Coit Johnson Resigns

Coit Johnson  resigns after seven years as director. Continuity of LREI’s strong leadership, shared vision, principles of good progressive practice and financial stability, from Elisabeth Irwin to Randolph Smith to Coit Johnson, provided a sturdy foundation for the steady growth of a pioneer experimental school to an institution known around the nation and the world. Seemingly overnight, however, the prospects for the continuing success of the new High School division became increasingly problematic and ambiguous.  In all, seven   individuals took their places in the director’s chair between Coit Johnson’s resignation in 1975 and the appointment in 1988 of Andrew McClaren: Sandra Roach, the very able Lower School director who temporally took charge during the search for a permanent director, Richard A. Lacey, Jonathan Slater, Stephen Prigohzy, Jim Rein and Rick Fitzgerald all took turns trying to reverse the school’s downward trajectory.  A host of issues – social, cultural, financial, pedagogical, and political – were cited as causes of the situation and   made the recruitment of new leadership difficult and a strategy capable of turning the situation around unsuccessful. Despite steadily declining enrollment, however, the high school division managed to survive due largely to the surplus revenue generated by the elementary grades.  To many, the situation was unsustainable and sentiment for the closing of the upper division grew ever louder. On two occasions, in 1981 and 1991, the Board of Trustees voted to close the high school.  In each case, however, generous financial support from individual donors, demonstrations of the high school teachers and students, the strong loyalty of many alumni and the rallying of the entire LREI community, past and present, persuaded the trustees to pull back from the precipice.