Allynwood Academy

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Allynwood Academy
United States
TypePrivate High School
MottoBuilding Character. Changing Lives.
Religious affiliation(s)Inter-faith
Director of AdmissionsJeff Brain, M.A.
Academic Vice PresidentSidney F. Parham, Ph.D.
Student to teacher ratio4:1
Campus158 acres (0.64 km2)
Color(s)Blue and Gold

Allywood Academy, formerly the Family Foundation School, was a private, co-educational, college preparatory, therapeutic boarding school located in Hancock, New York.[1] The school was in operation from 1984 through 2014.[2][3]


The school was founded in the 1980s by Tony and Betty Argiros, who were recovering alcoholics following a twelve-step program. As a part of their own final step in the program, they took into their home young people who were recovering from substance abuse. They became foster parents to many of these adolescents and provided some with homeschooling education. After the number of foster children began to exceed the allowable limit for New York State, they sought and obtained legal status for their home as a licensed school.[4]

Over time, the school grew beyond the Argiros home into a campus that includes a main school building, boys' and girls' dormitories, a chapel, food service, laundry services, art and athletic facilities.

In 2000, the Argiros children assumed control over the day-to-day operations of the school.[5]

In October 2013, the Family Foundation School changed its name to "Allynwood Academy", which the school stated was due to a change in program structure.[6]

Citing a decline in enrollment, the school closed at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year.


The Family Foundation School program was based upon three core goals: maximize academic potential; develop spiritually and emotionally through a 12-step program of recovery; grow and mature psychologically through the 12-Step program as well as group and individual therapies. Students at the school were divided into "families" of roughly 30 students and 6 staff members. The family groups ate together, during which time "Table Topics" served as an opportunity for the group to address any negative issues presented by individual students.[7]

The school operated year-round, with two 25-week school terms,[8] and employed a residential behavior modification program that was chiefly based on the twelve-step approach.[8]

The school served high-school age (grades 9-12) children that had problems with various addictions (e.g. drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling or gaming)[9] and/or other psychological challenges.[10] Students were typically recommended for placement at the school by a social worker, school guidance counselor, or psychologist.[9]

The Bridge was a program added circa 2012–2013 for participants ages 18 to 20.[11]

Accreditation and affiliations[edit]

The Family Foundation School was accredited as a school by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools,[7][12] the New York State Department of Education,[7][13] and was accredited as a behavioral health care facility by the Joint Commission,[14] a private not-for profit quality assurance organization.

The school was a founding member of National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP)[15]

Extracurricular programs[edit]

The Family Foundation School's extracurricular programs include sports teams, drama productions, musical programs, an art department and a wide variety of clubs.[9] Students also participate with members of the local community through religious associations, scouting, Rotary Club, Job Corps, the Sullivan County BOCES, and various other community service projects in the Hancock, NY area.[16]

The school's performing arts program presents full-scale musicals, drama productions, winter and spring choral concerts that are open to the public,[9] and is a regular participant in the North American Music Festivals.[8]

In 2004 and 2005, the school's debating team won the Seventh annual Delaware-Otsego Bar Associations Forensic Speech Tournament, a regional debating competition.[17]

The school soccer team won the championship in the New York State Class D, Section IX Conference in 2005.[18]

In 2009, the school's Math Team earned an honorable mention in the 2009 Moody's Mega Math Challenge, for their presentation examining the effect of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus program on employment in the United States.[19]


The Family Foundation School employed over three-dozen educational professionals, counsellors and support staff, and maintained a 4:1 student-teacher ratio.[8][20][21] About half of the school's faculty and staff members have been through a twelve-step recovery process.[4]

The school's English and Philosophy instructor and middle school principal, Jan Cheripko, is the author of nine books,[22] has won numerous national and international book awards and has been a featured speaker at the National Council of Teachers of English, the International Reading Association, and numerous other New York State and Northeastern U.S. regional education conferences.[23] He has also conducted graduate teaching accredited workshops on how to reach at-risk students through writing and literature.[24]


