When given the opportunity to write a memoir of sorts for my last ‘Wyayn’s Words’, I jumped at the chance. But where to start and what to include? What better place to start than at the beginning? As the guardian of my beautiful niece Kalle, my husband, Gef, and I searched for a school that could meet her needs. It was by chance that I was also looking for a new position and had just come across an opening for a Head of School at The Whole Learning School. It seemed almost too good to be true to find both a school for Kalle and a place for me to grow and learn and lead.
Kalle was one of 15 students in our first year and I was one of 5 staff. The school board was composed of lovely, dedicated parents who wanted the best for their kids, and as a parent myself and a guardian of a student needing specialized education, I completely understood their angst and their dreams. That first year required many, many extra hours and belief by the overworked staff and beleaguered parents that I could see a vision for the future of our school. I reached out to organizations like Minndependent, the Minnesota private school association, and MNSAA, Minnesota Nonpublic Schools Accrediting Association for help and they gave it in droves. But it wasn’t easy. We had no curriculum, no assessments, no policies or procedures. We started over from scratch. Kalle was a trouper. She’d get up with me and come to school early and never complained as I stayed late into the evening.
Through the accrediting process we pulled together a strategic plan which has led us for the past 7 years. As we head into our first re-accreditation next fall, it’s fun to look back and see how much has been accomplished. Some of the highlights:
2013: Adding the summer program
2014: Adding OT, PT, and Speech therapy
2015: Changing our name to Academy of Whole Learning and becoming accredited
2016: Adding behavior therapy in the classroom
2017: Moving to Minnetonka
2018: Adding a separate Behavior Therapy and Mental Health Clinic
2019: Touring 9 specialty schools across the nation
2020: Adding our Adult Program
2021: Purchasing a new campus
2022: Renovating and moving into our new campus
2023: The sky is the limit!
This past year reminds me of my first year. It’s a changing dynamic within the workforce, post-pandemic. I cannot thank those who came to work everyday for the sake of the children and young adults in our programs enough. We had our work cut out for us just as we had in our first year and we had to step up again. The 10-12 hour days that I thought were long gone became a norm once again. By the end of the school year, though, we had great leadership in place and I’m happy to say that you all will be in great hands going forward. The future really is yours to write.
None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the many staff, parents, board members, volunteers and students that came alongside us and turned this vision into a reality. There are too many to name, but I am beyond grateful for each and every one of you.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of the foundation of Franklin Center. When I see the joy on Kalle’s face as she talks about her job and her future (she lives with her fiancé in Redwood Falls, MN, and works full-time on a pig farm) I’m so thankful Franklin Academy was there for her. Thanks to our incredible staff and wonderful donors, Franklin Center will continue to grow and will thrive for generations to come
As for me, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and completing a bucket list item of writing a book about neurodiverse education. I hope to see you all at Calmapalooza on Sunday, August 21!