Michael DeSisto

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Michael DeSisto (born Albert Michael DeSisto)
Michael DeSisto.jpg
DeSisto in school gown at 1983 graduation
Born (1939-05-29)May 29, 1939
Boston, Massachusetts
Died November 1, 2003(2003-11-01) (aged 64)
Boston, Massachusetts
Resting place
Cremated Unknown
Education Stonehill College B.A.
Occupation Executive Director of the DeSisto Schools
Spouse(s) Majorie Charles Bullock
Relatives Joseph (Joey) DeSisto

A. (Albert) Michael DeSisto (May 29, 1939 – November 1, 2003) was an American educator best known for founding and directing the controversial DeSisto Schools.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 29, 1939, Michael DeSisto attended parochial schools in West Roxbury, and graduated from Cathedral High School in Boston in 1957. DeSisto made average marks in elementary and secondary school. At one time being expelled from Cardinal O'Connell, a Boston seminary school.[1] He was a theology student[2] at St. John's Seminary in Brighton for two years. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and government from Stonehill College in North Easton in 1962.

Career[edit]

DeSisto was a teacher, unlicensed therapist, and director for eleven years at The Lake Grove School on Long Island, New York. DeSisto had significant disagreements with the administrators of Lake Grove regarding their educational approach and was fired.[2] In 1978 he secured funding mostly in the form of advance tuition payments, and direct donations, from the parents of former students of The Lake Grove School, and set out to found his own school.[3] He founded the DeSisto at Stockbridge School in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for at risk teens in 1978.

Although DeSisto's official title was executive director, he was often referred to as headmaster in the press and by others, even though he never held the position or referred to himself as such. DeSisto originally envisioned a string of schools nationally and internationally based on Gestalt psychological principles, and his own therapeutic model. DeSisto stated that the Stockbridge campus would be his "flagship".[4] In 1980 DeSisto opened a second campus in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.

In the early 1980s, DeSisto and the DeSisto School were favorably featured in articles in Life, Time[4] and People[5] magazines. DeSisto made a number of appearances on national television with his students, including The Today Show. He appeared several times as a guest on the Joey Reynolds radio show.[6]

The DeSisto at Howey School closed in 1988. DeSisto stated that the reason was declining enrollment, and legal problems with the local government.[7] The DeSisto at Stockbridge School closed permanently in June 2004, amid commonwealth allegations that it did not create a safe environment for its students.[8]

In 1988 The Orlando Sentinel reported that the DeSisto School's claim of accreditation by the National Association of Independent Schools was false. Michael DeSisto responded that, "low-level staff members were responsible".[9] Mike DeSisto's résumé also stated he had been a faculty member at Elmira College and Adelphi University, when he had not ever been a faculty member at either institution.[10] DeSisto also claimed he had worked as a consultant for the Free University of New York at Stony Brook. According to Jeremy Weis, an official with the New York Bureau of Academic Information and Reports, the state agency with which all universities must register "I've never heard of this university".[11] Elmira payroll supervisor Mary Fetyko said, "DeSisto never worked there."[11] At Adelphi, administrator Margaret Elaine Wittman said, "there are no records of DeSisto having been a faculty member, the man is completely foreign to us, the fact that he would say this on his vita is incredible."[11]

In November 1988, The Orlando Sentinel ran a three-part exposé about Michael DeSisto, titled Desisto(sic) Went Far On Fake Credentials, "Who is Michael DeSisto? For years, Howey's most controversial resident has claimed a lot of impressive academic and professional credentials, many of which are false. The real story is one of firings from teaching posts and inflated representations of his professional stature.Yet those credentials are a significant aspect of the almost overwhelmingly positive publicity he has received—on the Today show, in Life, Time and People magazines, and in numerous newspaper articles—and the subsequent financial success he has achieved with his private preparatory schools."[12] In response to complaints made by Michael DeSisto that the articles "presented an unfair picture of him and his schools". On October 7, 1990, the Orlando Sentinel published a follow-up article titled, New Information On The Desisto(sic) Schools. It is the Sentinel's policy to review all such complaints "in a spirit of fairness". The Sentinel found that, "the presentation of one story in the three-day series may have led to the unintentionally misleading conclusion that his entire career was built on false credentials."[9] About a year after the publication of this article in the Sentinel with DeSisto's rebuttal about his credentials, it was discovered that Michael DeSisto did not have a Master's degree as he had long claimed.

