My name is Kathy Wood, I am the original founder of GreenWood Charter School in Harrisville, Uah. Ever wonder who was behind this school and how it came to be?
My journey started 20 years ago with my love of nature and health and wellness. I am a massage therapist, accountant, master herbalist, drum facilitator, mom, wife, and community member. I have completed Impact Trainings and Dale Carnegie Leadership Trainings and have volunteered many hours to schools and youth groups facilitating ropes courses and personal development training.
Three years ago I was looking for school options for my son. I wanted him to have an educational experience like no other school around. I sat down with my family and we spent hours brainstorming lists of everything we would love to see a school provide. We wanted a holistic education that not only educated the mind but also a school where they could learn leadership skills, to be active, to be contributors to their community, where they learn the importance of health and wellness and a school that would get kids outside so they could connect with nature. The name GreenWood reflected our love of nature and health and of course…..our last name! The name stuck and soon the school began to grow its roots.
I have spent the past three years growing this school from a tiny seed, working with an amazing group of people, dedicating weekends and nights writing a 240 page charter school application, designing the school, and spending hours away from my family to build and promote this school. I loved every minute of it – it is my vision, my passion, my love. This school was inspired by my son who has been my biggest fan and rooting for me all the way, sitting with me in booths passing out brochures and meeting future GreenWood families. I reflected this by adding a heart in the tree on the logo (which was created by an awesome community member). The heart was to remind him that he was the inspiration of this amazing school.
It was a time for celebration when the Utah Charter School Board approved our application and gave us the green light in April 2014. We knew then it was going to be great. I always said “if you build it, they will come”. It was now time to put my vision to work. We hired the school director early on in the process. We didn’t really know her well but we knew she was directing Da Vinci and she appeared to be very knowledgeable about what we needed to do to get the school up and running……hire teachers, find a curriculum, and everything we needed in order to follow the Core Curriculum, etc. When I first met Jessie - I remember having an uncomfortable gut feeling but I ignored it because I was so excited to have a director on board. I just tried to focus on excitement of moving forward.
I found a great piece of property in Harrisville with 12 acres – YES, 12 acres! How awesome is that – can you imagine the things students could do with that much space – everything I wanted at the school could now happen for sure. I could see it……-the ropes course, a garden, a community walking trail, outdoor classrooms, the possibilities were endless. Things were going great and we were feeling good.
I did the unthinkable (sarcasm)........I mentioned that I wanted to be the Programs Director for the school. Not to be confused with the School Director – we had already hired Jessie for that so she can make sure we are in compliance with the State by following our charter agreements and ensuring that student assessments are completed. The Programs Director, on the other hand, would be in charge of ensuring that the vision of GreenWood would be upheld. My job would be to create health and environmental programs that tie into the curriculum and to make sure we are doing what we told parents we would do – like 60 minutes of daily exercise including 30 minutes of PE class each day, community education, healthy menus, and assisting the director. Basically, an assistant principal but with more focus on the health and wellness programs.
It’s not uncommon for a charter school to let their vision slide due to increasing demands for high test scores and pressure on teachers to teach to common core standards, hence the need for a Programs Director.
I thought it was a great fit, a no-brainer…… after all, I am the one who put this charter school together – I’m the one that holds the vision. Without me, there wouldn’t even be a GreenWood. I love children, health, and nature so my background, training, and skills have prepared me for this very job. In fact, when I included this job position in the charter application it was a win-win for both me and the school. Unfortunately the new school director didn’t feel the same, instead she told me that she felt sick when she heard of my desire.
So when Jessie told me that she would not allow me to join the GreenWood team, of course I was crushed, this was my dream that I've put my heart and soul into. Who is she to tell me that? Well, she is the School Director, who I put my trust in and helped vote into the director position – and she gets to make those decisions as to who gets to work at the school.
She told me that letting me be at GreenWood would be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Wait....isn't diversity one of the HEALTH core values? Maybe it's because I have a non-traditional family, different religious views, or different ideas about education. I was told to keep quiet and not let parents know that I was questioning Common Core. Personally, I support a diverse board, staff, students, and community. When you have diversity you have new ideas and that's when growth happens. When everyone thinks the same you become stuck.
Hindsight is 20/20 they say. Looking back I understand now why I was told that the treasurer wouldn't have much to do in the planning year (where we spend $7M on a new building, hire teachers, negotiate contracts, etc). Maybe that's why Christmas cards were sent out with only Jessie and Stephanie's names on them. Maybe that's why I received a text message saying that she hopes GW doesn't end up like Burt's Bees. So many strange and unexpected words were said that didn't have much meaning then but now looking back.....I see what was going on. It seems to me like there was an agenda from the start and I was apparently in the way. I suppose I will never know why and that's ok because I trust that there is a reason and what goes around comes back around. It's unfortunate that the foundation of this school was built on these behaviors.
It was my intent that GreenWood students learn to collaborate and embrace their differences so that everyone wins together. Sure, there will be conflicting personalities within GreenWood but that’s the beauty of it – if you are wise enough to see it. The kids learn on the ropes course to pull each other up and work together and trust each other. Diversity is good!!
The heart of GreenWood is gone – but I hope, at the very least, that the heart on the logo remains intact to pay tribute to my son and all the eager children who will eventually become a leaf on the GreenWood tree.
We live in a world of spiritual awakening and transparency where the new energy will not support these old behaviors. We're shifting into a place where cooperation replaces competition, collaboration replaces control, trust replaces dishonest business practices, inclusion replaces seclusion, and integrity is something we will all be able to count on. Our family is blessed beyond words and with every child that has the opportunity to experience our vision and wear our name on their shirt, backpack, paper, pencils, etc.....we know that even more blessings continue coming our way.
For my young son, who went through this experience with me, I honor him for the way he handled it with wisdom and grace. This experience has taught us to remember to trust our gut, to have compassion, to stand up for what we believe in, and continue living a life of joy and integrity, but most importantly to be proud of being a square peg and don’t let anyone try to make you fit into their round hole! I know when we look back at this situation in 5 years we will say it was the best thing that ever happened to us. Our lives will be bigger and fuller than we ever imagined.
I give a heartfelt thanks to everyone who stood with me and supported my vision and a special thanks to my family for all of your love and support. Namaste!