KORCOS Grants
Initiated in 1998, KORCOS Scholarships waited for a long while to be fully recognized as a benefit open to all KORCOS members. Recognized by the KORCOS Constitution as a source of educational aid for members with the purpose of enhancing curriculum, KORCOS Scholarship provisions were revamped in 2011 by the KORCOS Executive Board led by Alice Lavina, the current President Emeritus. In attendance were Soleiman Dias, then Vice President, Secretary Jill Stasiak Iwanuk, and Treasurer Robyn Adkins. Other members of the committee were Mairi Fraser and Michele Bigney. These efforts evolved into a more formal rubric of grants in various aid categories. The name KORCOS Professional Development Scholarships has been changed to KORCOS Grants. The first three grants have contributed to the travel and workshop expenses of industry experts such as Ronnie Heath, Jill Bromenschenkel, and William Stewart, and the most recent one consisted of supporting TEDxYeongHeungForest hosted at GSIS in January 2018. If you’re interested in applying for a grant, please fill out the application form.