The Franklin School Turns 5

Shawna Bynum, ’18, has been director of The Franklin School since it opened in 2019.

When the doors to the Franklin School first opened on January 7, 2019, there was great optimism about the impact the school would have on the local community. Its mission was clear — ensure equal access to quality childcare and education for those aged 0 to 4 years. “Ready children, strong communities, and healthy families. Those are our three goals,” says Shawna Bynum, ’18, the Franklin School’s director. “We have worked hard to try to provide that kind of an atmosphere and environment here.”

There were also some deep concerns. Could an early learning center operating with four different programs and revenue streams function cohesively? When family engagement events were held for Spartanburg’s Northside residents, would folks show up? Could young children facing challenging circumstances be helped and taught to engage?

Now, five years on, any doubts have been put to rest. The key to integrating the various government programs under the Franklin School’s roof was implementing a cohesive curriculum with a common mission. This, Bynum states, is an achievement worth noting.

Dr. Nur Tanyel, a retired USC Upstate professor and a member of the Franklin School advisory board, agrees. “The Franklin School model is very unique, and I have not seen anything similar,” Tanyel says. “So the success of the Franklin School can become a model, for not only the state but for the whole nation as well.”

Involving families in the school has been one of the biggest successes, Bynum says. “What we pride ourselves on is family engagement and the relationships.” Recent family events, such as the fall festival, are drawing 200 people, with that number expected to grow.

Tanyel adds that taking a developmentally appropriate approach to learning, and implementing the Creative Curriculum, a research-based program for preschoolers, have been other major achievements for the school.

At a time when preschool expulsions have reached an all-time high, the Franklin School retains its students. The partnership with USC Upstate has played a key role in this, Tanyel says. The school takes a scientific approach to teaching, with observation rooms in each classroom where USC Upstate students majoring in child development and family studies can watch what’s going on without interrupting the classroom. Video cameras capture footage of each class that is used in what Tanyel calls “reflective practice.” Teachers and students are able to review the video and asses what’s working well and devise strategies to address specific needs.

The partnership results in improved learning and teaching practices for both teachers and USC Upstate students, Tanyel says. That in turn leads to happier, better-adjusted children — a true testament to the school’s continued success.

Story by Susan Grotenhuis