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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.  


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 2019)

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 2019-2020 school year, the members of the Board of Trustees are Maurilio Rojano-Garcia and Michael de Mello (appointed by the American Ambassador) and João Paulo Ribeiro (appointed by Visteon Portuguesa), Michael de Mello 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/Business Manager.

School Improvement 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 tasked with ensuring that they fulfill their primary objective of holding the school "in trust" for future generations.   

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 enrollment 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:  Core Value, Values Statement, and Profile of the Learner

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.  These guiding documents were reviewed in the 2018/2019 school year and were determined to be still valid and still the bedrock values on which the school is built. 

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 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 instructional program. Grade 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 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 2017-2018 contains testing results for that year and can be found here. The Annual Report for the school year 2018-2019 will be available in February of 2020.

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. Grades and score results can be found here.

Licenses, Authorizations, Accreditations, and Memberships

CAISL operates legally in Portugal with a permanent license to offer an American curricular program for all grades (EC3 through 12th).  The American curriculum program allows students to transfer in and out of the Portuguese national system at the same grade equivalent through 9th Grade.  CAISL is authorized to award an American High School Diploma to those CAISL students who successfully complete all requirements. 

CAISL continues to be authorized by the IB Organization to offer the IB Diploma Program and this is also recognized as part of CAISL's permanent license from the Portuguese Ministry of Education. 

CAISL is also an "assisted school" from the Office of Overseas Schools of the United States Department of State. 

In March of 2012, CAISL hosted a Visiting Team on a joint accreditation visit by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Council of International Schools (CIS).  As a result of this visit, CAISL was re-accredited by these agencies through March 2022.  Recently, however, CAISL's professional staff and Board of Trustees undertook an analysis of accreditation agencies, resulting from some changes of direction and philosophy implemented by the agencies, and decided to transfer our accreditation from NEASC to Middle States Association (MSA) Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education.  This transfer is effective as of August 1, 2019.  More information on MSA can be found on its web site.

In addition to these various authorizations and accreditations, CAISL is also a member of the following professional associations:  Mediterranean Association of International Schools (MAIS), Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS), National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and Independent Schools Management (ISM). 


At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, CAISL has 700 students from 45 nationalities. Most of our classes are at capacity and only can accept additional students if a current family transfers out.  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.  We are already receiving applications for the 2020-2021 school year!


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.

The most recent additions to our facilities (September 2011) included :

  • 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.

In the 2017-2018 school year, we installed an air conditioning and heating system in the Academic Buildings.  This was already installed in the Fine Arts/Athletics buildings during construction.

The Future

As we look to and beyond 2019-2020, enrollment inquiries and advance enrollments continue to be very strong.    We currently enroll around 700 students and expect to remain at this size, more or less.  This is an excellent size for a school such as CAISL.  A school which is very small cannot provide the wealth and variety of programs and personnel to address the needs of each student.  A school which is much bigger is likely to lose the personal connections and individual attention which have to be the core of a good school. 

Therefore, CAISL is seeking to maintain its enrollment at more or less its current size.  The Board of Trustees made the decision several years ago that our goal is to focus on continuing improvement in all areas of the curriculum and program offerings and to ensure that each student CAISL enrolls has an education appropriate for him or her.    

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
Linhó 2710-301
Lisboa, Portugal
T: 351-219-239-800
F: 351-219-239-898


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