Safe Passage Across Networks (SPAN) offers a home to people and schools committed to healthy student, family and staff transition.
At any school with a high degree of turnover, transitions affect everyone, regardless of a person’s role – student, parent, or staff, and regardless of whether a person is moving or being moved away from. People move amongst schools, so the emotional issues of any one individual transcend individual school walls, making it impossible for any one school to fully address these issues alone. Success requires collaboration. Only a handful of international schools have well-developed transitions programs. Even when these programs exist, they tend to operate in isolation. Part of the reason why is because no forum ever existed to support program development and collaboration.

Seeking to address this gap, by creating a forum for professionals, parents,
and even students who are leading the development of transitions services at their schools, the first-ever international SPAN Pre-Conference took place on March 22, 2017, just prior to the annual Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference in The Hague, Netherlands. The Brain Child of Drs. Doug Ota and supported by the founding SPAN Steering Committee, the SPAN Pre-Conference sought to create a ‘home’ for collaboration, such that best practices could be identified, supported, and connected amongst international schools.

Founding SPAN Steering Committee:

    • Douglas Ota, SPAN Chair; Psychologist and author of Safe Passage: What Mobility Does to People and What International Schools Should Do About It
    • Jane Barron, SPAN PR Coordinator; Youth Intercultural Transition Specialist at Globally Grounded
    • Lydia Foxall, SPAN Front Desk; TCK, student at University of New Hampshire’s Department of Social Work
    • Ryan Haynes, SPAN Program Co-Chair; High School Counselor, International School Bangkok
    • Kilian Kröll, SPAN Treasurer; Immediate Past President of Families in Global Transition, Transitions lead at AIS Vienna
    • Ellen Mahoney, SPAN Program Co-Chair; CEO and Founder of Sea Change Mentoring

As with any transition program steering committee, the SPAN Steering Committee has experienced a few changes as individuals pursue professional and personal goals.

Current SPAN Board Members:

Doug Ota


Douglas Ota, SPAN Founder & Chair; Psychologist and author of Safe Passage: What Mobility Does to People and What International Schools Should Do About It

Jane Barron


Jane Barron, SPAN PR; Educator and Youth Intercultural Transition Specialist at Globally Grounded

Valerie Besanceney


Valerie Besanceney, SPAN Secretary; Elementary Teacher and author of B at Home and My Moving Booklet

Claudine Hakim 1


Claudine Hakim, SPAN Certification Chair; Head of Advancement, Transitions and Student Support at International School of London

Ryan Haynes 2018


Ryan Haynes, SPAN Treasurer; Director of Upper School Academic and Personal Counselling at Taipei American School

Dan Long 2018


Dan Long, SPAN Board Member; Upper School Dean of Students at Taipei American School



Mona Stuart, SPAN Board Member; Former Head of Admissions at Singapore American School, currently on sabbatical


Karl Suits, SPAN Board Member; Director of Technology at Hangzhou International School


Since the inaugural Pre-Conference, SPAN has been hard at work, redefining and redesigning how best to support transition program development and collaboration across the globe. With a broad range of expertise amongst the steering committee to draw upon, the future looks bright!


While transition negatively impacts learning more than any other factor, according to John Hattie’s definitive research that he captures in Visible Learning, well-managed transition can add significant value to a life and to a learning journey.  It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.

Regardless of your experience with transition or transition-care,  SPAN plans to meet you where you are:

In our virtual home through our SPAN website, for engagement with other transition-care providers, vetted resources and pathways to a stronger transition program in your school;

At rotating regional conferences that are already hosted globally for educational administrators, counselors and teachers; and

In your own school or local network of schools, coaching you through an effective transition team certification process, the launch or strengthening of your transition team and/or workshops related to positive transition support and more.

In a shrinking world where globalization is accepted and international schools are exploding, we bear a responsibility for the positive transition care of students, families and educators. SPAN believes that upholding standards for transition support, and equipping and refreshing those on the fronts lines, will help all of us fulfill some of our highest hopes for healthy students and families on the move. Our goal is to help ourselves and others manage the stress, distress and chaos of transition, so we can get on with learning, loving, growing, stretching, cross-cultural competence and joy: all the things we launched into the international world to do wisely and well.


Tabled at SPAN’s Kitchen Table Conversation Session, Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference, The Hague, March 9 2018

“At its most fundamental level, SPAN’s purpose is to protect the attachment systems of people in educational settings with turnover.

I wish I could join Ryan and Claudine in sharing the excitement of our work with you today. But as of this last year, I am attending fewer conferences, writing fewer articles, and maintaining focus diligently on a new priority: building the research base for SPAN’s work. (Saying “no” is hard for me, but it’s the only way to get books and dissertations written.)

FIGT occurs this year at a key point in my two-year certification process in the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) at the University of Berkeley. The AAI is the gold standard in assessing attachment. Together with the University of Leiden, and with assistance from the Council of International Schools, we will be launching a study in the 2018-2019 school year on attachment security amongst students at international schools. The key question, which to our knowledge has never been explored, is whether attachment security is compromised amongst students in high-turnover schools, and whether such students display increased levels of unresolved loss. Why is this important? Because attachment security predicts health and success—in work and relationships—across the lifespan.

The supervisor for the study is Professor Marinus van IJzendoorn, one of the foremost leaders on attachment research in the world. Randomization is the hallmark of the best research designs. At van IJzendoorn’s request, this study will be randomized not only at the level of the selection of participating students, but even at the level of participating schools. CIS will be assisting us in approaching schools in randomized fashion.

SPAN emerged thanks to the support from FIGT, its many board members over many years, Ruth van Reken’s persistent love and vision, and David Pollock’s inspiration. SPAN, with me as its founder, is thankful to all of these people for their practical and emotional encouragement over the years. It has shaped my career, and I hope the research we’re now doing helps shape our field in the future.

Douglas W. Ota”