Educational leaders, Mark Claypool and John McLaughlin, recently authored a book titled We’re in this Together: Public-Private Partnerships in Special and At-Risk Education.

The book, scheduled to be released in June 2015, explores the benefits of public schools partnering with private education companies, and how the two entities can work together to better educate at-risk and special needs students. The book is meant to dispel the many myths and other negative stigma associated with public-private partnerships, and it points to many successful examples of public-private partnerships in use by states today.

Mark Claypool conversed with Education Update about the concept for the book and why thebook will educate parents, schools, and teachers about special needs students.

Education Update (EU): How were you able to meld education and business to help studentswith special needs?

Mark Claypool (MC): I wanted this to be a book for the private sector, as well those responsible for designing our public educational system. The idea of putting business and education together is at the very core of the position we take, and we use the book to present solid research and results around our argument in favor of public education and private business working hand-in-hand to invest in our youth.

EU: How do you think this book will help parents, schools, and others who are advocates for education when there’s so much going on with schools? How would this book be an excellent resource for anyone in the education field?

MC: To me, the greatest value of the book is that it helps to create a dialogue around the idea that business and education do not need to be opposed to each other. The partnership between the two is much more powerful than each on its own. No matter how big your role in the public school district, there’s no way you can do it by yourself. In our opinion, you should see yourself as a journalist with a “beat” or a primary care physician who consults a specialist. If I go to my general practitioner and I say my knee hurts, he’s probably going to refer me to a specialist. The reaction that public schools sometimes have is “I should do this by myself because I’m your doctor and I should be taking care all of your problems.” It’s not a sustainable way for public district schools to operate. We’re hoping that this book will promote a dialogue where superintendents, school board members, teachers, and principals will be much more comfortable asking help from specialists like Educational Services of America (ESA) and other businesses.

EU: How do you plan to promote the book to schools and students with special needs? Are you catering to states and countries that are mostly populated with students with special needs?

MC: We will be attending superintendent conferences, teachers’ conferences and will be speaking to healthcare organizations because we know that both healthcare and education are important to special needs students. We’re really trying to bring people together since our society is generally very isolated around this issue. Healthcare, police officers, and teachers are working with the same child but they are not working together. So again, it’s all about bringing people together. We need to have a common language about bringing life into these kids and that’s how we will promote it.

EU: Tell us more about your educational company, ESA (Educational Services of America).

MC: I was a social worker, but became disillusioned with the job when I observed how many kids were being moved around to different homes and different schools and not getting an appropriate education. It was an unhealthy environment for both the kids and parents. We started the company in 1999 with a focus on kids that typically tend to get “left-behind,” like special needs, foster and at-risk youth. ESA believes that all children have the right to an education and should remain hopeful because their future can be better than their past. But in order for them to do that, they will have to modify their behaviors and learn to be productive members of society, and that is where we can help. We have students with autism, learning disabilities and mental health issues, and we have a lot of students who are in terrible situations because of their home-lives or upbringing. It’s just too hard for them to get out and attend atraditional school, preventing them from graduating and then moving on into the workforce. Weprovide a big safety net of achievement for all of these kids so they can have a nurturing place to focus and meet their potential. ESA will help them move on to the next stage of their lives and contribute to society. We know we are making impact because of the numbers of students we work with who are graduating with a high school degree and going on to lead successful lives.

EU: What are you planning to achieve as an author and educational leader once the book is officially launched in June?

MC: My goal always is to serve more children every day, and that’s how we start our day around here. We try to figure out how to reach out to more kids, more schools and more educational programs. At the end of the day, I hope by exposing our story and the issues that exist we can break down some barriers and reach more kids and families. There is a great need for this approach in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. You just can’t wait around for years and expect that when at-risk students are in the 11th or 12th grade they will suddenly learn how to learn. Our education system should have the biggest possible toolbox to serve the needs of all kinds of students.

Available for pre-order now:
We’re In This Together: Public-Private Partnerships in Special and At-Risk-Education (Rowman & Littlefield, academic hardcover $45.00, paperback $22.00, ebook $21.99, June 2015)