In 1991, DeSisto authored his only book: Decoding Your Teenager (How to understand each other during the turbulent years)[13][14] After its publication, some journalists published articles calling into question whether DeSisto actually held a master's degree in psychology from the University of Massachusetts, as he claimed, or did not. In fact the University of Massachusetts doesn't even offer a master's degree in psychology, and only has a doctorate program. DeSisto later admitted to not possessing the Master's degree, and said the error was due to a "low-level assistant", who had mistakenly placed it on his résumé.[11]

It 1991 Michael DeSisto was selected to receive the Outstanding Alumnus Award from his alma mater, Stonehill College. The reasons given were,"in recognition of his dedication to helping troubled youth and their families. He was an outstanding educator, a compassionate counselor, a popular author, a skilled communicator and founder of the DeSisto School, a therapeutic-educational community for troubled teenagers."[15]

In 1999, DeSisto produced an off-off-Broadway musical Inappropriate[16][17] with Lonnie McNeil and Michael Sottile based on the journals and life experiences of the student performers. On December 6, 2004 the composer of "Inappropriate", Michael Sottile filed a lawsuit in Berkshire Superior Court against the DeSisto School seeking the recovery of almost $350,000 in damages that an arbitrator ordered the school to pay him after a default judgment six months previously found he had not been paid for his services.[18]

Roger Kahn's 2006 memoir, Into My Own portrays DeSisto as an egocentric figure, stained by streaks of cruelty. A number of former DeSisto students have praised that portrait.[19][20]

Personal life[edit]

DeSisto's father was a building contractor who died when DeSisto was 11-years-old.[21] DeSisto has a brother Joseph, and a sister Jacqueline who is deceased. In 1983 DeSisto married Margie Charles Bullock in a lavish ceremony on the Stockbridge campus lasting three days that included two live elephants, three hot air balloons, and fireworks. The noise disrupted a concert going on at the nearby Tanglewood.[22] They had no children.

Death[edit]

DeSisto died on November 1, 2003, from cerebral hemorrhage, several days after receiving a kidney transplant.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1988-11-14/news/0080240295_1_desisto-elmira-college-credentials/2 Desisto Went Far On Fake Credentials November 14, 1988|By Angela Dickey of The Sentinel Staff (Page 2 of 3)
  2. ^ a b Q&A: Handling 'Kids the Public Schools Don't Want to Handle' Education Week, February 16, 1983
  3. ^ A. Michael DeSisto, 64, Head Of School for Troubled Students By ANITA GATES. Published: November 13, 2003 New York Times
  4. ^ a b Getting that "DeSisto Glow", Time Magazine, Monday, Nov. 26, 1979
  5. ^ Baranski, Lynne (1981-02-09). "For Troubled Kids Trying to Change, Mike Desisto Is Mentor and Healer". People. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Joey All Night Former Hartford
  7. ^ Pratt, Edward (January 24, 1989). "Judge Rules For Howey In Desisto Fight". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Special-needs school rapped by state plans to close By David Abel, Boston Globe, April 13, 2004
  9. ^ a b Dickey, Angela. "Articles about Stockbridge School – Orlando Sentinel". Articles.orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  10. ^ "Archives – OrlandoSentinel.com". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. 1988-11-14. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Desisto Went Far On Fake Credentials – Orlando Sentinel". Articles.orlandosentinel.com. 1988-11-14. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  12. ^ "Articles about Stockbridge School by Date – Page 2 – Orlando Sentinel". Articles.orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  13. ^ "News & Views, 4/1991 – Book Review – 'Decoding Your Teenager'". Strugglingteens.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  14. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=QD0VAAAAIBAJ&sjid=gggEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3652,6228315&dq=michael+desisto+decoding&hl=en.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  15. ^ "Awards Committee – Stonehill College". [dead link]
  16. ^ Roger McNulty, Cease and DeSisto, The Village Voice, Dec 21 1999
  17. ^ The New York Times Theatre Reviews ... – New York Times Theater Reviews – Google Books. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  18. ^  . "www.news10now.com Composer suing DeSisto School". News10now.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  19. ^ <&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CA0Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=roger%20kahn%20into%20my%20own%20desisto&f=false "Into My Own" Google Books
  20. ^ "Daytona Beach Morning Journal – Aug 9, 1980". News.google.com. 1980-08-09. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  21. ^ "Desisto Went Far On Fake Credentials – Page 2 – Orlando Sentinel". Articles.orlandosentinel.com. 1988-11-14. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  22. ^ Desisto Is Big Name In Berkshires; Educator, Community Overcome Rocky Start, Orlando Sentinel, November 13, 1988
  23. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/13/arts/a-michael-desisto-64-head-of-school-for-troubled-students.html A. Michael DeSisto, 64, Head Of School for Troubled Students By ANITA GATES Published: November 13, 2003 New York Times

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]