Jefferey N. Shields, CAE
It is with pleasure and pride that I write you this note. I was and am thrilled with Donna Davis's article The World of For Profit Schools that appeared in the fall 2010 issue of NET ASSETS. The fact that Kittredge School was one of the "for profit" schools featured certainly played a part in my positive reaction. However, there is even more.
In 1980 Dr. Donald Leisey and I, two public school administrators, purchased Kittredge School from the Kittredge family. At that time we held beliefs and ideas about education that we were not able to put into practice as superintendents in public education. We were frustrated and wanted to translate our educational philosophy to reality. We felt strongly that what we had to offer children deserved the "market test."
Upon becoming school owners, Don and I realized that we had made dramatic and surprising changes to our lives. We felt alone and entirely responsible for the success or failure of our school. We no longer could look to the state for help, nor the blame. We were responsible; to ourselves, our families and to the families of the students who put their trust in us. It was quite a sobering revelation.
Throughout my career in education from 1949 to 1980, I found meetings, publications and conferences very helpful. So within a few months of our purchase, I contacted the California Association of Independent Schools to see how Kittredge might become a member school in that organization. Lo and behold, we were informed that we were ineligible for membership because we were a "for profit" school. Apparently we were considered a business and not a school.
I was angry and believed that we did not deserve such a negative reaction. In fact, we believed that we deserved just the opposite! We were not only going to provide an excellent educational program for our students, but were going to contribute to the whole community by paying taxes. Because accreditation is important I had to make a decision, but what could I do?
Fortunately, I kept in contact with a few other public school teachers and administrators who had made the same commitment as Dr. Leisey and I. By telephone and letter, since there was no e-mail then, I was able to get a small number of California school owners together on two different occasions. In 1981, by reading the Yellow pages, writing letters to Washington DC and calling throughout the country, we were able to call a meeting in Las Vegas where owners of 15 schools from 5 states formed the National Independent Private Schools Association (NIPSA). Thanks to that core group of school owners, as well as the many other owners who over the years provided time, energy and money, NIPSA is now recognized as an appropriate accrediting agency for this relatively small but extremely important segment of elementary and secondary education. Some might say the segment that best exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of America.
In 1991 when we sold Kittredge School to my son, Peter Lavaroni, and his partner, Terry Young, we transferred not just a reputable school but also a fully accredited educational institution. I am proud of their continued work both as educators and entrepreneurs as they keep that spirit alive, ever changing, ever growing, ever increasing their services to the students they serve and continuing their support to NIPSA.
Ms. Davis' article, coming from such a reputable and surprising source as NBOA, could easily be interpreted as a major improvement in opening possibilities for educational opportunities for all children. All forms of school organizational structures have advantages and disadvantages. Taken collectively, each has the potential of providing choice for students and families. Recognizing the need for and support of choice is certainly a step in the right direction for educational improvement. Your magazine deserves our admiration.