page tools /
Home /
About CAISL / The Past, the Present, and the Future

The Past, the Present, and the Future

 For a summary of the Past, the Present, and the Future of CAISL, see the links below.

The Past

Governance, Ownership, and Management:

Founded in 1956 by Anthony A. McKenna, CAISL was (and still is) the only accredited and licensed American school in Portugal. From 1956 until 1994, the school, known first as St. Columban's and then as the American International School of Lisbon, was governed by proprietary owners, Anthony McKenna from 1956 to 1976 and Smith and EAP Lda. from 1976 to 1995. During these years, management of the school was in the hands of the owners.

In 1995, a newly-created foundation, the not-for-profit Fundação Escola Americana de Lisboa (FEAL), took over the governance of the school. Three entities (the American Embassy, Ford Motor Company [now Visteon Portuguesa Lda], and Grupo Espirito Santo) led the initiative to create a not-for-profit structure and were legally constituted as the Board of Trustees. The Trustees each appointed a representative to sit on the Board. Management of the school was delegated to a professional Director hired by and accountable to the Board.

In 2001, the American International School of Lisbon added the name of Frank C. Carlucci, Ambassador of the USA to Portugal in the years immediately following the 1974 revolution, to honor Ambassador Carlucci and the long years of friendship and mutual support between the USA and Portugal.  

Mission and Philosophy and Academic Program

Anthony McKenna founded an American School in Portugal largely to serve the children of the American engineers who were contracted to help with the building of the Salazar (now 25 de Abril) Bridge. The school’s initial goal was to provide an American education which would allow the American students to enter schools and universities in the USA when they returned home. As the school's reputation for academic excellence grew, students from other nationalities enrolled and so, in 1984, it received an alvara [license] by which the Portuguese Ministry of Education recognized the school's educational program.  

The original mission and academic program of the school were developed and focused on providing a “balanced” college-preparatory education of academics, arts, and athletics. As the enrollment grew and Portuguese students began to enroll, a strong program to develop Portuguese as a Native Language was adopted.


In 1982, the American International School of Lisbon received accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and College (NEASC) and the European Council of International Schools (ECIS). This accreditation has been confirmed three times since then as required by the agencies, on a 10-year schedule, in 1992 and 2002 and 2012

The International Baccalaureate Organization authorized the school to begin the Diploma Program for the last two years of High School with the first exams taking place in May of 2000.

In 2003, because of the move to a new campus, CAISL's alvara [license] with the Ministry of Education was revised and renewed.   CAISL operates under permanent license to operate an American School with programs for Early Childhood, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, and High School (offering the American High School Diploma and the International Baccalaureate Diploma)

Once the American International School of Lisbon became a not-for-profit foundation, the State Department of the United States of America recognized AISL as a State-Department supported school.


St. Columban's started with 9 students and over the years grew slowly until, as the American International School of Lisbon in the 1990/1991 school year, it was a school of approximately 400. From the 1991/1992 school year, the school suffered a drop in enrollment during the transition from proprietary to not-for-profit structure and reached its low point at the beginning of the 1997/1998 school year with 170 students. Beginning in the 1997/1998 school year, enrollment grew steadily, with only a slight dip from 2008-2010 as a result of austerity in Portugal and on-going construction on campus.  In 2015-2016, CAISL reached 660 students with maximum enrollment reached in many grades. 


The original school was an apartment in Pedrouços with an Early Childhood Center in Linhó. From that small beginning, the school soon moved to an old Quinta in Carnaxide and, within a few years, had outgrown that facility and added the Elementary Campus in Monte Estoril and the Early Childhood Center in São João.

When the Fundação Escola Americana de Lisboa (FEAL) took over governance of the American International School in 1995, its first priority was to combine the Early Childhood, the Elementary, and the Secondary Divisions onto one campus in facilities designed to support the educational program. The Trustees of FEAL immediately began putting in place the financial support as well as the architectural and engineering plans to make this goal a reality. With the support of the Sintra Camara, which provided the land in Linhó on a long-term lease arrangement, the plan could be realized and in the fall of 1998, Grades 3 through 12 moved to the purpose-built campus in Linhó. For the 2000-2001 school year, the youngest students moved onto the Linhó campus, uniting everyone on one site for the first time in 20 years.

The Present (Updated August 2016)

Governance, Ownership, and Management

The Carlucci American International School of Lisbon (CAISL) is governed by the Fundação Escola Americana de Lisbon (FEAL). FEAL consists of three Trustee representatives.  The Trustees--Visteon Portuguese and the American Embassy in Portugal--played a major role in taking the school in 1995 from a for-profit to a not-for-profit structure and continue to appoint representatives to the Board.  There are three Trustee Representatives appointed from the American Embassy (2 representatives) and Visteon (1 representative).   Each Representative has a three-year term of office which is renewable at the discretion of the Trustee.

