DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS
Andrea Nathans, PSYD
Director of Admissions
ANDREA NATHANS, PsyD
Director of Admissions
Andrea came to the John Dewey Academy in 2013 after the passing of the founder, Tom Bratter, when the school was in a significant transition. After a year familiarizing herself with the rich history and the nature of the school, she stepped into the role of Executive Director. Andrea is a clinical psychologist licensed in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Andrea serves as the link between the school staff and the Dewey Board of Directors, oversees many administrative functions, and directs the admissions process.
Before coming to JDA, Andrea had a private, outpatient psychotherapy practice serving children, teens, and adults. Some areas of specialty include early childhood, anxiety disorders, divorce and blended family issues, and Autistic spectrum disorders. In addition, she also conducted psychological and neuropsychological assessments. She continues to volunteer as a mediator in high-conflict divorce cases in Connecticut.
Andrea is a huge lover of all living things non-human, both animals and plants, and is able to find a peacefulness in these relationships that helps to balance the meaningful but sometimes intense work with humans. The whole school benefits from this love, as she often brings her three dogs to the castle, where students will slip them a treat or two and give them lots of attention!
Our Year-Round Program
John Dewey is a 12 month program and has rolling admissions. Students come at various times throughout the year based on when placement is needed. Our admissions work is conducted by a clinical psychologist with decades of experience in child and adolescent evaluation and treatment. The process generally begins with an inquiry call either directly from parents, or by an educational consultant. The student’s general profile is discussed, as well as an overview of our program to assess the fit of a student for our school. If the student appears appropriate, an intake phone call is set up where a complete developmental, family and problem history is taken. Further discussion about the program occurs so that parents get a good sense of life at the school. Although we do review psychological reports, standardized tests, and prior academic performance, we focus much more on our own assessment than on any written report.
Once the intake is completed, we ask parents to come spend a day at John Dewey where they will meet with staff and students, observe a class, have a tour and see the program in operation. We believe that this day is essential in helping parents know if Dewey is the correct next step for their child and understand our unique model. Parental involvement is key so families need to feel comfortable with our approach and see it as the right fit for their child. We try to maximize a student’s success at Dewey by making sure a student is the right fit for our program as well as ascertain their readiness for a rigorous academic and therapeutic approach.
If both parties feel that Dewey is the right program and the student is ready, an interview/admissions date will be set up for the student. Most often, the student will come directly from their wilderness, hospital, rehab, or treatment program. Sometimes, a student will come to John Dewey directly from home. During the enrollment day, the student will attend an interview where they may ask questions, but also will need to demonstrate their readiness for academic and therapeutic work and the seeds of responsibility for their own life and choices, as well as future success.
Each student completes a preliminary telephone interview with our Head of School, as well as an in-person interview on the day of their admission. In the intake interviews, we assess the current attitude of the applicants. Specifically, we try to ascertain whether they recognize their self-destructive or self-defeating patterns of behavior and can make an initial commitment to change. We examine whether they can accept responsibility for their dysfunctional behavior and, in order to determine whether they can live cooperatively in a caring community, assess their social maturity. Finally, we aim to elicit their willingness to remain at The John Dewey Academy. This initial willingness may be perfunctory, but it must include the minimal intention to be honest and to abide by the basic rules for appropriate student behavior: all students must commit to abstaining from drugs (including tobacco and alcohol), from sexual behavior, from violence, and from academic dishonesty.
We treat our students as individuals with their own unique histories and struggles, but we are also aware of the similarities that they share. First, our students are bright, highly capable and college bound. Though we are reluctant to use the label “gifted” (as it is a loaded term with little practical utility at JDA), most students who do well here have developmental histories indicative of exceptional aptitude in one or more areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, kinesthetic, or leadership capacity. Despite these abilities and talents, many of our students have performed at levels incommensurate with their potential, often due to learning, attentional, emotional, and/or motivational problems.
In many cases, by the time they reach us, they have lost interest in academics or have avoided it altogether. They may be unsure of their capacity to get into and succeed in college, though typically have an interest in post-secondary education. In certain educational circles, our students would be described as “underachieving gifted” or “twice exceptional” (2e) students. It is not uncommon for our students to present with test profiles consistent with slow processing, executive functioning challenges, or even a learning disability such as dyslexia, in the context of very high test scores in other areas. This all being said, a motivated student with solidly average intellect can succeed at JDA.
