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Schools & Program Visits - April, 1994 Issue #27 

Phoenix, Arizona 
Lowell E. Andrews, President 
Marti Weiskopf, Director of Admissions 
Lon's Visit: February 8-9, 1994

During my visit to St. Paul's Academy, my impressions were that the environment was clean and well cared for, the boys looked good and reported they felt they were in a safe place, and the staff were competent, seemed dedicated, and many had been there for many years. Behind the positive impression, there are several aspects that are impressive and of considerable interest. 

First, the school has just transitioned from being a successful psychiatric residential treatment center treating some very damaged youths (known then as San Pablo Treatment Center). Second, instead of locating the school in the countryside where it is easier to control the students' environment and discourage runaways, they are in a suburban area of Phoenix where they have to deal with the everyday challenges of urban living close to a large metropolitan center. This is by choice rather than by chance. Third, they are enrolling and integrating both boarding and day students, apparently successfully. Fourth, there is a bit of a sense of deja vu because President Lowell Andrews started the whole thing in 1961 as a youth home, which over the years evolved into a psychiatric treatment center. There has been some discussison that the school is now becoming something very similar to the concept of the original youth home. And fifth, founder Lowell Andrews is very strongly influenced by the philosophy of psychiatrist Alfred Adler, and feels the school has an Adlerian approach. 

The school is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, and is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and is licensed by the Arizona State Department of Education. It has turned back all it's treatment center licenses such as JACHO certification. Classes are small and challenging, with as much one-to-one teacher time as the boys need. Upon enrollment, an educational plan is developed for each boy and every effort is made to stimulate each boys individual learning style. The curriculum appears standard (so far as courses required for a High School diploma), and watching the boys during the day, the scene is much like you would see at hundreds of private schools around the country, i.e. moving from class to class, gathering at the basketball court to shoot a few baskets during class breaks, etc. There are some classes that reflect the specific needs of boys with behavior and/or emotional problems. For example, the boys referred to Chemical Dependency 101 and 102, which is designed to help boys who have had drug and/or alcohol problems work on the 12 steps of AA. These are not groups as such, but classes during the regular school day to strengthen the boys understanding of the steps and how it applies to them. In the evenings these boys will attend AA or NA and participate in on-campus groups with more emotional work. I'm sure there are several other approaches to academics that reflect these boys emotional needs, but my visit was not long enough to get more than a sampling of their approaches. 

They are very specific in their admissions policy. Appropriate boys have been having trouble in their own school and community, but there must be some sign that the boy has some willingness to commit to the program. That is, the boy has bottomed out enough to know he has a problem and needs some help. This of course eliminates some of the more resistant boys, but, the ones they do enroll have plenty of needs in emotional growth, learning problems, and knowing how to make good decisions. 

Part of the students' needs are met by the normal structure of a private boarding school - things like a small class size and uniforms to eliminate the image games. Another strength they have is the experience and training of the staff. Even though most of the staff are teachers with training in education and academic disciplines, behind that is a lot of counseling experience and training that many of the teachers can bring to the classroom and in individual work with the students. In addition there are dormitory staff who are with the students overnight, and counseling staff who work with students when individual problems manifest. 

The Academy utilizes a unique maturation program in the Degree System where as a student advances through the degrees, they are given increased responsibilities and privileges. The theme is based on Knighthood and the lessons of chivalry that have traditionally been associated with the Knight Templars. A ceremony is performed to commemorate each student's advance through the degrees of Neophyte, Page, Squire, Knight, and Knight Commander. 

Another tool is a kind of code called the ten Basic Responsibilities which each student is expected to learn and live by. In a sense, they are the rules of the school. But, they are presented in a way that appeals to the positive instincts of students and avoid the rigidity of most rules so as to not foster the thought "Rules are made to be broken." The ten Basic Responsibilities are: l.) I Will Respect Myself; 2.) I Will Keep My Body and Appearance Clean and Acceptable; 3.) I Will Use Appropriate Language and Play; 4.) I Will Practice Proper Etiquette; 5.) I Will Be Punctual And Complete All Program Activities; 6.) I Will Clean and Maintain School and Community Property; 7.) I Will Not Have Unauthorized items In My Possession; 8.) I Will Let My Whereabouts Be Known At All Times; 9.) I Will Respect Others And The Belongings of Others; and 10.) I Will Learn and Practice the Ideals of the Knighthood. 

The students receive sheets with more written detail, but the basic ideas are recognizable as related to successful living, and are expressed in the way of basic agreements rather than "Thou shall..." and "Thou shall not...." 

At the time of my visit, the school seemed to be making the transition very successfully. They are providing an example of the way treatment centers might go in order to adjust to the changing legal and insurance environment. And, they seem to be coming up with a format that looks like a regular school, and still meets severe emotional problems without looking and feeling like an institution. I will be watching their progress very closely to see if they develop a format others could follow. I encourage other professionals to do the same. 

Copyright 1994, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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