IECA Urges Action to Ensure the Safety of Jewish Students & Faculty on College Campuses

This letter from IECA CEO Mark Sklarow and Board President Belinda Wilkerson has been sent to Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education; James Kvaal, Under Secretary of Education; Hon. Bernie Sanders, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Hon. Virginia Foxx, Chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

We are alarmed by and condemn the unprecedented rise in antisemitism on college and university campuses. Jewish students and faculty are feeling fearful, hurt, and threatened. Jewish students have been prevented from entering buildings on campus, refused access to classrooms, and verbally and sometimes physically attacked by angry mobs made up of students and those unaffiliated with the colleges. No student should be singled out and subjected to physical or verbal violence based on religion.

More must be done so Jewish students feel physically and emotionally safe while assuring academic freedom and freedom of speech at colleges. If colleges are unable to guarantee the safety and equal access to campus for Jewish students, federal agencies must be prepared to act.

We remain hopeful that colleges and universities can come through this fraught time with unity and a renewed commitment to their missions and community standards, where all students and faculty can live, learn, and work together with respect, inclusivity, and tolerance.

Five Ways IECA Changed in 2022, and One Way It Didn’t

Those who work for any nonprofit—a school, a church group, or a membership society like IECA—know that change in such organizations can come slowly. Nonprofits are notoriously averse to alienating supporters and members, seek to develop consensus, and are more often than not pushed to change rather than embracing it.

Yet I know that when we look back on the history of IECA (which we’ll do soon as we close in on our 50th anniversary), we will see 2022 as a transformative year, one in which the association changed in substantial and fundamental ways.

1. Government Affairs

After years of avoiding any involvement in legislation and keeping a low profile even after being pulled into some state efforts to regulate or register IECs, in 2022 IECA wholeheartedly embraced our role in two ways: 1) We demanded that IECs be treated fairly and as valued small businesspeople; and 2) We became a valued source for state and federal agencies as they examined laws effecting adolescents and education. This past year IECA and its legislative counsel/lobbyists weighed in, with some success on several issues. We took positions designed to support members and their clients and responded with enthusiasm when a U.S. Senate Committee sought IECA’s advice on legislation being considered that impacted teens.

As one IECA member told me in a group Zoom meeting, “I have come to realize that unlike any other group, IECA has my back.”

2. Innovating How We Provide Education

For most of IECA’s history, member educational opportunities were conducted in person: conferences, Summer Training Institute, retreats, campus tours, and symposia were all held in person. COVID, of course, required us to reassess and within weeks we transitioned to online learning. Now we have the opportunity to reexamine the delivery models for our educational offerings. We are exploring what type of learning works best virtually and what works best in person so we can innovate all of our educational programming. Look for changes to conferences that reflect these changes, including advanced Harkness-style, small group sessions for advanced topics, more small-group discussions, new and improved networking, and more expansive tours.

3. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The IECA Board of Directors has fully embraced the idea that IECA needs to examine our processes, requirements, leadership, and programming to ensure that all are welcome, all who are qualified can find pathways to volunteerism and leadership, and all can participate. Diversity this year was a central focus. Are we ensuring that planned events don’t conflict with religious and cultural holidays? Are we ensuring that those with disabilities, including hearing and vision impairment, can access IECA information online? Do our conferences consider the needs of those who are neurodiverse? Do we ensure that membership is available to those who have a non-traditional background? There is much to be done, but recognizing these needs is an important start.

4. Growth of the Two Gs: Global and Graduate School

The growth in members with clients looking to study outside of their home nation, as well as those with clients looking into graduate and professional education, exploded in 2022. This offered IECA a critical challenge. I have often said that IECA should never ask folks to join if we are unable to meet their needs. Our Graduate and Global members presented us with such a challenge in 2022. As an association, we have embraced both and have re-committed to making both sub-specialties an essential piece of who we are. We launched study groups, affinity groups, and roundtables; we increased the number of educational sessions offered at conferences; we held our first global gathering in 2022 and will follow up with a university symposium in Italy early in the new year. Graduate school advising is growing quickly, and many members have offered to volunteer, present, and host; our processes are working overtime to keep up, and we are committed to doing so.

