Seeking a Better Fit for Her Daughter, a Palos Verdes Mom Helps Unlock the Power of Education for Others
- Written byDiane E. Barber
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
Chloe Reid Boutelle’s love for her family and passion for education were the inspiration for the family’s relocation from their mountaintop home in Malibu to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Chloe and her husband, psychologist Ronald Boutelle, discovered that their daughter, Sydnee, was learning challenged when she was attending college preparatory elementary school. Their little girl’s struggles spoke to the heart of Chloe’s calling in life and paved the way for change.
“Education is power, and education can change everything. That is my ethos that I live by,” she shares. “Everything I do and am involved with is about educating and empowering children. My father worked as a janitor, among other jobs, and my mother was a secretary when I was growing up in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Neither of them went to college, but they always stressed the importance of education to my sister and me.”
Chloe heeded her parents’ wise advice. She attended undergraduate school and earned her law degree in 1988 at the University of Tennessee, where she realized her love for higher education. Soon after she graduated, the dean of the university (a Californian) encouraged her to pursue a position at a new law school in California.
“She was my mentor and knew that I wanted to work in higher education instead of practicing law,” she says. “There was an opening for the director of admissions at Whittier Law School, and she strongly urged me to apply. I did, and six weeks later I was on a plane to Los Angeles to launch my career.”
Chloe’s career path later landed her at the USC Gould School of Law in 2006, where she is currently the director of special projects and development. During her tenure at USC, her commitment to education and her quest to help her daughter led her to Renaissance School located on the Rolling Hills Prep campus in San Pedro. It was founded to meet the academic needs of neurodiverse kids in grades 6–12.
“Education is power, and education can change everything. That is my ethos that I live by.”
“An educational therapist told me about the school just in time for sixth-grade enrollment. In addition to the many opportunities of an independent school education, the Renaissance School provides opportunities for students to work on their executive functioning skills, social skills and individual learning challenges or strengths, as in a student who might be very mathematical but needs remediation in spelling.”
Renaissance students learn in a small-group environment with 12 to 14 kids in a class. They participate in classes within Renaissance School and are also a part of the entire Rolling Hills Prep/Renaissance community with classes in the arts, science and sports. Two years ago, REACH School for elementary-aged students was added to offer differentiated education for younger children with a wide range of learning challenges, including autism, attention deficit disorder, processing differences, dyslexia and dysgraphia.
“Everyone learns differently,” says Chloe. “Some students are visual learners, some are auditory learners, some are more intuitive and some are more hands-on. One in every five college students has some type of learning challenge, such as language processing, ADHD, being gifted on the autism spectrum or having high reading comprehension with a struggle to read aloud.”
In keeping with her ongoing involvement with her daughter’s education over the years, Chloe now chairs the board of trustees and has fiduciary responsibility for Rolling Hills Prep, Renaissance and REACH. “I have always been engaged with Sydnee’s schools, either as a classroom mom or with the PTA,” she explains. “When the board learned about my 30-year education and administration background, I was asked to join them. After my first year, I was elected as chair in 2019.”
Sydnee is now 16 years old and happily excelling at Renaissance School. “Sydnee is on the soccer team and is really into technical theatre. She enjoys being behind the scenes of school plays and musicals, particularly operating the soundboard and lighting,” her mother says with pride. “She would love to be a stage manager someday.”