“Find a beautiful property, both house and surroundings…fill this setting with young people from all over the world, because the world has become so very small. Fill all their waking hours with commitment to study, sports, the arts, and responsibility to others. Instruct—stretch them in all areas. Place in this ‘house’ very special human beings as teachers, friends, counselors, and role models, people who have a sense of excitement about life and learning—of the huge challenge this world presents, and above all, great faith in their young charges. Sprinkle and cover the whole wonderful concoction, basting frequently with generous portions of TLC—tender, loving care. Believe me, it’s a foolproof recipe!”
– TASIS Founder M. Crist Fleming, 1990
TASIS Founder M. Crist Fleming’s penchant for starting schools and programs is legendary. And while some worked out and others didn’t, they were all started because Mrs. Fleming felt she could do good in the world through education. If a program thrived or closed, it didn’t matter; students were forever changed by Mrs. Fleming’s spirit and the TASIS philosophy, and many continue to gather together in all corners of the world to celebrate their connections to TASIS.
In this spirit, we are delighted to announce that the TASIS family will now be extending to the Iberian peninsula! TASIS Portugal is slated to open in the fall of 2020 in the leafy, hilly surroundings near Sintra, 10 minutes from upscale Cascais and 20 minutes from Lisbon.
Fernando Gonzalez founded TASIS Dorado in Puerto Rico in 2002 and helped get TASIS Hellenic off the ground 40 years ago. He is driving this project as well, alongside his roles on the Governing Boards of all TASIS schools. We asked him about the newest member of our TASIS family.
We’re following Mrs. Fleming’s recipe of opening a new school in a beautiful place. Indeed, this is the first school to open since the TASIS Elementary School in 2005. Why Lisbon, and why now?
The TASIS Foundation has explored many possible locations for founding a school, but the combination of factors were never totally aligned. It takes a beautiful place near a major cultural center, the right economic and political environment, and a positive market for multinational corporations and families seeking a quality education. The location in Sintra, the ancient cultural center of Portugal and in Portugal’s golden triangle, is the ideal site for a new TASIS school.
Can you tell us the TASIS Portugal story so far?
We were approached by an alumnus parent and relocation agent, Andrea Cameroni, to consider opening a school near Lisbon given the growth in expatriate families relocating to Portugal and the lack of space in existing schools. During the early summer of 2018, I was visiting Lisbon with some TASIS England alumni parents and decided to explore the possibilities. Although the investors who initially showed interest were not the right match for TASIS, I was struck by the beauty of Lisbon and the Cascais and Sintra areas. I suggested to Andrea that should the right investor appear, I would be willing to make a proposal to the Foundation to consider seriously the opportunity of creating TASIS Portugal.
In January 2019, Andrea contacted me to say that there was a new group of investors interested in starting an international school in the Sintra/Cascais area. I invited them to TASIS England to see our school in action. Fortunately, it was just after our Board meeting, so I was able to have former TASIS Headmaster Lyle Rigg and current TE Headmaster Bryan Nixon join me for lunch with the investors to discuss the possibility of a collaboration. Tim Vieira, Tiago Machado, and Terry Hamill were the investors, and although in the end the Foundation decided to invest in the property directly, the investors have been an invaluable source of information and local knowledge. Their contacts with local authorities and the business community are critical, and they also had already identified a property that could be readily converted to school use from its original design as a shopping center. TASIS Master Architect David Mayernik has superbly redesigned this commercial space into an attractive village-style concept in the best TASIS tradition.
The next step is to secure planning permits to convert the existing premises to school use, and we must then submit an application to the Ministry of Education for a school license. Then we will complete the conversion of Phase 1 of the Master Plan for the 2020–2021 school year.
I am grateful for the support of the entire TASIS Foundation, which recognized the exciting potential of a TASIS School in Portugal. I am also pleased with the appointment of Keith Chicquen as Head of School and his wife Aimee Gruber, who will serve as Director of Enrollment Management and Marketing. Aimee will also consult and collaborate with all of the TASIS Schools and summer programs regarding enrollment strategy. She and Keith bring strong leadership and extensive educational experience to these key positions at our new school.
The school will be serving the international community, but 40% of the market includes Portuguese families who value an international education and the English language.
What sort of programs will TASIS Portugal be offering?
I have been ably assisted by David Hicks, a TASIS Foundation Board member, who is overseeing the creation of the academic program. The curriculum and activities are in the process of being defined but will draw heavily on the experience and success of the TASIS schools in Switzerland, England, and Puerto Rico and will include the arts, sports, and travel alongside academics. We are starting with grades Pre-K to 6, so the Elementary School curriculum will be Core Knowledge, adapted to the Portuguese market. We will initially be a day school but will explore the possibility of adding a boarding program in the future. We will keep our community informed as progress continues, and please help us spread the word!
Introducing Keith Chicquen and Aimee Gruber
Over the course of a 32-year career, Keith Chicquen has enjoyed working in schools of all types: public, independent, day, boarding, K–12, and postsecondary. His diverse roles beyond teaching and coaching (his first passions) include helping start a school in Singapore and serving as Director of College Counseling and Upper School (Collingwood School), Dean of Students (Lower Canada College), Director of Admissions and Dorm Director (Shawnigan Lake School), and, most recently, Instructional Director (Vancouver Island University).
Chicquen explains why he felt drawn to this exciting opportunity:
“After 13 years in higher education, I had a strong desire to get back to working with younger people—where good schools can make the greatest difference in the lives of students. TASIS had been on our radar—my wife’s and mine—for a while, waiting for the right opportunity. After meeting the incredible leadership at the TASIS organization, as well as knowing some really fine people who work for TASIS schools, when Fernando Gonzalez introduced the prospect of a new school in Portugal, there was really no way to turn our minds in any other direction. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Fleming, her amazing story and her legacy now carried on by her daughter Lynn Fleming, her husband Michael Aeschliman, and the TASIS Foundation Board are an inspiration to courageous educators around the world. In addition, the eight days I spent in Portugal earlier this summer with Fernando and members of the original investor group left no question in my mind. For me, it is a life’s dream to be able to endeavor into something this exciting, with such a remarkable organization, in such a beautiful location.”
Aimee Gruber brings nearly 30 years of experience in independent school admission/enrollment management to her new role. Her career includes admission leadership roles at boarding and day schools as well as association experience at The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) and The Enrollment Management Association (EMA), where she served in a variety of roles—most recently as Senior Director of Global Outreach. She is a popular presenter at conferences, seeking to not only educate admission professionals but to also help heads, CFOs, and trustees understand the increasingly complex role of admission.
What compelled Gruber to pursue this new position in Portugal?
“I have known the TASIS schools and organization from my early days in the industry traveling through Asia with Bill Eichner,” she said. “The TASIS brand represents quality, originality, and a first-rate approach to schools. It will be an honor to represent the TASIS family in Portugal.”