5. Embracing Our New Role

On the day I arrived at IECA, 28 years ago, I was told that IECA was the “gold standard” in the profession. Since that day, I embraced the concept and have told our board on numerous occasions that “protecting IECA’s reputational value” was as important as protecting our financial viability. But something changed this past year. It happened when government agencies and other educational associations reached out to us for support or guidance. It happened when hundreds of members in other associations joined IECA, either because of our legislative work or because of our diverse options of educational programming. It happened when members embraced the value of having experts in adolescent behavior, since increased numbers of “typical” adolescents were dealing with mental health challenges. It happened when we conducted a survey of volunteers and discovered that over 300 members are volunteering in significant ways. And it was cemented when we realized that all the above led us to a point when our membership includes 150% more IECs than any other organization in the US or the world. In 2022, our role as the leader of the profession was not simply an adage, it became reality and as a result our responsibility to the profession and to the public has grown.

6. One Way We Have NOT Changed

Despite these changes, IECA has fundamentally remained the same. Our expectations that potential members must demonstrate they are at the top of their profession remains, just as we stress ethics and excellence in our trainings. Our standards remain the highest in the field. We take ethical violations seriously. We remain committed to the concept that all IECs are colleagues, not competitors. And most critically, we continue to hold fast to the rule that IECA members work, always, in the best interest of their clients.

Four IECA Members Honored with 2022 Making a Difference Awards

IECA has recognized four independent educational consultants (IECs) from across the U.S. with its annual Making a Difference Awards in recognition of their selfless volunteer efforts that have made a difference in the work of the association’s 2,600 members during this year.

Award recipients include Chris Andersson of New York, NY; Cheryl Chamberlain of Riverwoods, IL; Yesim Erez of Anaheim Hills, CA and Istanbul, Turkey; and Yvonne Espinoza of Austin, TX.

Through their efforts, these members have added significantly to the strengths and skills of their IECA member colleagues in their work with tens of thousands of students annually. The lifelong learning, collegiality, and ethical standards represented by the awardees are the hallmarks of IECA.

The Making a Difference Awards were presented by IECA Board President Ibrahim Firat during the organization’s Fall Conference (November 7-9, 2022 in San Diego, CA), which was attended by over 1,000 independent educational consultants and college, school, and therapeutic program representatives.

“Our Making a Difference awardees have fostered connections and community among IECA members, and shared resources benefiting all members’ IEC practices,” said IECA CEO Mark Sklarow. “Their collegiality and generosity are hallmarks of IECA.”

Ibrahim Firat (left) with Chris Andersson (right)
Cheryl Chamberlain
Ibrahim Firat (left) with Yesim Erez (right)
Yvonne Espinoza

IECA Presents to US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions

On October 19, 2022, IECA members Bar Clarke,  Karen Mabie, Heidi Molbak, and Jesse Quam joined CEO Mark Sklarow in presenting to the senior staff of the Senate Committee that oversees a wide area of legislative responsibility. The US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) requested IECA’s input as it explores adolescents and mental health, with a particular focus on health and safety of teens in therapeutic residential programs. Staff leaders representing Senator Patty Murray (WA) and IECA’s legislative counsel, Craig Saperstein of Pillsbury Law, also participated in the meeting.

At the outset, IECA had the chance to explain the Association’s work, our criteria for membership, and earning designations in therapeutic placements. IECA’s Principles of Good Practice, our Standards of Excellence and training new independent educational consultants (IECs) through our Summer Training Institute were all explored by the Committee staff. They seemed particularly interested in our prohibition against accepting kickbacks or expensive gifts as well as the role IECs play beyond student placement including after-care, family dynamics, and communication with parties during treatment periods.

In response to questions about campus visits, IECA members noted that being able to visit a campus and speak with students was incredibly valuable, and that the online Member Network allows IECA members to find trusted colleagues who may have a recent experience with a program. Mark Sklarow cautioned that while IECA members can visit programs, these are planned and controlled, and that state government and credentialing organization hold greater authority in evaluative visits which can be unscheduled and more invasive.

