"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From CEDU to Brown Schools to Camelot Schools, Inc.

Click chart to enlarge. From story by Maia Szalavitz, Mother Jones, August 20, 2007.

Much of the brainwashing, behavioral cruelty, and psychological abuse that is so common in "tough love" and "no excuses" school environments of today was inspired by an anti-drug treatment cult called Syanon. Synanon's methods inspired a number of residential treatment and "educational" centers, one of which was CEDU, a questionable outfit that was bought by the Brown Schools in 1998. At that time the CEO of the Brown Schools was a successful entrepreneur, John Harcourt, Jr.:
“It is this Company’s goal to provide the highest quality specialty behavioral and educational services to our country’s youth,” Riley said. “With the newly-formed Educational Services division that was created with the recent acquisition of CEDU, the country’s leading provider of therapeutic and emotional growth education; The Brown Schools has significantly strengthened its commitment to children and their families.”
In the letter below to consultants for the operation, Harcourt basks in the recent acquisition of CEDU. From ZoomInfo:
Posted by by Cindy White from letter of John P. Harcourt, Jr. President and CEO, CEDU Family of Services, The Brown Schools on Tuesday, 10 November 1998, at 9:09 a.m. (eastern time)

October 26, 1998

Dear Consultant:

It has now been a couple of months since the Brown Schools acquired the CEDU Family of Services. What an exciting couple of months it has been! In this short transition period, I have had a chance to speak with a number of our parents, consultants, and others regarding the alliance. I hear a lot of the same questions from one person to the next, and thought it might be helpful for me to address some of these questions with you.

As many of you know, the histories of both CEDU and the Brown Schools are remarkably similar. Both organizations continue to be driven by values, passion, and the dedication to their individual founders. Both are committed to making families whole again. Of course, these are precisely the factors that drove The Brown Schools to acquire CEDU.

While the Brown Schools and CEDU share similar histories and values, both organizations respect the differences in those whom we serve: children, families and consultants. We recognize the unique differences between The Brown Schools and CEDU in methodologies, philosophies, and procedures of both organizations. As such, I would like to assure you that we have no intention of changing the fundamental missions or procedures of either organization. We look to creatd strength in our differences and in the variety of diverse options we provide for families. To do this, it is vital that each organization remain unique.

At CEDU, we will strive for an even higher level of service to our referrals. To that end, I am pleased to report that Saul Rudman, who had announced his intention to resign his position as Marketing Director prior to the acquisition, will be working with CEDU and The Brown Schools as a Consultant to help us achieve our goals.

Of equal interest to you, I am delighted that Lori Armbruster will continue on as CEDU's Director of Consultant Services. We will be adding a Consultant Services Manager in Southern California to assist you with referrals, updating, communication, and visits at CEDU High School and Middle School. Lori will also oversee this position and will always be available to assist you.

Jude Rudolph will move from her position as Admissions Director at ASCENT to the new position of Regional Service Coordinator in Denver, Colorado. Jude will work closely with families and professionals in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Paul Johnson, whom you may already know, will be dedicated to meeting your communication and enrollment needs at ASCENT. Those of you who know Ranel Hanson will be pleased to know that she will continue her role as Parent and Alumni Services Director.

I look forward to seeing those of you who will be at the Fall IECA Conference in Atlanta. In the meantime, please feel free to call anyone at CEDU, including myself, with any questions you may have. Thank you for your support of our work in the past. Please help us to serve you and your clients even better in the future.

John P. Harcourt, Jr./s/
President and CEO
CEDU Family of Services
The Brown Schools

CEDU did, indeed, go bust in 2005, along with Brown Schools that owned it. Through a number of legal manipulations, CEDU/Brown avoided settling a number of lawsuits involving mistreatment, sexual abuse of employees, deceptive practices, etc. From the Austin American Statesman in 2005:
In recent months, three Austin lawyers say, Brown Schools Inc. offered to settle claims by their clients for everything from sexual abuse by its employees to deceptive business practices.

But there was a catch, according to the lawyers: Brown Schools said the plaintiffs had to accept less money and delayed payments so that the Austin-based company, which operates facilities for troubled children, could avoid bankruptcy, a filing that would likely have left the families with nothing.

