IST Early Years
In the early 1960's, members of the foreign community residing in Turin sensed the need for a school that could provide an international education for their children. In 1963, a small group of employees from American and other internationally interested companies in Turin like FIAT, Michelin and Westinghouse decided to organize school with an American curriculum. Classes were originally set up in space at the Caselle Airport in Turin, then moved shortly thereafter to a small building on Via Cottolengo in the center of Turin. The school defined its original purpose as to offer an international instruction using a North American model for the children of the foreign community residing in Turin. The school had an enrollment of ten children.
Within five years the school had grown to 60 students representing twelve different nationalities and the decision was taken to move the school to expanded quarters at the Villa Virginia, near Superga, so that Middle School classes could be added, which it did in 1966. Mr. Renato Sassi served as President of the Board of Directors during this time and Mr. Cesar Maniccia as Headmaster. Mrs. Anne McDonagh Sigliano was also one of the teachers during this period. Egle Sassi, Mr. Sassi’s daughter and one of the first students to enroll in the school, earned her BA degree from Oxford University and an MA in Soviet Studies at Harvard University, attesting to the strength of ACAT’s academic program since its inception.
During this period the school had a series of Headmasters:
1965-1966: Mr. Owen Hoower,
1966-1967: Mr. K. Glazbrook,
1967-1968: Mr. Cesare Maniccia
1968-1969: Mrs. Patrizia Polignano
1969-1972: Mr. J.P. Jacob
1972-1973: Mr. Richard Johnson
In 1973, however, faced with what seemed to be insurmountable financial and commitment problems, the Board of Directors at the time decided to close the school, which it did in June, 1974. One year later, however, due to the strong interest of a group of influential Torinese businessmen, in particular Dr. Enrico Salza, the school was re-opened at the Villa Mogna in Pecetto, starting a long tradition of the school being in the countryside outside of the Turin center. Seventy students from nine different nationalities enrolled and the school was legally registered as the AMERICAN CULTURAL ASSOCIATION OF TURIN and became known as ACAT, a non-profit association of parents legally registered in the State of Delaware in the United States.
By 1974, ACAT consisted of 180 students of 16 nationalities. A high school section was opened along with an enriched ESL program. Due to continued growth with the school now at 218 students, in 1977 the Board of Directors decided to expand to the Villa Sacro Cuore, still in Pecetto, and moved the pre-school and elementary classes there while the middle and high schools remained at the Villa Mogna. In 1979 the first graduating class earned the American High School Diploma, the procedures for obtaining accreditation with the New England Association of Colleges and Schools (NEASC) were begun and a Parent-Teacher Association was formed.
IST Middle Years
Five years later, in 1984, when the rental contracts in Pecetto expired, the Upper School was moved to Ville Roddolo in Moncalieri and in 1985 the Lower School was moved to the Moncalieri campus so that once again all students were together on one campus. Accreditation with the New England Association of Colleges and Schools was received in 1984, thereby legitimizing the school´s American High School Diploma and granting its graduates access to all universities and colleges in the United States.
Coordination with the Italian school program was strengthened as well and an academic partnership. An agreement was made with the public schools in Pecetto for ACAT students to take the Italian public school examinations at the end of fifth and eighth grades. As such, they were able to legitimize their studies at ACAT with the requirements of the Italian Ministry of Instruction.
The American High School Diploma, however, was not valid in Italy and many Italian families found themselves in a difficult situation at the end of eighth grade – either leave the school and return to Italian high schools or go abroad for high school. As such, the number of students who actually remained at ACAT for their high school years began to diminish. With a strong Elementary School with over 200 students, the Board of Directors found itself with a very small, and very expensive high school program and a very difficult decision to make – whether or not to close it.