Additionally, JDA students have demonstrated that they are in need of a more structured and nurturing environment than what their families and/or schools and communities can adequately provide. Our students have often tried multiple academic settings and treatment approaches, with little success, before they enroll at John Dewey.
Students come to us with a long list of previous clinical diagnoses that reflect a depressed mood, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, inattention, executive functioning problems, trauma, relational/attachment problems, characterological issues, family problems, legal issues, and a variety of self-destructive behaviors (e.g., drug/alcohol use, non-suicidal self-injury, promiscuity, eating disorders, suicidal gestures/attempts, internet/computer overuse and/or poor regulation of computer use). In non-clinical terms, they can present as angry, apathetic, alienated, dishonest, anxious, lonely, insecure, unmotivated, and just plain stuck and lost in navigating the difficult waters of growing up. Some have shut down and withdrawn from life, sometimes avoiding school or the social arena for very long periods of time. Many have angrily pushed back against parents and others who have reached out to them, including professionals. All of them have failed to respond favorably to traditional educational and psychotherapeutic approaches, including outpatient therapy and psychotropic medications. Many, but not all, students who ultimately succeed at JDA have completed a therapeutic wilderness program prior to admission.
The John Dewey Academy is not appropriate for all adolescents. Since the clinical and educational picture is often ambiguous, we recommend that you contact us to discuss whether your child may benefit from attending The John Dewey Academy. Our admissions director is a licensed psychologist with decades of clinical experience. She will spend time discussing the unique aspects of your child, their situation, your family, and John Dewey to determine if a fit might be possible. If John Dewey is not the right fit for your child, we will do our best to refer you to a qualified educational consultant or suggest appropriate courses to explore.
Psychotropic Drug Use
John Dewey Academy has as a fundamental belief that most adolescents can achieve stability and accomplishment in a structured and supportive environment. In most cases our approach precludes the need for psychotropic medicine interventions. Once stabilized, we encourage those students who are on psychotropic medications to wean off, if clinically appropriate.
That said, at John Dewey, a student’s need for medication is not a barrier to admission. Rather, we strive to ensure that each student is a “good fit” within the broader John Dewey environment. To facilitate the success of every student, we have secured psychiatric support for the program. We have a long history of coordinating care with local psychiatrists and with students’ home psychiatrists, and will continue to do so as we move forward with flexibility regarding medication. At John Dewey Academy, our commitment to personalized care is unwavering.
As a school that is predicated upon personalization, another critical part of a John Dewey admission is readiness. A student must be the right fit for our program but they also must come at the right time.
The most important aspects of student and family readiness include:
• A belief that their family, home, or home school are no longer options. Parents must communicate to their child that “home is not an option.” Sometimes students will test this position and it is essential that parents are able to hold a firm line. This holds true for returning to boarding or other previous schools as well.
• A student must possess some level of responsibility for their previous difficulty, poor choices, and lack of positive coping. While it is common for our students to blame others (often parents) for their situation, successful Dewey students have begun the process of looking at themselves and accepting some responsibility for their lives. They are aware, on some level, of the ways in which they need to grow and learn.
• As John Dewey is a voluntary program, a student needs to show some willingness to enter our program willingly with knowledge that it will be hard work, academically and therapeutically. However, the rewards of success are great- emotional stability and contentment, college admission, improved relationships with family and self, a sense of stress resilience and confidence to handle life’s challenges. Though we acknowledge that most teens would prefer not to attend therapeutic boarding school and be home, our students choose JDA as the best alternative given them.
• Finally, it is not just the student who needs to be ready: parents must also be ready. Parents need to be willing to learn themselves, work with us as a team, be engaged in a therapeutic process with fellow parents, and be unified in helping their child succeed. We expect a lot from our parents, so it’s important that parents understand their role and our expectations from the beginning.
Tuition & Financial Assistance
The John Dewey Academy provides a superb year-round curriculum of academic and emotional development in a historic setting. The fifty-two-week fee for the 2020-2021 school-year is $98,000, billed quarterly. Students may enroll at any time during the year; the quarter in which they arrive will be pro-rated.
School districts have occasionally reimbursed parents (or paid directly) for part or all of the tuition. Furthermore, part or all of the cost may be tax-deductible (Given the ever-changing IRS regulations, we suggest that parents consult their accountants).
Financial assistance is available to families in need. Please call the Head of School, Dr. David Baum, to discuss whether we can help you make John Dewey a feasible option for your family.