The Senate Committee staffers seemed interested to learn that IECs are, at times, brought on to assist a school district in finding residential care when local options have been exhausted. Likewise, referrals from psychologists and other professionals were discussed.

Bringing up the “horror stories” at programs that surfaced in the news recently, the IECA team offered several insights. They noted that many of these stories relate to instances more than two decades old, which was followed by a period of dramatic change and improvement in program staff training, new policies to safeguard children, and the like. Additionally, we noted that many of the stories specifically relate to publicly financed programs, not those privately held. Even so, the IECA team was clear that IECA supports new legislation that can assure the safety and care of teens, including extensive staff training on therapeutic holds and isolation, record-keeping, improved communication between teens and parents, and recognition of client rights.

IECA also addressed the work of some unaffiliated consultants who act as program recruiters or agents, accepting kickbacks (while masquerading as IECs), and indicated that such actions hurt the professional reputation of legitimate IECs. IECA endorsed mental health parity and expressed concern that those who go too far to attack all therapeutic schools and programs run the risk of stigmatizing adolescents seeking mental health care.

IECA and our Therapeutic and Government Relations Committees anticipate providing additional input to the Senate Committee in the new legislative year.

IECA Grants Annual Making a Difference Award to Seven Independent Educational Consultants

Honorees Have Gone Above and Beyond to Support Their Fellow Members During the Year

IECA has recognized seven independent educational consultants (IECs) across the US with its annual Making a Difference Awards in recognition of their selfless volunteer efforts that have made a difference in the work of the association’s 2,300 members during this year.

Award recipients include Christopher Bell of Boulder, CO; Cynthia Cohen of Denver, CO; Eric Dobler of Cheshire, CT; Deborah Davis Groves of Austin, TX; Sylvia Jackman of Lexington, SC; Stephanie Meade of Studio City, CA; and Luisa Rabe of Haverford, PA. . They were selected from the general membership and are not currently serving in formal leadership roles in IECA.

The efforts of these members have added significantly to the strengths and skills of their IECA member colleagues in their work with tens of thousands of students annually. The lifelong learning, collegiality, and ethical standards represented by the awardees are the hallmarks of IECA.

The Making a Difference Awards were presented by Kristina Dooley, IECA board president, during the organization’s Fall Conference (November 10-12, 2021), which was attended by more than 600 independent educational consultants and over 250 colleges, schools, and programs.

“Our seven awardees have gone above and beyond by fostering connections among IECA members and sharing resources, information, and ideas that have been invaluable to their IEC practices,” said IECA CEO Mark Sklarow. “Their efforts are a testament to the collegiality of IECA members.”

Christopher Bell
Cynthia Cohen
Eric Dobler
Deborah Davis Groves

Sylvia Jackman
Stephanie Meade
Luisa Rabe

IECA Grants Inaugural Making a Difference Awards to Seven Independent Educational Consultants

Recipients Have Gone Above and Beyond to Support Their Fellow Members During This Tumultuous Year

IECA has recognized seven independent educational consultants (IECs) across the U.S. with its inaugural Making a Difference Awards in recognition of their unprompted and cooperative efforts that have made a difference in the work of its 2,300 members during this tumultuous year.

Award recipients include Katherine Andersen of Dana Point, CA; Stacey Cunitz of Philadelphia, PA; Eric Endlich of Needham, MA; Heidi Molbak of New Orleans, LA; Sydney Montgomery of Clarksburg, MD; Holly Ramsey of Naperville, IL; and David Stoeckel of Laguna Hills, CA. They were selected from the general membership and are not currently serving in formal leadership roles in IECA.