For the 2016-2017 school year, the Trustees are represented by Martin Schwartz and Michael de Mello (American Embassy) and Paula Sá (Visteon Portuguesa), Michael de Mello also serves as the President of the Board.

Management of the School is delegated by the Board to a Director, Blannie Curtis, who assumed the position in the 1997/98 school year. She is assisted by a Senior Management Team (SMT) consisting of Katie Morris, Elementary Principal; Nathan Chapman, Secondary Principal; and Paulo Parreira, Chief Business Officer.

Strategic Planning

The main responsibility of the Trustees is to hold the school “in trust” for the future.  With the construction project completed, the new facilities occupied (August 2011), and the financial structure of the school healthy and sustainable, the Trustees are turning their attention to "next steps" of Strategic Planning.  A survey of all segments of the community was done in April 2016 and provided data for the creation of this Plan.  The development of the next Strategic Plan of the BOT is in the process of creation and will continue into the 2016/2017 school year with the support of an expert in this field. 

The on-going Goals of CAISL are

ACADEMIC GOAL:     CAISL will provide superior academic programs that teach basic and extended skills, critical thinking, and effective communicating, and that instill a love of learning and pride in individual and collective accomplishments.

STUDENT LIFE GOAL:     CAISL will provide extracurricular opportunities that foster school and community service, encourage interest in the fine arts, enhance physical development, promote concern for others, develop moral character, and provide leadership training.

SCHOOL CLIMATE GOAL:     CAISL will ensure a school climate which is collaborative, positive and respectful and which provides personal, academic, and medical monitoring and support.

STAFFING GOAL:     CAISL will attract, support, supervise, and retain outstanding educators who will both teach and be role models for students and support personnel who will be both professional and personal assets to CAISL.

PHYSICAL RESOURCES GOAL:     CAISL will ensure that the physical facilities and resources support the academic and extracurricular program effectively and efficiently.

COMMUNITY RELATIONS GOAL:     CAISL will ensure that the school is well presented to prospective families to ensure enrolment stability or growth, to the current parent community, and to the local and international communities.

FINANCIAL GOAL:     CAISL will ensure that the business, financial, and ancillary operations support the academic and extracurricular program of the school effectively and efficiently and ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the school.

Mission and Philosophy and Academic Program

In the 2006-2007 school year, the professional staff of CAISL recognized that a thorough review of the Mission Statement was necessary to ensure that it both reflected and guided the program of the school.

The Values Statements (sometimes called a Mission Statement) of CAISL was developed by the faculty with input from the parents and students and was adopted by the Board of Trustees in June 2008.  It includes the “Core Value”, “the Values Statements”, and the “Profile of the Learner.” These provide the basis on which the school will operate.

These Values recognize the commitment which CAISL has to developing the “whole child,” in valuing effort and steps toward the goal, in working to ensure that our students enjoy learning and see learning as a positive part of life, in celebrating and supporting diversity and in being responsible citizens of the school, our communities, and the world. The complete Mission statement can be found on the CAISL web site here.

CAISL works in cooperation with other American International Schools and with the Department of State of the USA on adopting and adapting the Common Core curriculum for English and Math and the Next Generation Science Standards for Science. 

Additionally, CAISL uses the adaptive assessment program called MAP(Measures of Academic Progress). This program is computer-generated and “adaptive” in that it “adapts” to the student’s achievement level. If a student gets a question correct, the next question is harder. If a student gets a question wrong, the next question is easier. Because the test is designed to allow each child to feel successful, children tend not to give up. Because it is computer-generated, the results can be seen by the teachers the next day and the report is designed to help teachers adapt curriculum and instruction to the needs of each child. It is our hope—and our belief—that this kind of adaptive testing will not only show a child’s current achievement but also provide data which will guide the curricular and instructional program. Grades 2 through Grade 10 take MAP tests.

All CAISL students in Grades 10 and 11 take the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test (PSAT) and most of our students take the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) which is valid for students for entry into colleges and universities in the USA and, with the SAT II, for CAISL students for entry into universities in Portugal. Of course, there are also the external exams in May of the senior year for students who choose to do the IB Diploma Program. The Annual Report for School Year 2014-2015 contains testing results for that year and can be found here. The Annual Report for the school year 2015-2016 will be available in February of 2017.

More current testing results for the High School SAT and IB Exams can also be found on the school web site and are updated as results become available. They can be found here.