On March 25, Brown Schools filed for Chapter 7 liquidation in Bankruptcy Court, jeopardizing all of the payments. Most of the company's facilities have closed, putting 700 employees out of work. . . .
Where did the CEDU/Brown assets go, and where did the Brown School leaders end up? The Brown Schools leaders, including John Harcourt, ended up running Camelot Schools, with the same finesse, we may assume, that they ran the Brown/CEDU operation.

So where am am I going with all this? A few days ago the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a Philly charter school, consultant, Brien Gardiner, had committed suicide. Gardiner was under investigation for thievery and other forms of corruption related to his work for a number of charter school outfits, including one called Camelot Schools of Pennslyvania. Gardiner had been instrumental in guiding Camelot to part of the $40 million that Philadelphia schoolman, Paul Vallas, was paying out to have Philadelphia's "high-need" students professionally handled.

This is where this little story gets interesting, because in the news piece below from May 14, there is some clear indication that some of the school district officials in Philly smell something rotten about this Camelot deal. With Gardiner dead and the contract up for renewal, this has turned into quite a little corporate charter school mystery:

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Philadelphia Daily News
russv@phillynews.com 215-854-5987

PHILADELPHIA School District officials are reviewing the background of a company with $13.1 million in contracts to run three alternative schools, after a city councilman raised concerns about the firm's ties to treatment centers at which five students died.

The company, Camelot Schools of Pennsylvania, also had ties to Brien N. Gardiner, founder of the Philadelphia Academy Charter School, who had been under federal investigation when he committed suicide yesterday.

On Tuesday, during budget hearings at City Hall, Councilman James Kenney asked the district to reconsider renewing its contracts with Camelot Schools, saying that he had heard reports that the firm was managed by some of the same executives who once ran problem-plagued centers for troubled children.

Five students at those centers died after being physically restrained, according to a Texas teachers' union official.

"When you're talking about issues related to child safety, I just want them to make sure they look under every rock," Kenney said yesterday.

In 2000, a 9-year-old Nevada boy died of a heart attack a day after he was held facedown by employees at the Laurel Ridge Treatment Center, in San Antonio, Texas, for throwing a temper tantrum, the San Antonio Express-News reported at the time.

Laurel Ridge was run by the Brown Schools, a now-defunct company that operated 11 treatment centers in several states for children with emotional and behavioral problems, according to Gayle Fallon, a top official of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

Camelot Schools has contracts worth $13.1 million to run the Excel Academy, an alternative school for "over-age" high school students on Bustleton Avenue, near Harbison, in the Northeast; and two disciplinary schools, Daniel Boone, at 26th and Jefferson streets, Strawberry Mansion, and Shallcross, at Woodhaven Road near Knights, in the Far Northeast.

Todd Bock, Camelot senior vice president for education services, said yesterday that he and others had been officers of both firms, but adamantly denied that his firm was the latest incarnation of Brown Schools, which went bankrupt in 2005.

"Camelot Schools is not Brown Schools," Bock said yesterday. "That's like the difference between IBM and Apple. They never have been affiliated.

"Whoever is putting that piece of information out clearly does not have the facts correct . . .
Facts correct? You need some correct facts, Todd? Here are some facts for you and your creepy outfit that should be shut down with the rest of the school prisons that our tax money funds all over the country. IBM and Apple? Great analogy, Todd--since both perform exactly the same functions.

From a cached page at Zoom Info on the main of Camelot Schools, Inc.

