Jahn Henry Lövaas
Member of the Board of Trustees since 2007, and outgoing Chair
Jahn Henry Lövaas arrived in Sweden in 2006, fresh from three years in China. He brought his family with him, among whom was a 14-year-old son who had a very definite preference to continue an international education at an international school. And that was to be SIS’s good fortune.
‘My son really enjoyed the international atmosphere at Shanghai International School. He was delighted to meet people from different cultures and be part of the special atmosphere of friendship and appreciation that you find there’ recalls Jahn Henry. ‘And yet, though it was an international school it was nowhere near the sixty-plus nationalities we have represented at SIS. That’s why I always say we are truly international.’
Jahn Henry applied, and duly enrolled his son in what he considered to be the best international school in Stockholm. Jahn Henry’s relationship with SIS would rapidly deepen, when in 2007 he joined the Board.
‘I heard that they were looking for new trustees’ he begins, ‘And I thought that might be an interesting role to take on, so I duly applied. I expected to be interviewed and inspected for suitability, so in truth I was a little surprised to get a call a little while later telling me I had been accepted as a trustee.’ He smiles at the recollection. ‘I discovered soon after that I had been the only applicant!’
A KINDRED SPIRIT
From his new vantage point, Jahn Henry now had a different view of the school. He describes his first year on the Board as ‘turbulent’, and a time when he could observe the school’s operations and begin to identify the strengths and weaknesses, and formulate plans for improvement. ‘We had seventeen people on the Board at that time, and numbers like that just make it unworkable. Minutes of meetings were running to a lot of pages and some of us felt that changes needed to be made.’
In Lage Jonasson – a fellow Board member, and Jahn Henry’s immediate predecessor as Chair – he found a kindred spirit. They promoted the idea that SIS should become a not-for-profit foundation, wary of what he describes as ‘an unhealthy environment’ when education becomes a route to making business profits. That was not to say that they should not set out to instil more discipline and businesslike organisation, indeed that would be the bedrock of the changes that would be made during Jahn Henry’s time on the Board. Nowhere was that more conspicuous than in the search for new premises.
‘For a long time we knew we would need to find new or additional premises to allow the School to develop and to respond to the demand in ourregion. In all honesty, I have to say that although we learned along the way, to begin with, we were quite disorganised and perhaps a little naive. It seemed at one point that everyone in the School was involved in the search. Moreover, we were quite open about what we were doing, not realising how important privacy and confidentiality are during negotiations like these. When our proposed move to Tomteboda fell through – quite late in the process – this gave us all cause to pause and reflect.’
The lesson learned, the Board resolved to engage the specialists who could help develop the specification requirement, knew the Stockholm commercial property landscape, and could quickly grasp the special requirements of a school.
Jahn Henry (second from left) sits alongside Lage Jonasson to sign the lease on Norra Latin in April 2022.
‘I’m proud of that change’ says Jahn Henry, ‘Creating the not-for-profit foundation and professionalising our search were important achievements during my time on the Board. Crucial among the others was the recruitment of the school leadership who would manage the day-to-day operations.’
‘Recruiting, supporting, and coaching the Director is among the prime responsibilities of the Board’ states Jahn Henry. ‘It is not our job to run the school, to determine the curriculum, to decide on the catering provider, or what books should be in the library, but it is our job to recruit a Director who can manage all those disparate elements of making a school work, whose values and vision align with the Board’s long-term strategy, and who can lead and energise our community. There is a culture among international schools of Directors or Principals moving on after three years or so, meaning that such long-term commitment can’t be taken for granted. It’s not easy finding the right person, but in Marisa, we found a great champion for the School.’
So when he spoke at the inauguration of Norra Latin last August, when the doors opened to admit the first SIS students and parents and allow them to discover their new campus, how did he feel?
‘I felt a sense of elation’ he answers, before conceding ‘and of relief. It was the end of a very long project in one sense – but the beginning of another. Norra Latin is secured for SIS over the next two decades and beyond, and that’s why I felt that this is an opportune moment to step down.’
He concludes with something of a manifesto for the next few years at SIS. ‘ The current Board, invigorated with new members, and the current leadership have an immense opportunity – and responsibility – to seize upon the potential our new campus offers the entire School. To make SIS an agent for change in the world by instilling the values we hold dear in the students in our charge. To make SIS a school where the best teachers and administrators and support staff will feel proud to work. And to make SIS the top choice of families relocating to the Stockholm region from across the globe in the reassurance that academic excellence, a global outlook, and positive social values are embedded in all that we do.’