In March of 2012, CAISL hosted a team from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Council of International Schools (CIS) for a week-long visit to CAISL. This is part of the 10-year accreditation cycle and was designed to examine CAISL to ensure that we are continuing to offer a quality educational program which supports our Core Values.   Half-way through the 10-Year Accreditation, a follow-up 5-Year visit by NEASC and CIS is conducted.  CAISL will host the 5-Year visit in March 2017.

CAISL continues to be authorized by the IB Organization to offer the IB Diploma Program and to be recognized by and receive assistance from the Department of State of the USA. CAISL also has permanent license with the Portuguese Ministry of Education,


At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, CAISL has 670 students and 45 nationalities. Most of our classes are either closed to new enrollment or only able to accept a very small number of additional students.    In many grades, our Waiting Lists are quite long.  Overall enrollment has grown the past few years and we continue to get inquiries about admissions two or more years in advance!


The Elementary and Secondary Academic Buildings and the Library-Media Center are among the best not only in Portugal but also among other International Schools. The large classrooms are ideal for the “inquiry-based, active learning” program offered by the school.

To great excitement, CAISL opened classes on 1 September 2011 with full use of our new and long-awaited facilities:

  • A multi-sport gymnasium with shower/locker rooms designed to accommodate and enhance our Physical Education and Athletics Programs.
  • A spacious two-story Cafeteria and Snack Bar.
  • A Fine Arts Center with a 448-seat Theater, Art and Music Classrooms, an Art Gallery Space, Dressing Rooms for the Theater, a multi-purpose room for after-school activities (such as ballet), and a top-floor testing center.
  • Outdoor playing fields, including a full-size soccer pitch and a junior-size soccer pitch - both of artificial grass, and a two new basketball courts.
  • A parking lot.

For 2014-2015, we also opened a playground for Upper Elementary children with benches, a play tent, and a climbing frame.

The Future

As we look to and beyond 2016-2016, enrollment inquiries and advance enrollments continue to be very healthy and give evidence of a rebounding of the Portuguese and global economy.   We currently enroll slightly around 670 students and expect to remain at this size, more or less.  This is an ideal size for a school such as CAISL as it allows for both long-term financial sustainability and for quality academic, athletic, and artistic programs which focus on achievement by each student at the highest level of which he or she is capable while still allowing a personal approach to education and to each child.

One question which is sometimes asked is “What is CAISL’s enrollment capacity?”

If one follows the license issued to CAISL by the Portuguese Ministry of Education, then the school’s capacity (in the academic buildings, without the addition of the newly-opened new facilities) is 789 students. This license is based on the Ministry’s analysis of available spaces, such as the size of the classrooms and the number of bathrooms.

However, if we went by that figure, we would have close 30-40 students in each classroom at all times.  The Faculty, Senior Management Team, and Board are committed to inquiry-based, active learning with a focus on engaging and supporting each student. Such numbers, even though allowed by our license, are not acceptable to us.

The other question is “How big can CAISL grow?” now that we are in our new facilities?

To the surprise of most people, the facilities CAISL opened  for the 2011/2012 school year add very little to our enrollment capacity. Our new facilities provide much-needed spaces for curricular and extracurricular programs including PE/Athletics, Music, Art, and Drama. However, although the classes in Art, Drama, and Music moved to the Fine Arts Center, only a few classrooms in the current facilities were vacated. The “extra” space in the classroom buildings allowed for some additional students but we do not anticipate a significant growth potential beyond our current enrollment.

Therefore, CAISL is not seeking to continue to grow our enrollment.  Our current size is small enough to allow for the close relationships and positive support so necessary for healthy development of children and adolescents but large enough to give a sound financial base which permits a variety of curricular and extracurricular offerings.

As CAISL looks to the future, we are committed to individualized education which supports each child to do his or her best (a core value of CAISL). We will enhance our program to ensure that we are challenging each of our students to learn and to love learning and to achieve at the highest level of which he or she is capable.

Our Mission

CAISL is a student-centered educational community in which we challenge ourselves and each other to do our best and to make positive contributions to our diverse and ever-changing world.

CAISL is a student-centered educational community in which we challenge ourselves and each other to do our best and to make positive contributions to our diverse and ever-changing world.

© Carlucci American International School of Lisbon

Governed by Fundação Escola Americana de Lisboa

Rua António dos Reis 95
Linho 2710-301
Sintra, Portugal
T: 351-219-239-800
F: 351-219-239-809

  • Accredited By
    NEASC    Council of International Schools
  • Authorized By
  • Operating under permanent license from
  • Supported By


email page print page small type large type
powered by finalsite