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News & Views - Aug 2000 Issue #72

John Dewey Academy Supports The King George School Staff
By Tom Bratter, President
John Dewey Academy
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
413-528-9800

Recently, several key staff members at King George School submitted their resignations in protest of management decisions from the corporate level. In my view, Linda Houghton and her staff refused to prostitute themselves to absentee management decisions that would result in increasing profit margins at the expense of the students. I applaud their decision to stand on principal for what is best for the students. In my view, they are heroes.

What is sad and frightening to me is that very few showed their support by writing the corporation to protest and threaten not to make further referrals, nor did I hear of any families threatening to withdraw their students. If consumers are complacent, silent, and passive about the issues Linda and the staff at King George School brought out, then abuses will proliferate. The casualties are the students whose academic and psychological needs are compromised.

To show our support for our kindred, courageous colleagues; assuming the staff meets its criteria, the John Dewey Academy will offer employment to those King George School staff who feel their integrity is compromised. Also, the John Dewey Academy offers its support to Linda and her staff so long as her staff remains empowered to make decisions for the good of the students.

All things and corporations must change, but especially those in the human service business must remain accountable and responsive to students and families, not to impersonal boards of directors. A refusal to refer can be effective in protesting decisions that are not ultimately for the good of the students.

Where there are shareholders, any corporation measures its success by the amount of its profits. While seeking to maximize profits, the automotive industry is the biggest offender of violating public trust. Hasnít General Motors, specifically, blocked public transportation to increase sales of cars? To make matters worse, where there are inadequate sanctions, many reports have made the point that giant multi-national automotive corporations cynically compute whether or not to ignore a defect that can kill innocent drivers, gambling class action litigation settlements will be less than the profits accrued had the unsafe problem been corrected when first detected.

The pharmaceutical industry finances research and rewards only to those researchers whose studies are favorable to their self- interest. Amazingly, there is little public outrage when the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), after approving medication prematurely, is forced to rescind approval after irreversible damage and deaths occur. I expect soon there will be scandals exposing the dangerous deleterious impact of Prozac, Ritalin, and Methadone. It is outrageous after fifty years, there still is no longitudinal study to determine physiological and neurological damage from these medications. It is estimated ten million individuals (mostly children) take Ritalin.

The trend for proprietary special purpose schools is to be purchased at a premium by corporations that intend to go public and leverage profits by selling shares, making owners awesomely wealthy at the expense of students. The impact on the school itself is profoundly negative. Of course, there are some advantages to becoming large such as purchasing food and supplies in bulk, and a centralized advertising budget that could result in additional savings. But, rather than applying these savings to improve the quality of the program, my fear is that these savings would be used merely to increase profits.

By choice, the John Dewey Academy remains independent and in so doing is accountable and responsive to the families who pay tuition. The staff is credentialed, the faculty-student ratio is 1-3, and class size is small, all of which decrease profits.

Sadly, it becomes increasingly rare when a corporation retains its integrity by adhering to its mission, and that is why I consider Linda Houghton and her colleagues heroes for standing for principle.

Copyright © 2000, 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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