From 2004 through 2008, all Family Foundation School graduates have been accepted at postsecondary institutions, with 85 percent to four-year colleges and 15 percent to two-year schools or professional training.[8]

Family Foundation School alumnus Wells Thompson is a midfielder for the Colorado Rapids,[25] a Major League Soccer team in the United States. He began his professional soccer career with the New England Revolution, where he played from 2007 through 2009.[26][27]

A Family Foundation School Alumni Association was established after the school held its first alumni reunion in September 2006. More than 125 former students from around the United States attended the reunion.[28]


Congressional hearings[edit]

The Family Foundation School was one of several residential programs for special-needs adolescents that were discussed in United States Congress Committee on Education and Labor hearings in 2007 and 2008.[29][30]

The school responded by declaring its support for the efforts of the committee to keep children safe from harm, adding that the school had since modified its crisis-management methods to meet the standards of both the New York State Department of Education and the Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) program developed by Cornell University. The school also stated that since 1999, all school faculty and staff are required to be trained in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention techniques.[31] Following the April 24 hearing, several parents of former students, a former student, and a former staff member wrote to the committee in response to the negative testimony, providing positive reports of their own experiences with the Family Foundation School.[32]

Activist response[edit]

Beginning in 2007, Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth (CAFETY) conducted a campaign against the Family Foundation School. In October 2009, a local newspaper reported that CAFETY had sent a letter to residents of Delaware County, claiming abusive conditions at the school, including excerpts from former student testimonials. The letter directed residents to an anti-school website for more information about the alleged abusive conditions. Delaware County law enforcement, social services officials, and the school stated that the allegations in letter were based on past issues that had been corrected by the school. CAFETY disputes this claim, saying that its concerns about alleged abuse are based on written complaints by students who attended the school as recently as 2008.[16] CAFETY members have also taken part in rallies in other areas of the country, where experiences at the school were addressed.[33]

State inspections[edit]

Allegations of abuse prompted an unannounced inspection of the school in 2010 by several New York state agencies.[34] The inspectors reported that they had not found any "current instances of abuse or neglect," but they continued to have concern about reports provided by former students, several of whom gave accounts of "strikingly similar and troubling experiences".[35]


On 31-July-2014, citing financial challenges from declining enrollment,[36] the school announced that it would be closing its doors eight days later.[3] An outpouring of support however, prompted the school to remain open for 15 students and minimal staff through the end of 2014,[37] while the remaining 70 employees and students were either laid off or asked to leave, respectively.[2] In addition to financial challenges, it has been suggested lingering accusations of abuse by school staff members that plagued the school for years, played a role in the school's declining enrollment and eventual closure.[37]


