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When Barbara Post founded Peachtown Elementary School in 1990, she didn't expect to be there longer than a few years.

Now, almost three decades later, Post will retire as head of the Aurora private school at the end of June.

Post said she wanted to start the school for her children. Her oldest daughter was ready to attend elementary school, and Post sought to "create a different kind of school." While she originally thought she would be able to simply do the work needed to get the school up and running before leaving, she found that sustaining the institution took longer than she thought it would.

"To keep it going, it was a labor of love; it was not a labor of economy," she said with a laugh.

Post, who had formerly been an administrator at Wells College in the village, said she wanted to give parents in rural areas options between public and private institutions. She said Peachtown wasn't "an anti-public school move," but she sought "a smaller, more intimate setting" than she felt public schools could provide.

When the school opened, it was housed in the Masonic lodge on Main Street in Aurora. One teacher taught every subject except music, which was taught by Post. She eventually taught every subject the school offers. In 1992, Peachtown moved to the former dean's house on the Wells campus, where it has remained to this day. 

Although Post didn't originally expect to run the school for 29 years, she said she has no regrets.

"It turned out to be exactly what I wanted to do and exactly where I wanted to do it," she said. "It wasn't that I stayed there because I had to stay there. I could have left at any time, but it became my life work."

The school, which teaches prekindergarten through eighth grade, allows students to learn in a multi-age environment with individualized instruction, Post said. She said students can learn at as high a level as they are able, with time to work as they need. Post said all of the students eat lunch together, and older students often interact with the younger students.

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"Everyone is challenged, nobody's bored, everything is geared toward the students' potential and they're assessed against their own potential," she said.

Post feels the time is right for "someone who's young, with energy" to take over. Running a school while still teaching and handling duties like cleaning up and taking care of sick children requires a lot of time and energy, she noted. After she retires, she will be on the school's board of directors at the request of Alyssa Binns Gunderson, the school's director and Post's successor as head of school.

Post said she and Gunderson set up a transition plan in 2016 to help make it as smooth as possible for students, staff and parents. Post said she has no reservations about handing Gunderson the reins, and feels her successor has "the commitment, she's got the wherewithal, she's super-sharp and she's young."

Gunderson interned at Peachtown in 2002 while studying education at Wells, and returned to the school as a full-time employee in 2012. She said she used to marvel at how much Post accomplished in a day, adding that she "basically carried the whole school on her shoulders, always doing the important work that everyone sees in addition to all of the hidden tasks that are easy to miss."

Gunderson said she admires Post's honest communication style, and that she is trying to live up to Post's example.

"Barb’s daily presence will be sorely missed. I honestly can’t imagine the school without her. Peachtown is a reflection of Barb’s personality and values and I feel honored to be entrusted with its future," Gunderson said.

Post said she is not sure what she will do next, but she is looking forward to the future nevertheless. A free event celebrating Post will be held in July, with donations going toward a scholarship. 

"I feel very fortunate, very grateful that life worked out this way. A lot of people don't find a job that turns out to mean as much to them as mine did (to her,) and it happened by accident," she said.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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