Author Topic: Accreditation.. don't let them be fooled  (Read 1614 times)

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Accreditation.. don't let them be fooled
« on: May 17, 2005, 11:40:00 PM »
LENGTH: 862 words

HEADLINE: Ivy Ridge tries to gain back accreditation

BYLINE: By Chris Garifo


ALBANY -- The Academy at Ivy Ridge, a behavior modification center just
outside of Ogdensburg, is negotiating with the state attorney general's office
to solve licensing problems that led to the suspension of its accreditation.

"My attorneys have been dealing with the state attorney general's office,"
said Jason G. Finlinson, Ivy Ridge's director. Ivy Ridge has hired the Albany
law firm of Girvin and Farlazzo in the matter.

James Wall of the Denver-based public relations firm Freeman, Wall, Aiello,
which Ivy Ridge also has hired, questioned the investigation's validity.

"The reason they're doing it is it's a controversial school associated with a
controversial organization," he said, referring to the Utah-based World Wide
Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, which provides Ivy Ridge and
similar institutions around the country and overseas with programming and
support. WWASPS and its affiliated schools have been accused of emotional and
physical abuse of its students, claims the organizations vehemently deny.

The Idaho-based Northwest Association of Accredited Schools suspended Ivy
Ridge's accreditation nearly two weeks ago, when state investigators asked
questions about its licensing.

Ivy Ridge has since been in touch with other accreditation organizations,
including the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association
of Colleges and Schools, Wall said.

"They haven't made a specific representation to Middle States; they're still
looking at their options," Wall said. "But nothing will go ahead until they
resolve this issue with the state."

Middle States Executive Director Susan K. Nicklas confirmed that Ivy Ridge
had been in recent contact with her organization. Middles States accredits
public and private schools in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the
District of Columbia and New York, including Immaculate Heart Central High
School, Watertown, and Hugh C. Williams Senior High School, Canton.

Ivy Ridge has never applied to Middle States, Nicklas said.

"We've had no relationship with them," she said, questioning why an
organization would accredit an institution outside its region.

David G. Steadman, executive director of Northwest, which accredits all of
the WWASPS-affiliated schools, said his organization has reciprocity -- an
unwritten "gentlemen's agreement" -- that allows it to accredit institutions in
other regions, Steadman said.

No such relationship, in writing or otherwise, exists between Northwest and
Middle States, Nicklas said.

Ivy Ridge would have to solve its licensing problem before it could apply for
accreditation, Nicklas said.

The situation as it now stands is sad because, for all she knows, Ivy Ridge
may be a good school, Nicklas said.

"But the fact that they didn't do any of the things that a good school
normally would do certainly has put them in somewhat of a box," she said.

Marc E. Violette, a spokesman for Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer, declined
comment on their inquiry, which is looking into Ivy Ridge's business practices
to determine whether it has misrepresented itself as a diploma-issuing school.
Until recently, Ivy Ridge's Web site said it offered general and college prep

Marc F. Shea, 18, Winchester, Mass., was given a college prep diploma after
attending Ivy Ridge from Nov. 25, 2003, to May 26, 2004. He said his diploma has
not been an issue as he has applied to colleges.

"They looked at my transcript from prep school," said Shea, who is attending
Tilton School in New Hampshire. "It hasn't been a problem during my application
process, which was good for me."

Shea said he never had any teachers while at Ivy Ridge; instead, he was
taught from a Bible-based computer program called Switched-On Schoolhouse.

"If you had a hard time on a problem, you were basically on your own," he
said. "You could sign up for help from the academic department, but that never
really happened. I waited around, for over two months, for help in English and
never got it."

Finlinson said Ivy Ridge has 10 certified teachers on its staff. However, its
Web site shows only a director of academics, Finlinson's brother Jake; and an
assistant director of academics, Dawn Gauthier.

The state Office of Children and Family Services is investigating physical
abuse allegations brought against Ivy Ridge and paid an unannounced visit to the
facility, which opened in January 2002 on the 250-acre campus of the former
Mater Dei College on State Route 37.

"OCFS is continuing to review records and we are working with the attorney
general's office and the state Department of Education to monitor the Academy at
Ivy Ridge and provide for the safety of children at Ivy Ridge," said Brian
Marchetti, an agency spokesman.

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