“It says a lot about BASIS.ed to have three generations of my family here. They trusted my daughter with her recommendation to hire me – and they trusted me in – hmmm, well… several roles!”
Rosalind Thompson, the current Head of School at BASIS Chandler Primary-South Campus, laughs into the telephone. I know why she laughs: for the emphasis on “several”.
It’s a robust, life-filled laugh – a laugh of a wise and learned pro. It’s a laugh that’s been heard through the hallways at the BASIS.ed offices in Scottsdale, and from the HOS and HOPS office at three new BASIS.ed schools. After a lengthy corporate career, Thompson joined BASIS.ed in 2013, and quickly started on a cross country ‘there and back’ trek.
Thompson’s daughter Adrienne Fluitt, a teacher and college counselor at BASIS Oro Valley then and now, was the catalyst for Thompson’s hiring.
“My mom was a little restless, and I encouraged her to apply to BASIS.ed, thinking she’d fit with her many years of experience, her many skills, ” Adrienne recalls recently. “And then I told the BASIS.ed people how great my mom is. It didn’t take long for each of them to find out how right I was!”
Thompson’s initial move was leaving Florida for San Antonio to launch BASIS.ed’s first charter school in Texas, and second charter school outside the state of Arizona (following BASIS Washington D.C., which opened in 2012). Thompson then moved to Arizona and, working at the home office in Scottsdale, rebuilt the Human Resources Department for the entirety of BASIS.ed’s staff.
Back on the phone with Thompson: ” ‘Several’ roles?” I ask. Her laugh grows louder.
When BASIS Independent was founded in 2013, Thompson was chosen to be the Founding Head of School at BASIS Independent Brooklyn. She spent one year in Flatbush, the new school’s temporary neighborhood. At the time, the permanent schoolhouse was under construction in Red Hook, an historic neighborhood of working ports on Brooklyn’s western shore — with a clear view of the Statue of Liberty amidst its trucks and tankers — but now a burgeoning section of the borough, and a neighbor of Tesla and other high-tech startups.
“It was a great experience, personally and professionally. Being a part of the independent schools’ founding year, and in New York City at that…” she sighs. “It’s the most energetic place. Though I have to say, BASIS.ed classrooms are BASIS.ed classrooms. We brought it to New York. It was amazing to see.”
It’s fair to note, however, that Thompson’s role was slightly different. Not only was she shepherding the first private school students in the BASIS.ed academic program through life at a temporary schoolhouse, but she was also soothing teachers, students, and parents who were excited to get into the beautiful new school building.
Once that first Brooklyn academic year was finished, Thompson moved to Arizona for a second time — once again becoming a Founding Head of School, this time at BASIS Chandler Primary-South Campus. It’s a position she holds today, and cherishes as much as any. “I love the kids, and I love being back in Arizona, close to my daughter and granddaughter,” she says.
“All of those moves, all of that energy – ” I begin to ask.
“It’s a math lesson, Phil,” Thompson laughs harder, and I join her.
* * *
Thompson is ubiquitously known as “Roz” across the BASIS.ed network — there is only one Roz, and she has worked in three states. That means her big personality has filled rooms, her glowing smile has brightened classrooms and hallways in Texas, Arizona, and New York — and done so quite effectively, and with appreciation and support.
However, unique to the BASIS.ed network, Roz is one of three generations of her family in the BASIS.ed community. Not only is her daughter Adrienne a college counselor at BASIS Oro Valley, as noted above, but Adrienne’s daughter and Roz’s granddaughter, Penelope, is a 2nd grader at BASIS Oro Valley Primary.
The trio constitutes the only tri-generational family in the 15-thousand-person- strong BASIS.ed network of schools, teachers, and employees.
What’s more, the family has repeatedly found itself in the middle of BASIS.ed “firsts”. Roz was HOPS at the first BASIS.ed school outside of Arizona, and HOS at the first independent school. Adrienne taught at the first BASIS.ed school to open after the legacy schools. And Penelope — they call her Penny, and I will, too — was in the first-ever group of kindergarteners at the first BASIS.ed school to teach primary grades.
BASIS Oro Valley was the third BASIS.ed school to open across the entire network, in 2010, and the first to open in seven years (following BASIS Scottsdale in 2003, and BASIS Tucson, now called BASIS Tucson North, in 1998).
Adrienne, already a teaching veteran, moved to Arizona from Ohio, and was hired to teach 7th grade English and Honors Literature. In her second year, she also taught AP Psychology. She moved into college counseling about three years ago, while retaining the AP Psych course, a load she maintains today.
“This job is hugely motivating for me,” Adrienne says. “I am lucky as a college counselor. I get to see the outcomes. I try to share them — share the outcomes — with my colleagues, so people know that what they do does have an impact!” Her emphasis on “does” is emphatic, proud, and assured.
Roz also speaks to impact – at three campuses, each different though similar, as she puts it. “Each school has a unique spirit, which the students and teachers build themselves. But there’s nothing all that dissimilar between the three schools where I’ve been. I’ve had great parent communities, great teachers around me. And ultimately, it’s all about the learning, our program. That’s why we’re all here.”
