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Schools & Program Visits - Feb, 1995 Issue #32 

North Brookfield, Massachusetts
Phil Spiva or Phil Bland, Admissions
Lon's Visit: November 15, 1994 

Valley View School is awash with a New England flavor. The old home and carriage house have been extensively remodeled from the original farm buildings. The site has been adapted and modified from what met the needs of a rural farm, to meet the needs of a school, while still maintaining the sense of a home. Situated on the side of a hill, it looks out over a rural valley giving a sense of openness, and at the same time the buildings (inside and outside) give a cozy feeling as if the boys are tucked in. The new modern structured gymnasium is below and across the two lane paved road. While I was there the boys were enthusiastically trying out for the school's basketball team. All were encouraged that doing your best was the goal. 

Valley View is a school for boys ages 10-16 who have been having trouble in more traditional settings. They look for a specific type of boy. It was described as those who are not alienated (that is, still have the desire to relate to adults). The loose description would be oppositional, but not delinquent. Boys are sent there because they have had trouble with traditional schools, and from that have been a source of frustration to their families --not the frustration from an angry and rebellious adolescent, but the frustration from the lack of focus stemming from ADHD or lethargy. 

Philip Spiva is the director of the school which he founded in 1970. Phil Bland is his associate director, and in some ways almost his alter ego (Known as Phil and Phil to attendees at IECA Conferences). They are a very effective team. They explained that compared to the usual adolescent needing placement in emotional growth schools, Valley View boys are softer, younger and more often medicated. There are important program implications from this. The program is not confrontational, and strives to build internal strengths more than to chip off the rough edges. The program was explained as rather flexible, to give the boys a feeling of freedom to grow internally, but it was very clear to the boys and everyone else that the adults were in charge when it came to anything substantive. 

The basketball tryouts might be a good example. It was not a competitive situation such as you might find in most schools where only the select few got to be on the team, with others being washed out. All who tried out got to be on a team. However since winning at times is important too, those with the most experience, ability and emotional grounding were on the first team, and the others were on the second team with a chance to work toward moving up to the first team in the future. More important, the staff worked hard to make sure the second team also had plenty of games to play against other schools , affirming that they too were contributing. All who tried out and persevered got to play. Not a bad solution. This typifies that their structure is designed to teach success without eliminating risk and effort. 

Philip Spiva pointed out that a wilderness survival type program would not likely be very appropriate for most of his students. Those programs are usually very intense, both emotionally and physically, and his students are less likely to have a positive experience with them. This makes sense since most wilderness survival programs tend to work best with angry and rebellious adolescents, the very type that Valley View would screen out. 

As Philip Spiva confirmed, Valley View has all the necessary elements of a Treatment Center, but is designed to look and act like a boarding school. This means the boys are getting what they need, but without the feeling of being sent someplace to be fixed. 

Copyright 1995, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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