In 1990, however, a risky decision was taken by the Board, due to the efforts of a small group of parents who had researched solutions to the problem at the international schools in Milan and Rome. They assured the Board that they would leave their children in ACAT if the school would begin the process of seeking accreditation, too, with the International Baccalaureate program, a relatively new curriculum being administered by the IBO office in Geneva and already implemented in 452 schools in 50 different countries around the world. ACAT students with an IB diploma would be allowed access to universities throughout the world, including all of Europe and, most importantly for them, Italy. In addition, the IB Diploma is usually accepted as an Advanced Placement Diploma in the United States. It seemed to be a good solution for everyone.
In 1990, after much discussion, and as a way of preserving the integrity of the school, the Board of Directors applied for accreditation of its high school program with the International Baccalaureate Organization in Geneva. Now, in addition to the North American High School Diploma as a final qualification, students capable of passing the examinations could also earn an IB diploma recognized by universities and colleges throughout the world as well as providing them with an ample cultural preparation. That´s when IST truly began to assume its position as an important international institution in the community of Turin. It was at this point that the school internationalized its name, becoming known as the International School of Turin – ACAT.
The school was assisted in the implementation of the IB program by the expertise of Mr. Tom Smith as the school´s first Coordinator of IST´s IB Program and by a new, more highly qualified high school faculty. It was not easy to get the Italian Ministry of Instruction to recognize the school and its IB diploma. The Italian bureaucracy was notable and the administrative obstacles were many but thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Renata Savio (mother of high school students Luca and Simona) and IST Coordinator of Italian Programs Ms. Cinzia Buono, the school was able to obtain the declaration of “equivalence” of its IB diploma with that of the Italian high school diploma. The program began in 1990 with the eleventh grade students and in 1992, 9 students passed the IB´s external examinations and received their IST IB and North American high school diplomas.
Dr. Tomm J Elliott was brought in as the Headmaster in 1993 and asked to help the school consolidate its newly implemented IB program and help the school in its drive to create a more viable high school program. When he assumed his duties, there were only 25 students in the high school but as the program became more and more solid and many parents began to see the success of the students’ scores and their access to outstanding international universities as well as Italian universities, an increased number of students remained at the school through high school. A self-contained EAL program was also introduced to allow entry to Upper School students who did not speak English – a program that is still in place today.
From 1993-2005. the school experienced an unprecedented period of growth, going from 250 students to nearly 400 in a short amount of time, which necessitated an expansion school facilities, initially on the campus in Moncalieri, but then for the Board of Directors to decide that it really was time to build a new building. Mr. John Mores, who assumed the Headmastership of the school, after Dr. Elliott left in 1998, administered this growth and worked diligently on strengthening the school’s Diploma Program. Many say that it was during this period, from 1993-2003, that the school truly became what can be called an “international school.”
In March 2001 the Board decided to start to process to gain the Parità Scolastica in the Elementary and Pre-school which the school obtained in 2002.
Mr. Jonathan Cramb assumed the headship of the school in 2003, and it was determined that because of the growth of the school and the limited facilities available at the Moncalieri site, the school was going to have to seriously consider seeking expanded facilities. During these five years, the search and securing of the new site in Chieri, as well as the drawing up of the plans for the new school facilities became the school’s main objective. In 2008, Mrs. Carolyn Steinson assumed leadership of the school and accompanied the school in the finalization of its construction and the move from Moncalieri to Turin.
The school continued to seek qualification by North American, European and International Baccalaureate institutions. It maintains joint and full accreditation with the New England Association of Colleges and Schools (NEASC) and the Council of International Schools in Europe (CIS). In May, 2006 ACAT-IST obtained authorization to offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB-PYP). In the summer of 2008 the school obtained authorization to offer the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB-MYP) making it the first school in Italy to offer all three IB programs and classifying IST as an IB World School.
IST – The Present
In September, 2011, Dr. Tomm Elliott returned to the school as its Headmaster for a second term. Under his direction, the school has approximately four hundred and seventy students representing 35 different nationalities and 80 faculty and staff members and has truly assumed its position one of the most consolidated international institutions of Italy. The school joyfully celebrates its 50th Anniversary during 2013.