A front-page New York Times article in 2018 described a pattern of deaths by overdose, suicide and other misadventure among school alumni and said that one alumna had tallied 101 deaths, the vast majority before age 40.[38]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ New York State Department of Education, Administrators Listing for Public and Non-Public Schools and School Districts [1]
  2. ^ a b "Boarding school for troubled teens set to close". WBNG-TV. 7 August 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-08-12. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Hancock boarding school to close: School formerly known as Family Foundation School to shut its doors Friday". The Daily Star (Oneonta). 6 August 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-08-12. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Profile of The Family Foundation School". FamilyLight, a service of Thomas J. Croke & Associates, Inc. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  5. ^ Argiros, Rita (November 12, 2009). "An Open Letter About Sex At The Family Foundation School". Family Foundation School. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
  6. ^ "Family Foundation School Introduces Allynwood Academy". October 4, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c "Visit Reports: The Family Foundation School". Woodbury Reports. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  8. ^ a b c d e School Close-Up: The Family Foundation School, Hancock, New York; Peterson's Educational Guide Archived 2011-06-05 at the Wayback Machine Profile
  9. ^ a b c d Terry Hannum, A Family at School, Delaware County Times, July 11, 2008 p.24.
  10. ^ "The Family Foundation School". Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Family Foundation School entry on the directory of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools: [2] Archived 2011-04-23 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ New York State Department of Education, Administrators Listing for Public and Non-Public Schools and School Districts [3]
  14. ^ Profile of the Family Foundation School on the directory of The Joint Commission [4]
  15. ^ "Family Foundation School profile in the directory of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs". Archived from the original on 2012-11-29. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
  16. ^ a b Breakey, Patricia (2008-04-24). "The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie County News, Sports and Opinion - Letter alleges abuse at Hancock school". Archived from the original on 2012-09-11. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
  17. ^ "Family Foundation School wins team speech contest," The Daily Star, Oneonta, New York, March 24, 2005. [5]
  18. ^ "Family School Falcons Soar To Class D Boys Soccer Title, "Sullivan County Democrat, November 08, 2005 [6]
  19. ^ "Teens explore stimulus act, win math competition," Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, May 7, 2009 [7] Archived 2010-02-27 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ School Overview: The Family Foundation School, American Education Services Education Planner Profile[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "The Family Foundation School is proud to announce that Mark P. Vogel, Ph.D. has been named Director of Counseling". Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  22. ^ "Profile of Jan Cheripko". Retrieved 2009-09-03.
  23. ^ "Highlights Foundation Website, 2003/2004 Founders Faculty Page". Archived from the original on 2009-03-03. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
  24. ^ Highlights Foundation Website, "Reaching at-risk Students: A Weekend of Writing and Literature" [8] Archived 2006-10-04 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Colorado Rapids Official Website, Wells Thompson, Biography". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 2009: Appeared in 25 regular season games, starting 17 and recording one goal and two assists…Overall, made 31 appearances, including SuperLiga and U.S. Open Cup.
  26. ^ "New England Revolution Official Website, Wells Thompson, Biography". 1983-11-25. Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. 2008: Made 19 regular-season appearances, including eight starts.
  27. ^ Former Family School Student Now Playing Pro Soccer, by Justin Rodriguez, Times Herald-Record, April 14, 2007 "Former Family School student now playing pro soccer". 2007-04-14. Retrieved 2010-06-14. I really don't think I would be here if it wasn't for The Family School.
  28. ^ Family School Alumni Organize, Woodbury Reports, February 2007, page 30
  29. ^ ""Child Abuse and Deceptive Marketing by Residential Programs for Teens", U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, Full Committee Hearing on HR 5876, April 24, 2008". Archived from the original on 2008-07-30.
  30. ^ Emily Canty, Allegations Against at-risk Youth Programs Made Before Chairman of Committee on Education and Labor, The New Paltz Oracle, Volume 79 Issue 7, November 1, 2007 [9] Archived 2008-06-17 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ The Family Foundation School Responds to the Recent Hearings by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. [10]
  32. ^ Transcript of Child Abuse and Deceptive Marketing by Residential Programs for Teens, Hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, April 24, 2008, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008
  33. ^ Ford, Andrew (October 22, 2009). "Teen rights rally, Bo Diddley Community Plaza, downtown Gainesville". (The Gainesville Sun website). Retrieved 2009-10-23.
  34. ^ "Investigation Findings" (PDF). Family Foundation School Leadership. September 8, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
  35. ^ "Investigation Findings" (PDF). Family Foundation school. December 29, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-22. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
  36. ^ "Allynwood Academy Closing". Woodbury Reports, Inc. July 31, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  37. ^ a b "Allynwood Academy plagued with abuse allegations". WBNG TV. August 11, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-08-19. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  38. ^ Wilson, Michael. "‘It’s Like, Who’s Next?’: A Troubled School’s Alarming Death Rate", The New York Times, Sept 3, 2018. Accessed Oct. 14, 2018. "The effort is led by Elizabeth Ianelli, 39, an alumna of the school and a former police instructor, who has tallied the death count — now up to 101, all under the age of 50 and the vast majority under 40."

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°54′43″N 75°12′4″W / 41.91194°N 75.20111°W / 41.91194; -75.20111