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Posted: Oct 6, 2005 06:22


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Oakley, Utah
Carrie Thompson, Admissions Director

Visit By: Larry Stednitz, September 20, 2005

Founded in 1998 by Jared Balmer, Lorin Broadbent and Kim Delamar, the Oakley School was purchased by Aspen Education Group a few months ago. When asked how the transition to Aspen has gone, several members of the staff said that it has been a positive and relatively smooth transition. They were also asked how the change has affected them and some mentioned that there is some extra paper work and reporting mechanisms that take additional time, but overall they said the benefits outweigh these relatively small changes. It appears to this writer that Oakley's key leadership has the experience and ownership to continue providing the excellent care that consultants and parents have come to expect from Oakley over the past several years.

The school is under the leadership of James Meyer who was instrumental in the start-up of Oakley. Mike Bulloch, clinical director, has five years experience with the school and Matt Culberson, the academic head has been at Oakley for the past two years. Andrew Nichols, the head of recreation has been at Oakley since its inception and Isaac Philips has several years experience in student living.

Oakley is situated on several acres in a beautiful rural Valley surrounded by mountains. The primary center of activity is the large 25,000 square foot building, which houses the school, administration, therapists and clinical offices. The large ski lodge like building is attractive and provides a comfortable and serviceable living and working space for staff and students alike. Behind the main building are well manicured grounds with a large pond separating the girls and boys dorms. Located behind the girl's dorms is a massive building containing a full gymnasium, weight lifting area and climbing wall. Located off of the basketball court are the art, musical and recreational accommodations. The campus and buildings are upscale and provide a pleasant environment for the Oakley students and staff.

Oakley was founded in response to students leaving Island View with no where to go. The founders wanted to offer continued education for their students and others that were between a therapeutic school and a regular college prep boarding school.

The school consists of mostly juniors and seniors who are at least average in academic potential and do not have significant learning problems. Students at Oakley may have a variety of problems including depression, ADHD, oppositional defiant behaviors, and includes students who demonstrate borderline or narcissistic traits. The students must be able to handle a rigorous college prep academic schedule. Oakley lists at least 200 colleges and universities that their graduates have enrolled in over the past six years.

Oakley's ideal students are motivated, have a fair level of insight and have a positive attitude. They are looking for students who have a good level of emotional and behavioral stabilization. They will not accept students who have not had at least 30 days of sobriety and cannot exhibit any recent suicidal ideation or attempts or cutting behaviors. Students who have had problems with eating disorders are not accepted unless they have demonstrated several months of symptom free recovery. Seventy percent of Oakley's population is on psychotropic medicine.

Oakley has an active and well thought out clinical services department. The students participate in one individual clinical session weekly. Individual therapy and family sessions are interspersed throughout the students stay. The therapists assess whether or not an individual session or family session is appropriate and make adjustments when needed. The students also participate in two group therapies weekly which can include specific groups on adoption, identity issues and others. For those students who have been involved in alcohol and drug abuse, a recovery program is in place as well.

An important school component is the modules that students participate in regularly. Students participate in school four full days per week. All students select a module that they are involved in for the full block period. Students have a wide variety of activities, like snow boarding, skiing, painting, drama, sculpture, community service, fine arts, photography, fly-fishing, rock climbing and others. The students I spoke with, fully look forward to and enjoy this aspect of the program. The student that toured our group had been at Oakley for three months. He showed enthusiasm and pride in the campus and was heavily involved in the modules. He was well dressed and although the tour seemed stressful to him, it was obvious that he was trying very hard to do a good job. Other students were getting into the school bus to participate in a volley ball tournament in a nearby town. They appeared to be excited and looking forward to the event. The school fully integrates these activities into the academic and clinical aspects of the program. In addition to this experiential program component, students have an active athletic program including cross country running, basketball, wrestling and volley ball.

Oakley considers themselves to be holistic in their approach and strives to have all program components integrated. They consider themselves to be more of a social model, thus creating an environment where students may at times fail or make mistakes, yet also have a chance to re-deem themselves. They believe that their role is to challenge the students to make the right choices. Oakley clearly tries to help the students become excited about school again.

Oakley is an excellent program for bright, creative, college bound students who need clinically strategic interventions and are capable of participating in a demanding academic program.

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