* * *
That, too, is why the youngest generation of Roz and Adrienne’s family is at a BASIS.ed school as well.
Penny began her own BASIS.ed career as a “founding kindergartener” at BASIS Tucson, the first BASIS.ed primary school, in the autumn of 2013. (There are currently eight BASIS.ed schools teaching primary grades across the network.) Penny is currently in 2nd grade at BASIS Oro Valley Primary.
“She’s pretty much your average kid,” Adrienne says. “Loves her friends, loves Mrs. Duncan, her Learning Expert Teacher…”
But even a BASIS.ed teacher and college counselor was surprised at her daughter’s learning — despite seeing it in her own students day after day, year after year.
“We were in a drive-thru, and she starts lecturing me about aqueducts, how we need one here or there. Another time, out of nowhere I find myself listening to a soliloquy about dwarf planets!” Adrienne tells me with a mix of pride and astonishment.
“Even though I work here, I was shocked by how much she could learn,” she continues, now almost wistful, still surprised. “It’s far beyond what I even thought she was capable of. She’s getting so much more knowledge than she would otherwise.”
Roz agrees about her granddaughter’s learning — she knows about it too, of course, through Facetime calls and visits and chats. Roz says she appreciates the chance to see the precise program that she oversees in her current school — and that she has managed to launch at institutions in three states — taking hold in her own flesh and blood.
“My granddaughter tells me about Mandarin, talks about her grades,” Roz pauses and shakes her head in wonder. “She mentioned recently that one of her grades could’ve been a little higher, but said that she’s ‘a person of routine and the routine kept changing’ — so maybe that affected it a little!”
Roz pauses, and I can sense her nod, through the telephone, miles from me. “I thought, now she really sounds like a BASIS.ed student!”
Adrienne says that it’s nice being in the same school as Penny. When they’re at school functions together, “it’s like she has two hundred brothers and sisters. I am grateful for her interactions with my high school students. It’s a whole different community than I could have had for her anywhere else.”
* * *
Adrienne has a master’s degree in K-8 Education, and earned a bachelor’s degree with a triple major of psychology, anthropology and English.
She began professionally as a middle school English teacher, and despite the K-8 degree, quickly moved to high school, saying she “fell in love with teaching high school students.”
“One of the things that BASIS.ed does really well is give people a chance to do things, discover things, that they might be good at,” Adrienne says. “I’ve been given a lot of opportunities, have been given chances to expand on my strengths.”
Just like her mother.
I ask both women how it feels to know your mother, or your daughter, is facilitating the very same educational enrichment of children as you are, in a very similar place. How does it feel to be teammates — and, on such an exceedingly successful team?
“I love it,” Roz says. “It’s just fun. Of course, that’s how I feel about my job – and to have my daughter experience these same great feelings, and my granddaughter on the receiving end of ‘what we do’ — it’s fantastic. Truly.”
“I remember telling my mom before she started that BASIS.ed is a different kind of organization,” Adrienne says. “I taught at two independent schools in Ohio before coming to BASIS Oro Valley – and I never felt so motivated as a teacher as I did when I got here. And the students — all of them — year after year — are motivated too. They’re just awesome.”
I follow up with Adrienne: is that something that you think BASIS.ed schools attract? Or is it something BASIS.ed schools create?
“I was just in San Antonio,” she tells me without a moment’s pause. “The students there — they’re just as excellent as the students in my school in Oro Valley. It’s how all of our schools operate.”
Adrienne thinks of a student who told her that all his grandmother spoke about, all she wanted him to do, was graduate from high school — and he will, this spring.
“Those are the kids that make me happiest. But he just says to me, “You guys, all my teachers, made it happen, because I knew if I didn’t show up, you’d be on my case. You helped me along.
“That’s what I get to do,” Adrienne says. “And my mom does too.”
Roz thinks along identical lines — even though her focus isn’t on the college-bound students like her daughter, but on elementary students at Chandler Primary-South Campus. “These youngsters — they’re so little but so eager, they just want to learn so much. They’re very into it!”
* * *
Roz asks about my own children, and when I tell her that they will be at BASIS.ed schools next year — in kindergarten and preschool — she is audibly excited.
“I want you to tell them, ‘you’re going to have a lot of fun learning. You’re going to make great friends — both with adults and with other kids, children your age and a little older, too! It’ll be so much fun in school. Tell them that!”
Adrienne says that that’s one of the things she particularly loves about her community, with her daughter nearby. “The girls at our school tend to be strong young women. I love watching them grow. And Penny is headed down that path! She has teenage girls as role models — brilliant, outspoken, science minded. It’s an immeasurable asset for my girl, and so many girls around our school. It’s how our program functions, support and interaction across grades and ages. It’s what makes me happy here — for Penny and myself, and my mom too.”
“I am very happy, walking our halls, watching these kids, talking to their parents,” Roz says. “It’s such a good place – and I’ve had more than a few good BASIS.ed places!”
“Yes, it makes me happy,” Adrienne says. “And my daughter is happy, too. As for my job — it all comes down to kids. Every BASIS.ed school; they all have the same amazing quality.”
She thinks for a moment.
“And you know who can tell you that, better than anyone at BASIS.ed? My mom can!”
She’s right — and her mom has.