Another interesting point of fact is that the president and CEO of Massachusetts-based Psychemedics - the company that will be conducting the tests - is Raymond Kubacki, brother of St. Edward High School President James Kubacki. The former is a St. Ignatius grad himself and a member of that school's athletic hall of fame.
Since 1991, Raymond Kubacki has helmed Psychemedics, and he's now posting $7+ million in revenue on a quarterly basis. The intersection of private schools and the drug-testing market is a budding one. He told the Worcester Business Journal in December 2013, "Our primary focus is workplace drug testing. Secondarily would be emerging markets and one of those would be schools and colleges."
K.C. McKenna, vice president of admissions and marketing at St. Edward High School, says the decision to work with Psychemedics came after several years of research led by an internal committee.
"Really, this came about as a proactive, preventative measure. There was nothing in our own community that necessarily prompted this. This is not a reactionary endeavor by any means," he tells Scene. "Our committee, which included members of our board of trustees, a member of our faculty and other members of our administration, looked at the issue as a whole and arrived at the Psychemedics decision. Certainly, Jim knew a little more about the process because of his brother being involved, but his brother being CEO of that company in no way led to us making the decision to use Psychemedics."
On the ground, the Psychemedics initiative will affect about 980 students at St. Ed's (along with 340 at Gilmour and 1,500 or so at St. Ignatius). The hair testing costs $39 to $50 a pop, according to schools already working with Psychemedics. Built in to the cost, though, McKenna says, is an out for students who face peer pressure. With a program like this in place, there's an easier basis for students to say "No" when the moment comes.
While drug-testing in schools is brand new locally, there's a national trail of controversy following its headlines in the U.S. Seen as invasive by some, drug-testing really anywhere is cause for raised eyebrows.
The market for drug-testing has wobbled downward a bit, but, as noted by the Psychemedics CEO's outlook, there are plenty of pastures to graze among the private schools of the world. An anecdote from Louisiana:
Psychemedics has been around since 1987, but its fortunes have been tied to the trend in drug testing, especially employment testing, which has been going downward in the last decade. But drug testing with hair has some champions and the most famous might be Harry Connick, Sr., former district attorney of New Orleans and father of the singer. Connick pushed hair testing in New Orleans schools, including Catholic schools, during his tenure as DA, and when he retired in 2003, he joined Psychemedics board of directors. He is a shareholder.
Likewise and closer to home, St. John's Jesuit High School and Academy began drug testing its students in the fall of 2012. The move stirred debate across the St. John's community and beyond - about its effectiveness, its need, its process. Both sides of the argument were vocal as the policy unfolded.
Here in Cleveland, a letter was sent to parents today informing them of the program, as well. The core paragraph in the letter from the St. Ignatius administration reads, "We already have educational programs, counseling and intervention programs in place but, given the pressures our students face, now is the time to take an even more aggressive stance against this threat."
Mandatory, random drug-testing in public schools has been shot down in the U.S. Supreme Court, but the realm of private schools operates under its own set of rules. McKenna says the feedback from both students and parents has been overwhelmingly positive today. As the program unfolds at the end of this summer, he doesn't expect any glaring problems. But the concept itself - preventative though it may be - has remained a cause for community-wide inquiry, judging by conversations in other schools.
St. Ed's Board Chairman Dan Geib issued a formal statement on the matter today (May 1). Oddly, The Plain Dealer took credit for bringing the fraternal connection to light:
Whenever there is a potential conflict of interest, it is important that there be full disclosure of that potential. From day one, members of the St. Edward Board of Trustees were informed of the relationship between Jim Kubacki as President of St. Edward High School and Ray Kubacki as CEO of Psychemedics.
A committee at St. Edward High School spent two years investigating the question of drug testing students. The committee included members of the board of trustees, administration and a member of the faculty.
The decision of the committee was to proceed using hair follicle testing versus urinalysis because of three key factors that are important to our approach:
1.) Hair testing is the least invasive method for our students
2.) Hair testing provides a wider window of detection
3.) Hair testing is a more accurate process
At the time of the decision, Psychemedics Corporation was the only FDA-approved hair tester in the United States, and had an established schools division with a proven track record for effectiveness in schools similar to St. Edward.
St. Ignatius High School and Gilmour Academy conducted their own research and arrived at the decision to contract with Psychemedics independently of St. Edward High School."
- Dan Geib, Chair, St. Edward Board of Trustees