Schools for Children, Inc. was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1981 when Lesley College (now Lesley University) divested itself of the lab schools operated by its education department. Collectively, these schools were known as the Lesley College Schools for Children and included Lesley Ellis School, the Walter F. Dearborn Elementary, Pre-Vocational, and Secondary Schools and the Carroll Hall School.


Each of these schools has its own history that begins earlier than the story of Schools for Children and, at the time, each served a unique community of students and families. What they had in common was a philosophy of educating students according to their unique needs and abilities, and encouraging them to grow and learn as individuals.


Early Days

The early leaders of Schools for Children developed a nonprofit infrastructure that could manage, create and nurture high-quality educational programs. The new organization was able to:


  • Create economies of scale.
  • Improve school management.
  • Provide specialized professional expertise that would not otherwise be available to small schools. 


Offering “back-office services,” we freed teachers and school leaders to deepen their commitment to the education of children as unique individuals, accelerating and expanding innovation in education. 


From this work, the original board consolidated what had been four small schools serving students with similar special needs into Dearborn Academy. The school was able to offer a full range of services for students with special needs in a former elementary school building in Arlington, Mass., with significantly reduced administrative costs. Today, the Newton-based school is one of the region’s pre-eminent alternative schools for students with significant learning and emotional challenges.


A fifth school, an early childhood program (Lesley Ellis School) continued in its Cambridge location until moving to Arlington, strengthened by professional management and positioned to grow. We helped transform Lesley Ellis School from an early childhood program to a nationally-heralded independent school that serves preschool through grade eight.


Building New Models for Learning

This notion of serving a wide range of children – including those who needed specialized services – was encoded in the very articles of the organization that created Schools for Children in 1981 and has become the core of who we are today. We have always been committed to building and growing schools where learning takes many forms – and respects the needs and talents of the children we serve. 


For example, in addition to Dearborn Academy and Leslie Ellis School, we initiated a special needs program on a Coast Guard vessel, growing it into today’s Seaport Academy, a state-approved alternative school for boys, grades 8-12. We piloted the highly successful STEP program which offers 45-day assessment and stabilization services for students. Reflecting the wide range of services available through Schools for Children, we brought the successful Winn Brook Extended Learning program into our “portfolio” in 2014.


Over the years, we have also assisted independent schools and public school systems throughout the region in developing their new programs and services. 


Transforming Learning. Transforming Lives.

Schools for Children has clearly delivered the benefits the organization imagined at its inception. Our schools are more agile and better able to adapt to the needs of students and the communities we serve. We create new and innovative programs and grow when opportunities arise to address unmet needs of today’s students.


Today, Schools for Children enrolls more than 350 students in our various schools and programs. Our annual operating budget exceeds $15 million and is managed out of our Winchester, Mass., headquarters.


By working collaboratively with our many stakeholders to transform learning, we can ensure that our students have the opportunity to grow academically as well as socially and emotionally, transforming lives.