John Harcourt – President and CEO
Mr. Harcourt has been the President and CEO of the Company since he and a partner acquired the business in 2002. Previously, Mr. Harcourt was the President and CEO of The Brown Schools, Inc., a 60 year-old company that provided educational and therapeutic services to children and adolescents. Prior to joining The Brown Schools, he was President and CEO of Rock Creek Center, a psychiatric hospital focused on children’s needs. Earlier in his more than 30-year healthcare career, Mr. Harcourt served as Executive Deputy Director of the NY State Office of Mental Health and the COO of the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. [ This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ]

Dayna Stewart – Vice President of Corporate Development
Before joining Camelot in early 2006, Ms. Stewart was Vice President of Marketing, Development & Oversight of Implementation for Childhelp, Inc., where she managed multi-state operations for programs in California, Arizona, Tennessee, Virginia and Michigan. Her responsibilities included operations, finance, marketing, referral development, contract negotiations and board management. Prior to that, she was Vice President for Marketing and Development at MHM Services, a business that provides mental health services for correctional facilities. Ms. Stewart was formerly associated with The Brown Schools as Vice President for Development where she was responsible for acquisitions and development and Cornell Corrections, Inc. where she was responsible for marketing and development for the juvenile division. [ This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ]

Rod Young – Chief Operating Officer
Mr. Young joined the Company in 2005 as Chief Executive Officer of Desert Springs Medical Center. He was previously employed as Vice President, Public Education Operations and Vice President, Administrative Services at The Brown Schools/CEDU Education, a position he held for 6 years. From 1986 until joining The Brown Schools, he held Human Resources Executive positions at Per-Se Technologies, a medical software company, and Charter Behavioral Health Systems. [ This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ]

Todd Bock - Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Camelot PA
Mr. Bock joined Camelot PA in 2003. He was previously employed by the Glen Mills Schools (a behavioral institution for children) and more recently at the Brown Schools. Mr. Bock holds a B.S. from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and has over 10 years of management experience operating for-profit educational programs for at-risk youth. His recognized specialty is the management of school programs for children with behavioral, emotional and developmental challenges. Under John Harcourt’s direction at the Brown Schools, Mr. Bock developed a public school partnership program with the school district of Houston, TX. The Houston program was highly successful and allowed Mr. Bock to apply his discipline and behavioral expertise to a public school environment, a model that the Company has successfully extended to Philadelphia. [ This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ]

Timothy Kenna – Vice President of Finance / CFO
Mr. Kenna joined Camelot in late 2004. He has 25 years of experience in the healthcare field. Prior to joining the Company, Mr. Kenna was CEO and CFO at Fort Lauderdale Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Prior to his Fort Lauderdale experience, Mr. Kenna held CFO positions at three other private psychiatric hospitals located in New York, Illinois and Texas. He has a B.S. in accounting from the University of Wisconsin. [ This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ]
Camelot in now operating in New Orleans. It seems that everywhere Paul Vallas goes that Camelot is not far behind? Plenty of those "high need" students still living in those poisoned FEMA trailers.


  1. Anonymous1:16 PM

    I had worked as a teacher for The Camelot Schools when it first opened back in 2004 on Bustleton Avenue. Although I was hired to be an English teacher on the girl's side, I was baited and switched into becoming the computer teacher for the boys when it was discovered that the man who had originally hired for that position had lied and was computer illiterate. Instead of appreciating that I was capable of handling the computer lab without much assistance, Pedro Segarra, who became the boy's director after Angel Colon was upgraded to the position of DIrector of Boone, began harassing me in front of the students who took seriously his efforts to get me to quit so he could get a male teacher. I was often sucker punched in the face after comments that were made by Pedro at a town house meeting in the morning about how crazy people will stick their fingers in your eye and punch you in the face. The boys took him to mean me as I have an artificial eye. ALso, they refused to filter the lab and when a student was on a chat room or looking at a pornographic website I had to physically throw myself in front of the screen and attempt to turn off the computers at which time I would be pushed, shoved, or have my hand grabbed by the students. When I cautioned another student about smoking wet cigarettes, suddenly Eric Solomon, the counselor, began telling students that I had been a druggie back in the day. The School Reform Commission was notified but chose to turn a deaf ear. The 16 children who died in Texas at Brown Schools did not die of suffocation from passive restraint. Rather, 2 or 3 250-300 pound men would often drag the students into the computer lab as it had no carpeting so they would not get rug burns on their faces and proceed to lay on top of the students thereby causing suffocation. Brien Gardner was a frequent visitor to the school with members of the reform commission. ALso, since the building used to be a senior citizen center, a new building for seniors was constructed north on Bustleton by Bock construction. Any relation to Todd Bock who also operates Camelot Schools?

