Lake House Academy
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After the abrupt closing of New Leaf of North Carolina and the disruption to the therapeutic process of the girls there, Lake House Academy was opened in the Summer of 2010 under the leadership of Catherine "Cat" Jennings. In the summer of 2011, she was dismissed from that position by the person with the majority financial interest, who had financed the opening of the school.
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Lake House Academy is currently under the direction of Sharon Laney, former executive director of Paint Rock Valley treatment program, the flagship program of the former Three Springs organization. Since Ms. Jennings dismissal, the program has come under increasing influence from the InnerChange organization. It is not clear to us as of this writing (September 30, 2011) what the actual connection with InnerChange is (owner? part owner? under agreement to purchase? management contract? consulting contract?) Prior to Ms. Laney's entry onto the scene, Kimball DeLaMare, co-founder of Island View Residential Treatment Center and Oakley School, was acting director.
In approximately January of 2011, Ms. Jennings went to Roy Baxter "Buddy" Cook, the person who financed the opening of Lake House School and therefore the majority owner, to seek support for bringing in a consultant to help with improvements in the school. Mr. Cook after initial resistance agreed, and the consultant was Kimball DeLaMare. Mr. DeLaMare indicated that there was some chance the consultation would be interrupted by another business proposition he had brewing, and his colleague could take over the consultation if that were to happen. It did happen -- the other business proposition being a major executive position at InnerChange. Then following Ms. Jennings dismissal, Mr. DeLaMare was back as Interim Executive Director.
Ms. Jennings is moving on to open Glen Willow Academy, which we believe will carry on the tradition she established at New Leaf of North Carolina and developed for a short time at Lake House Academy. We are cautiously optimistic about Lake House Academy under its new leadership. However we also believe, for better or for worse, it will be a very different school from what it would have been under Ms. Jennings leadership.
Mr. DeLaMare and Ms. Laney come to Lake House Academy with extremely distinguished resumes. Ms. Laney has been thought of as the heart and soul of the Three Springs organization when it was in its prime. Mr. DeLaMare is the co-founder of Island View Residential Treatment Center and Oakley School. Both of them are extremely well thought of in the field of therapeutic programming. In fairness to both we want to be transparent that we believe that many if not most of our educational consultant colleagues would disagree with our criticisms of both, especially Mr. DeLaMare.
We have been told that Mr. DeLaMare has defensively objected that he never had anything to do with Ms. Jennings dismissal. We hope that is true and would accept Mr. DeLaMare's word on that if he said it directly to us. But he did appear to benefit from it and we simply are not comfortable with that, given his prior relationship with the program and with Ms. Jennings. We are concerned with whether people who do business in this way are able to set a positive culture in place for a healing community.
With respect to Mr. DeLaMare, we applaud the decision of Innerchange to bring him on board, as we believe he brings a level of wisdom and maturity the leadership of Innerchange, up to that point, did not possess. Prior to this series of events, our only problem with Mr. DeLaMare was that he is so good as a public relations person that sometimes his explanations leave out things that parents are referral sources might find upsetting but that need to be heard. We have had the highest regard for his abilities and no criticism of his way of doing business beyond what is stated here. We had (and still have) high hopes for him at Innerchange. We were also disappointed by the manner of his return to Lake House. We believe he had come to Lake House as Ms. Jennings consultant, then took her position. It is a little bit like having your defense attorney switch sides and work for the prosecution or the plaintiff in your case. In the legal analogy that would not be allowed; in the real event we know of no objective standards that rule that behavior unethical, but we would have preferred to see a different kind of moral compass.
With respect to Ms. Laney, we must first point out that she is very well thought of by most educational consultants we know of who have worked with her. We stopped referring to the Three Springs programs during the time she was influential there because of problems we saw in the handling of the children in those programs, in most cases under circumstances where she was the manager in charge. We choose not to go into detail here, but the most pervasive problem was that we saw no evidence that the corporate culture surrounding Ms. Laney and that she helped to shape recognized the value of relationships in the therapeutic process. We realize she was immersed in a corporate culture where the problems we saw were broader than just what was under her direction, so we do not know how much latitude she had to change the concerning procedures we witnessed.
We did, however, on several occasions, attempt to reach out to her to discuss our concerns. She never was willing to do that. So our concern was not just about the management of the children in the programs but also about accountability. Our interest in meeting with Ms. Laney to resolve our concerns stands. Until she accommodates our desires on that point, we will be unable to give this program a positive recommendation.
One thing is clear, and we do not expect either Ms. Jennings or the present management at Lake House to disagree: Lake House Academy under present management will be a very different place from Lake House Academy under Ms. Jennings direction. It appears that Mr. Cook has taken the steps he has in discharging Ms. Jennings, bringing in the Innerchange influence leading to putting Ms. Laney in charge because he sought that result.
Those who want a continuation of the tradition of New Leaf of North Carolina will more likely find it at Glen Willow Academy than at Lake House Academy. We also note that New Leaf Academy in Oregon, has been sold back to its orignal owners and is once again, a viable program operated by on-site owners. We hope for an opportunity to meet with Ms. Laney to clear our concerns about her management style, what she values in a therapeutic program, and her willingness to be accountable to parents and referral sources. We hope that with Mr. DeLaMare's entry into Innerchange, the quality of that organization will improve, with a trickle down effect on Lake House Academy. We have reports from one parent of a child at Lake House Academy that she sees improvements of the program under its current management.
FamilyLight at this time is neutral on recommending for or against enrollments at Lake House Academy. Some of our concerns following the termination of Ms. Jennings have been resolved, but we would need to hear from Ms. Laney before proceeding to fully assess this program.
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Last updated 10-6-2011
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