Interview with Tim Bazemore | October 31, 2015

When people think of the Portland PS-12 private school called Catlin Gabel, they often think rich white kids. As is with every private school, Catlin Gabel has an annual tuition-this one fetching twenty five thousand dollars a year. But Head of School Tim Bazemore looks at Catlin a little differently.

“Whenever I tell people we [Catlin Gabel] are pushing up to about forty percent self identified people of color, they don’t believe me. It’s not fair to say we are all white. It’s not factually accurate. But to say we are a fairly affluent community, that would be an accurate statement,” Bazemore says.

So maybe it isn’t fair to say Catlin is all white kids. But how about wealth? Even with about thirty percent of families at Catlin on some kind of financial aid, seventy percent of people are still paying the full twenty five thousand dollars. It is not many people who are capable of spending twenty five thousand dollars a year for their kid’s education.

“A majority of these families are fairly affluent. Are they rich? I think there are a lot of families here who are scraping to afford twenty five thousand dollars who would say ‘I’m not rich.’ But by an economic analysis of Portland and the country they might fall into the rich category.”

In fact, according to Bazemore there is a different problem when it comes to diversity in the school.

“We’ve made some real progress in the last decade in terms of increasingly diversifying the student body but the faculty and staff are lagging behind in diversity. I don’t think you can have one without the other. It can’t be that most of the black and latino adults you see at campus are only in the barn [cafeteria] and maintenance.”

There is in fact a reason for this. Bazemore argues that the research shows a lack of Latino and African American people going into education. Bazemore also suggested that people of color who are going into education are less likely to be attracted to private schools.

“People of color who are interested in teaching, many of them want to focus very much not in a community like this but in a community where they think they can make a bigger difference in terms of health of the community.”

The Catlin Business
It is important not to forget that at the end of the day, every school is a business-and Catlin Gabel is no exception. With a twenty million dollar budget, thirty million dollar endowment, and two hundred and ten employees there are certain steps you have to take to make sure the business is financially sound. There are two main parts of this business, Bazemore explains: raising money and getting people to come back every year.

“How well are we convincing the Sanders family that it is worth spending twenty five thousand dollars to have Hank here. About ninety six percent of people last year are returning this year.”

When I attended Catlin Gabel for seventh and eighth grade, I often heard complaining about how often they fundraise. Even though it can sometimes seem to people here like they are being nickle and dimed, Bazemore says Catlin has to raise about 1.5 million dollars a year to balance the budget.

“We could take that one point five million dollars and put that into tuition, but then it wouldn’t be twenty five thousand it would be twenty seven and then even less people could be a part of this community. And we don’t want to a rich person school.”
On top of this, periodically there is a long term fund for things such as building a new arts building which is an eight million dollar investment.

Final thoughts
“We need to work on what the perception of the school is. A bunch of rich white kids. It’s going to be hard to escape that entirely. But we can do a better job of combating that.

About Tim

Age: 55 (as of October 31).

Family?: wife Lisa, sons Tyler (25), Luke (17), dogs Shiloh and Stanley

Where did you grow up?: Lewiston, NY (near Niagara Falls)

Hobbies: hiking, climbing, bass guitar, reading, family time

Fun Fact: Tim broke his wrist and ankle snowboarding.

6 thoughts on “Interview with Tim Bazemore | October 31, 2015

  1. 40%? I didn’t know that!

    Having the awareness of how they are perceived is important. It’s impressive that he knows they can do a better job at changing the stereotype. Good interview.


  2. Hank, I love your writing. You know that I’m not in favor of massive endowments that don’t go to reduce tuition but, instead, go to build new tax-free or tax-exempt buildings that are not often needed. I know it’s a fabulous school, but wouldn’t you like to know how much the administrators are getting and how much the teachers and workers are paid in comparison because I see that as a big problem nationwide. Too much at the top and not enough to the teachers and workers. Diversity in the teaching staff is critical but it’s a catch-22. As was said–how many latinos and blacks are going into education. How many people are going into education period with all the blame going to teachers for all our problems. Also, as someone who supervised teachers, I can tell you that the universities deserve some of the blame for inadequate teachers getting into the system. They don’t want to deal with remediation or just not letting unqualified teachers go into education, but no one ever looks at that.


  3. Very impressive Hank. It was both thoughtful and inspiring to me. I didn’t know at first if you wrote it or were just passing it on it seemed so grown up. Once again, very impressive. Uncle Pat


  4. Neighborhood public schools in many large urban cities like Chicago tend to be highly racially segregated because neighborhoods tend to be segregated by class and race. I’d be interested in the class breakdown at Catlan. Happy to know that diversity by race and hopefully also by class is on Catlin’s agenda. I especially like the fun facts at the end of the interview. It helps to make the interviewed more of a person.


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