  2. Anonymous3:07 PM

    I attended a camelot day school. Really awful program IMHO- based strongly on control and intimidation. The students, who had mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, were treated like criminals. I went to another day school and another residential school and experienced completely different athmospheres that were much more respectful and collaberative. Where the students were 'part of the team' rather than just cattle.

  3. Anonymous5:57 PM

    I just want to add that Camelot now runs the Thomas J. Rubino Academy in Trenton, New Jersey, which accepts students from schools districts throughout Mercer County. I hope parents will consider this article before allowing their child to be sent to TJRA.

  4. Anonymous5:46 PM

    I attended a CEDU school called Rocky Mountain Academy in Idaho and another "after high-school" CEDU school called Hilltop in California. Both were miserable, abusive, cult-like environments. There are a lot of facebook groups devoted to survivors of these programs. Glad you are digging into the dirt!

  5. Anonymous9:53 PM

    An industry this is. Been developing nationwide for decades. Just spend a few hours online....and read every article that has CEDU as a topic. It begins in the late sixties. It starts there. Very complex and dug-in. It's like a cancer. It has cells seemingly everywhere. They close and open back up. They morph. They're bought and sold. Former students and staff are like acorns from the mighty oak I've read. An early developer of this so-called 'intellectual property'(the 'therapies')was/is a guy named Ehrhart or something like that. Look up 'est' and search for awhile and you'll find an early form of this type of business entity that morphs from one identity to another. From corp. to school....to academy....to education services...the forms are endless. You can trace the progression and developement of this model. Erhart's operation was open for like ten years. Then he closed down and sold his system....to CEDU. CEDU started around the same time just before Erhart closed up shop and then CEDU opened and then within a few years changed it's name slightly. Then it changed it again and again. And this morphing can be seen now nationwide. The more you look the more you find.LOL. The name CEDU branches off. Across the nation. I wonder what state it's not in.
    I know someone who left CEDU/Running Springs.Mel Wasserman's operation. They'd had more arms and facets than a Hindu God.LOL. They were hustling parents....business...schools detetion centers..you name it. They made some kids, phone solicit companies for donations of cash or products,that they would sell, in a furniture store Mel owned in a nearby city.For top performers(child phone solicitors) they promised european vacations and even mercedes benzs. My friend knew a seventeen year old...who got one.

    Now ask yourself: what could a seventeen year old kid do...to earn a mercedes banz? Clearly...from my friends perspective...these kids were harnessed and groomed to earn income. And they did.

    As far as the business model... apparently, this type of activity is possible wherein anyone can claim they're a school...educational facility..even religious organization... and run it without any credentialed staff.

    My friend has to picked herself up off the floor....everytime she reads how some of these operations describes themselves. One of her favorite lines is 'we serve parents needs....we re-unite children with their parents.'
    But in fact their policy is to alienate children from their parents. In this way they can get more out of each. They're evil.

    1. Anonymous3:05 PM

      I was at CEDU/Running Springs from 1978 to 1980. I never saw them giving anyone a Mercedes Benz that's for sure but they did solicit donations and sell them in a store in Colton, CA. Tons of weird therapy and verbal abuse towards the "students". No real education given.

  6. Anonymous1:04 PM

    It's AMAZING!
    It is the first book to put you at CEDU c. 1983, at the height of the school's power and influence. But the cool part is that it is a novel told through the eyes of a 14 y.o. student. You experience everything exactly the way you would if you were a new student. GReat read and a service to history and to us all.

    1. Anonymous9:02 PM

      There is another newer book about CEDU "Dead, Insane, or in Jail" by Zack Bonnie. It takes place in the 1980s. There is a follow up book coming out in May 2017

  7. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Sudents at the Houston school are restrained by being thrown against the wall and floors and they are illegally searched. They are thrown in the cold and rain when they misbehave. This is abuse.

  8. And now in 2017 our school district has signed a contract to bring them in ..our schools for these kids are already dreadful and a nightmare..im a mom who is scared to my core..