Designed to address the broad needs of children, adolescents, and adults with learning challenges, attention disorders, and emotional difficulties, Morrissey-Compton Educational Center was founded in 1982 in Palo Alto, California by Patricia Morrissey, Ed.D. and Carolyn Compton, Ph.D. Government funding cutbacks were impacting school-based programs at that time, and Pat and Carolyn's vision was to develop an organization that could provide tutoring, summer school, and diagnostic services for students with learning disabilities.
The Center began in two classrooms in the old Hoover School on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. For the first two years, its focus was on providing tutoring for students during the school year and Challenge School, a program for elementary school children, during the summer.
The Center moved to offices on Park Boulevard in Palo Alto in 1984, where educational evaluations were added to its list of offerings. The four-person staff, including the directors, were all very part-time. During the following years, Challenge School grew in both popularity and numbers, from 14 students in 1983 to 70 students in 2001. In 1991, Dr. John Brentar, a clinical psychologist, joined the staff, also part-time. Having Dr. Brentar on staff meant that cognitive assessments could be added to the list of client services, which allowed Morrissey-Compton to provide the psychoeducational evaluations that are required by law to identify students with learning disabilities. The Center expanded into a third room to keep up with the requests for testing and tutoring services, and two part-time educational specialists were added to the staff as tutors.
Since 1999, MCEC has provided educational consultation through contracts with Santa Clara County Departments of Juvenile Probation and Child and Family Services to ensure that dependents and wards of the Juvenile Court are enrolled in and attending school and receiving an appropriate education plan. Through this program, called Youth Education Advocates, MCEC is able to help over 400 foster or adjudicated youth each year. MCEC also provides educational and other consultation services to Synapse School, an independent elementary and middle school in Menlo Park, and two of its clinicians serve on an interdisciplinary team providing developmental and behavioral health care for children in the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Clinic at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.
In 2006, Dr. Brentar became Morrissey-Compton's Executive Director. Today, the staff has grown to more than 20 highly-trained psychologists and educational specialists, and the Center provides a full array of services for children, adolescents, adults, and families, including: diagnosis, treatment, consultations, educational therapy, skills groups, support, executive function coaching, tutoring, and advocacy. In 2011, Morrissey-Compton opened a satellite clinic in Half Moon Bay-the first of its kind in that communityto address the significant unmet needs of students on the coast. Due to redevelopment of the Park Boulevard office space in Palo Alto, in which Morrissey-Compton had resided for 30 years, the Center moved to Redwood City in May, 2014.
Establishment of Scholarship Fund
As early as 1986, families in need of Morrissey-Compton's services started requesting financial assistance for tutoring, diagnostic evaluations, and Challenge School. Clinicians provided services to some families out of their own pockets, and friends of the Center gave gifts, but the staff didn't have the bandwidth to devote time to specific fundraising activities. However, as the number of requests for financial assistance increased, it became apparent that a plan for scholarships was needed. In 1992, Morrissey-Compton received a gift of stock valued at $100,000 from the mother of a former client. They used it to buy a new computer, and put the rest in the bank. In 1994, again through the efforts of a client, Morrissey-Compton received a grant of $50,000 for operating expenses from the Flora Family Foundation. The following year, they were awarded $60,000 from the Foundation to establish an Endowment Fund to ensure the future of the Center. Since then, Morrissey-Compton has developed fundraising activities and holds two Annual Appeals to support both the growth of the Endowment Fund and financial aid for clients.