Terry Young and Peter LavaroniIt is with great enthusiasm, personal satisfaction and pride that we name Terry Young and Peter Lavaroni, owners of the Kittredge School in San Francisco IAEE'S EDUCATIONAL ENTREPRENEURS FOR 2012.

We do this not because at one time we were the owners of that school, but instead because of the magnificent and startling way these two educational entrepreneurs were able to not only save a school but develop a better one. Through their dedication to learning, to the students, parents and teachers of Kittredge they were able to create the school it is today. This occurred after having a third partner in 1995, almost ruin it. After the dust of a very grueling battle between the then three owners settled, Lavaroni and Young assumed control of the school and to this day remain equal partners

When asked, "How can you explain the success of the school today after almost being destroyed just seventeen years ago?"

Young answered, "I guess what doesn't kill you can make you strong."

We respect that answer and recognize the possibility of its accuracy, but after visiting the school we know it is much more. It took commitment, fortitude, determination and a deep belief in the value of learning and the overall potential and strength of being human that gave Lavaroni and Young the energy to translate the challenge facing them into a strategy for success. And it is the result of that strategy we celebrate with this award.

These two educational entrepreneurs were always risk takers. Now they became thoughtful risk takers. They became problem solvers not just "doers" They became communicators by asking better questions and listening more carefully. And, they learned to be persistent, thoughtful, reflective and innovative. They began to marvel that they were not only "still in business" but were growing in strength and stature. They were truly becoming an autonomous unit. They were a team. They were owners who recognized they were dependent upon the strength and support of others: teachers, playground supervisors, learning specialists, students, parents, and neighbors as well. Their leadership, belief in themselves and others is what makes Kittredge the outstanding school it is today.

Upon entering Kittredge School, it becomes immediately apparent that something special is taking place. There is a quiet buzz; there are smiles, and a recognizable sense of order. Teachers and students are moving about. Sharing is evident, people listen to each other. Student work is visible throughout the building, as are multiple photographs of student activities. Property is respected as are ideas. Students have obvious responsibilities. Few rules are posted, yet appropriate behavior is obvious and consistent. All in all there is a calmness, caring, and empathy in each classroom, the playground as well as the office. It is instantly recognized that everyone, students and teachers alike want to be there.

Exciting and wonderful things can happen when a group of people come together and find they share a common set of values, a common group of underlying beliefs. Those beliefs and values are manifested in the school's Mission Statement, "Challenging academics in a warm and nurturing environment." That statement is apparent on the school walls, the school publications and web site and apparently in the minds of each staff member. In fact that statement continues today to help the school translate an intuitive mutual understanding into a functional, recognizable, working educational program that amongst other things fosters a consistent philosophy: human beings by nature are caring, thoughtful, loving and empathetic. They are not aggressive, mean or thoughtless. This newer theory, beginning to be recognized by science, embraces the concepts of relationships, cooperation, affection, personal meaning and empathy as indicators of the human condition.

Young and Lavaroni agree that here are many elements that have contributed to the schools current sense of well being.

When asked, "How do you explain the great accomplishments you two have achieved?"

Lavaroni replied

"Certainly being small is part of it"

While that might be true, it cannot and is not the only answer. Yes, the teacher pupil ratio is less than eight to one. But actually, in spite of its size Kittredge offers multiple and varied learning opportunities for the students. There are credentialed teachers for Art, Physical Education, Music and Performing Arts, and the Spanish Language. There are inter-school sports teams, field trips, out-door educational programs with the Yosemite Institute. There is an after school study program along with several special ones that meet the interests of students. Computers are available for use by students. There are teacher aides and competent playground supervisors. The Parents Organization provides a strong financial and emotional support system. And, integral to all of this both Young and Lavaroni see themselves as teachers. Possibly the most important of all they see themselves as learners.

Young and Lavaroni agree that many elements have contributed to the current sense of well being that envelops the school. Their leadership style encompasses their deep belief in the school's Mission Statement, developed at the time of its reincarnation in 1995 in concert with the staff and parents. The continuity of the staff is verification of the continued efforts of the school to live up to that statement. It is that trust between the leadership and the staff that makes for the sense of teamwork that surrounds the school. The administration, teachers and staff are a team. They are individuals who collectively respect both their individuality and simultaneously their mutual responsibility to the school and the students. They share and encourage each other's creativity. They are willing to identify potential problems, assist in solving them and support children as they too become problem solvers. Every teacher, staff member, administrator and owner is proud of his responsibilities as a teacher, learner, communicator, program assessor and evaluator, record keeper, and team member. All share in the joy of being learners. All get strength from each other. All share in the significance of family that permeates the building. All feel the sense of being respected as members of a community

It is as teachers and learners that these two educators, Young and Lavaroni have put into place many interesting policies, effective activities, and motivating behaviors that have led to the establishment of the caring and empathic community we call Kittredge School today. When asked how they were able to bring about such a quality environment, they listed the following as possible reasons, in no order of importance.

  • Standardized test are used NOT for labeling, but instead for helping make appropriate decisions about teaching and learning.
  • Classroom teachers are actively involved in determining which students are admitted to the school
  • Teachers and staff members are invited to continue their personal growth and are encouraged to take classes and workshops paid for by the school.
  • Every teacher is provided the sum of $1000 from the Kittredge Parents Association to be used by the teacher to enhance the learning program.
  • The Principal greets every automobile before school and at the end of the school daily to personally welcome and send off each student.
  • A high grade of coffee is always available in the staff room as well as a weekly warm lunch provided at no cost to the staff members.
  • Friday staff meeting, with agendas including room for staff suggestions always end with the question, "What were your highlights of the week?"
  • Each teacher is provided a "web-page" for his/her use to communicate with students and parents.
  • All students are encouraged to become better managers of their own learning through the school wide use of two programs, Character Counts and Habits of Mind.
  • Graduates are constantly in touch. The school and the office are frequently being visited by former students currently in high school or college or beyond.
  • Time is provided for the personal needs of staff members for special occasions and emergencies other than for reasons of health.
  • Staff birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days are celebrated with parties, classroom assistance, and public recognition
  • Student birthdays are recognized in a variety of ways including a "public humiliation" celebration led by the principal.
  • The principal frequently substitutes for any staff member when that person has a need to be away from regular responsibilities for a period of time.
  • The principal and staff consistently model their belief in the power of humour in their interactions with students, teachers and parents.

Taken together, the little things listed above, combined with the huge life force found at Kittredge makes this small school a very big presence in the lives of all the children, teachers and parents involved.

Lavaroni and Young as teachers first, have become true Educational Entrepreneurs who have made a difference. For this we at The International Academy for Educational Entrepreneurism proudly name them: THE EDUCATIONAL ENTRPRENEURS FOR 2012.