Michael DeSisto

Michael DeSisto bigraphy, stories - American educator, founder and director of the DeSisto Schools

Michael DeSisto : biography

May 29, 1939 – November 1, 2003

A. (Albert) Michael DeSisto (May 29, 1939 – November 1, 2003) was an American educator best known for founding and directing the controversial DeSisto Schools.


DeSisto was a teacher, unlicensed therapist, and director for eleven years at The Lake Grove School on Long Island, New York. DeSisto had significant disagreements with the administrators of Lake Grove regarding their educational approach and was fired. In 1978 he secured funding mostly in the form of advance tuition payments, and direct donations, from the parents of former students of The Lake Grove School, and set out to found his own school. By ANITA GATES. Published: November 13, 2003 New York Times He founded the DeSisto at Stockbridge School in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for at risk teens in 1978.

Although DeSisto’s official title was executive director, he was often referred to as headmaster in the press and by others, even though he never held the position or referred to himself as such. DeSisto originally envisioned a string of schools nationally and internationally based on Gestalt psychological principles, and his own therapeutic model. DeSisto stated that the Stockbridge campus would be his "flagship"., Time Magazine, Monday, Nov. 26, 1979 In 1980 DeSisto opened a second campus in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.

In the early 1980s, DeSisto and the DeSisto School were favorably featured in articles in Life, Time and People magazines. DeSisto made a number of appearances on national television with his students, including The Today Show. He appeared several times as a guest on the Joey Reynolds radio show.

The DeSisto at Howey School closed in 1988. DeSisto stated that the reason was declining enrollment, and legal problems with the local government. The DeSisto at Stockbridge School closed permanently in June 2004, amid commonwealth allegations that it did not create a safe environment for its students. By David Abel, Boston Globe, April 13, 2004

In 1988 The Orlando Sentinel reported that the DeSisto School’s claim of accreditation by the National Association of Independent Schools was false. Michael DeSisto responded that, "low-level staff members were responsible". Mike DeSisto’s résumé also stated he had been a faculty member at Elmira College and Adelphi University, when he had not ever been a faculty member at either institution. DeSisto also claimed he had worked as a consultant for the Free University of New York at Stony Brook. According to Jeremy Weis, an official with the New York Bureau of Academic Information and Reports, the state agency with which all universities must register "I’ve never heard of this university". Elmira payroll supervisor Mary Fetyko said, "DeSisto never worked there." At Adelphi, administrator Margaret Elaine Wittman said, "there are no records of DeSisto having been a faculty member, the man is completely foreign to us, the fact that he would say this on his vita is incredible."

In November 1988, The Orlando Sentinel ran a three-part exposé about Michael DeSisto, titled Desisto(sic) Went Far On Fake Credentials, "Who is Michael DeSisto? For years, Howey’s most controversial resident has claimed a lot of impressive academic and professional credentials, many of which are false. The real story is one of firings from teaching posts and inflated representations of his professional stature.Yet those credentials are a significant aspect of the almost overwhelmingly positive publicity he has received—on the Today show, in Life, Time and People magazines, and in numerous newspaper articles—and the subsequent financial success he has achieved with his private preparatory schools." In response to complaints made by Michael DeSisto that the articles "presented an unfair picture of him and his schools". On October 7, 1990, the Orlando Sentinel published a follow-up article titled, New Information On The Desisto(sic) Schools. It is the Sentinel’s policy to review all such complaints "in a spirit of fairness". The Sentinel found that, "the presentation of one story in the three-day series may have led to the unintentionally misleading conclusion that his entire career was built on false credentials." About a year after the publication of this article in the Sentinel with DeSisto’s rebuttal about his credentials, it was discovered that Michael DeSisto did not have a Master’s degree as he had long claimed.