November 13, 2003
A. Michael DeSisto, 64, Head Of School for Troubled Students
By ANITA GATES
A. Michael DeSisto, founder and headmaster of the innovative DeSisto School in Stockbridge, Mass., which specializes in helping troubled adolescents through unusual programs that include the culinary and performing arts, died on Nov. 1 in Boston. He was 64 and lived on the school's campus.
The cause was a cerebral hemorrhage following kidney transplant surgery, school officials said.
Mr. DeSisto was a psychotherapist as well as an educator. For 11 years he was director of the Lake Grove School on Long Island. Then, in 1978, with financing from students' parents, he went out on his own, founding the DeSisto School in the Berkshires.
Officially described as a therapeutic boarding school, it combines a general academic college-preparatory program with individual, group and family psychotherapy. Many students enter the school straight from drug rehabilitation or brushes with the law.
A stage musical, ''Inappropriate,'' written by Mr. DeSisto, Lonnie McNeil and Michael Sottile and performed by the school's student theater company, had an Off Broadway run in 1999 and 2000. The show, based partly on teenagers' journals, included songs about sexual abuse, drug use, relationships with parents and other concerns of adolescents.
His book for parents, ''Decoding Your Teenager: How to Understand Each Other During the Turbulent Years,'' was published in 1991.
Mr. DeSisto's methods were praised by some and criticized by others. The system did not allow for the possibility of giving up on a student. ''We tell them they'll never be expelled,'' Mr. DeSisto told The Boston Globe in 1981. ''We say they can't do anything horrible enough to make us abandon them. Of course they are going to test us.''
Born and reared in Boston, Mr. DeSisto attended St. John's Seminary there and received a bachelor's degree from Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass.
He is survived by his wife, Margie Charles Bullock, and by a sister, Jacqueline DeSisto of Stockbridge.
link: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.h ... A9659C8B63