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Since 12 January 2015, the Nelson Mandela School has had a new position: our very own Administration Manager. We have met Michele Holzhäuser for an interview.

We met in Michele’s office (Room 0.7) next to the library on the secondary campus in Pfalzburger Str. 30, where School Principal Christian Nitschke has his office.

Question: Congratulations on your new job! But in fact you’re not new to the school, right?

Michele Holzhäuser: Yes indeed. I have been working at the school since 2002, firstly as a volunteer for the library, then as a coordinator for the then new library at the school. And since around 2007 I have also worked on the financial management aspect of the school in conjunction with the school management.

Q: What does your work consist of today?

MH: The major part of my work is in the financial management area. In addition to this work, I am involved in the recording of statistics, preparation of contracts connected to our ‘Personalkosten Budgetierung’, I lead up the non-pedagogical staff such as the caretakers e.g. ensuring that maintenance reports are followed through and guarantees are honoured, hygiene articles are ordered. Finally, any task as designated by the school principal is contained in my job description, so my working life is never boring. Generally speaking my job is to assist the School Principal and alleviate his workload in certain areas.

Q: Do you like the financial side of your job?

MH: Yes I do! In the UK I attended a Business Studies College and received an education as a personal secretary. This training included accounting, basic English law, and economics. My professional path saw me take up a position as manager’s secretary with one of the four major banks in the UK, parallel to which I was able to secure training as a bank clerk too. I really enjoy budget management; as it always provides a challenge.

Q: Where does the money for our school come from?

MH: A major part is provided by the senate and this actually equates to more or less the same level of funding provided by the Educational Package Fund (approximately €160,000). Public monies fund teachers’ resources, materials for students, majority of photocopies, electrical equipment and some of the IT equipment. Indirectly we also have the possibilty to secure some funding from our agency for the Social Pedagogues (Freier Träger), tjfbg.

Q: What is the parents’ part in all of this?

MH: An important part of our income comes from the educational package fund (Lernmittelfond) and the contributions for IT library staff, altogether around 146.000 €. These contributions are administered jointly by the  Friends of Nelson Mandela School (Förderverein) and the Parent Council (GEV). This hugely supports the budget we receive from the senate and accords us the possibility to purchase many extras for our school. Additionally, there is the very important contribution of the Friends of Nelson Mandela School (Förderverein)!

Q: What are some typical expenditures?

MH: A lot of our money is spent for books, IT equipment and classroom resources. Due to the bilingual nature of our school, we produce our own subject booklets instead of purchasing textbooks which we cannot use effectively. Both parts account for around 98.000 €. We also have expenses for mini-jobbers in the libraries and IT maintenance. To date, we have collected 47.700 € on behalf of the Friends, who also cover the shortfall on these employment costs.

Q: Where do the Friends typically step in?

MH: The Friends of NMS typically pay for expenses like professional development for teachers and of course many other things which the NMS needs.

Q: What do you consider the most useful investments for our school?

MH: I think that in particular IT is probably one of the most useful areas of expenditure, and this is also one of the areas where the Friends and the Lernmittelfond play a huge role. Due to the pure volume/cost of such equipment, it is not possible for us to cover all such purchases from public monies.

Q: What are some curious or strange items that you had to order?

MH: (Laughs) The science department regularly orders organs (lungs and kidneys and the like)! One of the most interesting order requests came from Mr Zlodre for the primary science department, Lego Robots!

Q: What is the work atmosphere like in NMS?

MH: Since I have been at the school for quite a long time, I have developed a good relationship with the majority of the school community. I know many of the pupils from the early days of the library, when they were in the then reception class and they are now graduating or have already graduated. When I was working for a Deutsche Post Partnerfiliale during the last 18 months, some would come and engage me in conversation, even though I was always known for being quite strict! (I believe the term was sometimes hard but fair). Also my three children went through the NMS (they are adults now), so I know the school inside and out.

On a more serious note and in response to your next question: I wouldn’t have applied for the job if the school management and myself didn’t have a high level of mutual respect on a professional and ideally personal level. Working in the area of the school I do, it is essential, particularly in view of the confidential nature of my work, that there is trust.

Q: Since you had work experience in the UK as well, what are some differences between the UK and Germany?

MH: In the UK there is a long tradition of good customer service, and we try to learn and emulate it here at our school library for example, which I led for many years, and in my current position. I would like to add that I am delighted, after many years and many struggles, to have taken up the position of Administration Manager at the NMS and I look forward to working with the whole school community. My door is open if you need my help. I’m there to help. I’m a communication link.

CL: Thank you very much for this interview.

Interview by: Christian Lohr

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  • Pfalzburger Straße 23 (P23), Flex-6
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16.01.2018 Nelson-Mandela-Schule · Staatliche Internationale Schule Berlin | Nelson Mandela School · State International School Berlin