The specific efforts of the awardees include:

  • Katherine Andersen and David Stoeckel: Co-creating an IECs Advising College Bound Student Athletes Affinity Group and sharing information about NCAA and NAIA rules changes and news, especially those due to the pandemic
  • Stacey Cunitz: Being the “voice of reason” in tough conversations on equity, privilege, and other discussion topics on the IECA Member Network listserv
  • Eric Endlich: Sharing resources particular to the learning differences/neurodiversity differences (LD/ND) student population
  • Heidi Molbak: Creating a crowdsourcing document to track the opening status and operational changes of boarding schools across the U.S. due to COVID-19, and keeping it up-to-date and available to IECA members through fall 2020
  • Sydney Montgomery: Sharing resources on antiracism, content marketing, and other topics and participating as an active member of the Black IECs Affinity Group and Graduate School Committee
  • Holly Ramsey: Establishing a Homeschooling Affinity Group to provide ongoing discussion and support for IECA members interested in this specialized topic

The Making a Difference Awards were presented by Kristina Dooley, IECA board president, during the organization’s virtual Fall Conference (November 16-20, 2020), which was attended by more than 650 independent educational consultants and 400 school, program and college representatives.

“Our seven awardees have stepped up to support their colleagues by sharing resources, information, and ideas that have been invaluable to their IEC practices, especially considering how rapidly the pandemic has impacted the school, college, and therapeutic landscape,” said IECA CEO Mark Sklarow. “Their efforts speak to the importance of community within IECA.”

Katherine Andersen
Stacey Cunitz
Eric Endlich
Heidi Molbak
Sydney Montgomery
David Stoeckel

UPDATE: IECA EVENTS and the CORONAVIRUS

Like you, we are all doing our best to adjust to the ever-changing situation here in the United States and around the globe. Even as things change quickly, we wanted to provide the following update to IECA’s upcoming live events, including changes to dates, fees, cancellation, and more.

  1. Our Spring Conference has been postponed an additional 8 weeks, from May to July 15–17 with the same location and schedule, at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut.
  1. All campus tours scheduled prior to and following the conference have been rescheduled for the new July dates.
  1. All registrants have had their registration and hotel bookings forwarded to the new dates (some campus tour hotels will need to be rebooked—you will be contacted).
  1. Our College Symposium has been postponed from June to September 9–10 in Cleveland.
  1. Because of the change in Connecticut conference dates to mid-July, our 2020 West Coast Summer Training Institute had to be cancelled. The East Coast Summer Training Institute at Swarthmore College will take place as scheduled, July 28–31.
  1. We have eliminated all late fees for our conference in Connecticut. We understand that you may feel more comfortable waiting until closer to the event to sign up for our events in July.
  1. If you are unable to attend the Connecticut event on the new dates, you will be given the opportunity in several weeks to cancel and IECA will provide a full credit for 100% of fees paid, automatically provided within our registration system that will be tied to you for use for a future conference, towards membership dues, or another IECA event. Your willingness to use a credit allows IECA to keep cash flow from becoming an extreme hardship.
  1. In several weeks, schools, colleges, programs and IEC firms will be given the opportunity to substitute a different attendee from their institution. We will waive all change fees.
  1. Those who wish to take another option, rather than the 100% credit noted in #7 above, will be given the chance to request either a cash/credit refund (which may take up to 4 weeks, subject to the administrative charges noted below) or may choose to support the Association by donating the payment made to IECA to assure continuity of operations.
  1. For the conference and Summer Training Institute (STI), we have updated all cancellation fees, eliminating 50% or 100% retentions for all cancellations that occur beyond 5 days of these events. IECA will only retain (for refunds) an amount equal to or less than our direct administrative cost charged by our online system and credit card processor. This will be $35 for the CT conference and $75 for STI. You can feel good about registering for events knowing you will be treated fairly.
  1. If we are forced to cancel these events due to health advisories we will do so, and issue full credits or full refunds to all registrants automatically.
  1. Please know that IECA is continuing to operate in all departments: membership benefits and outreach, education and training (including online learning), communications (including 5 Minute News and Insights), business support, conference and tour planning, and much more. Those looking for opportunities for advertising and sponsorships should contact Jean Lockwood.

To keep up with the latest from IECA, visit our Facebook page.