Our History

Plumfield’s founders name the program after the holistic school for boys featured in Louisa Alcott’s Little Men, reflecting the novel’s central theme of education reform.

Dedicated parents, teachers, doctors, and service groups band together to form Plumfield Inc. a private, non-profit organization designed for the daytime treatment and education of children ages 3-12, for whom public education is not available due to their emotional, developmental, and learning needs. Classes are held at the Unitarian Fellowship of Sonoma County on Todd and Stony Point roads in Santa Rosa.

Plumfield’s founder, Susan Richards, an occupational therapist and parent of a child with significant and complex needs, continues her advocacy for youth in need of treatment, care, and education. Mrs. Richards previously founded Clearwater Ranch in Mendocino, with both settings providing a safe and nurturing environment for children and youth.

Plumfield purchases a residential home and one-acre parcel at 1485 South Wright Road on the western edge of Santa Rosa. The house is adapted to a school building, which includes three classrooms, a library and activity room. Plumfield’s first, permanent school building accommodates 20 students.

Plumfield expands to include three residences in rural Sebastopol, with staff providing 24-hour care in a homelike atmosphere to 26 children, ages 4–12, in addition to the school, where classroom instruction is provided to children.

Under the direction of Margaret “Peggy” Ebert (seated, in photo above), Plumfield is one of the few existing programs for children with significant emotional, behavioral, and learning needs.

Special Education programs are made mandatory when the United States Congress passes The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA). This law establishes the right of children with disabilities to receive a free, appropriate public education and provides funds to enable state and local education agencies to comply with the new requirements.

1980 checkers
1980 teachers and students
1980 desk work
In the 1980s, Plumfield continues to operate both as a residential center and a school for boys with emotional, behavioral and learning challenges. The organization expands to include four residences, and youth are referred by the child welfare system coming from counties across the state. During this time, Plumfield provides therapeutic treatment for youth both in the residential and school programs, and is one of the few who offer early intervention for children ages 5-10.

Darcee Drakulich (at desk, in photo above) joins the organization as a volunteer art teacher while studying graduate level psychology at Sonoma State University, and begins her 40-year tenure as director of Plumfield Academy during this time.

1995 Aerial view
Ms. Drakulich’s vision for a school environment that truly reflects the organization’s values and therapeutic philosophy are realized when Plumfield purchases the 8 acre property where our school currently resides, at 9360 Occidental Road in Sebastopol. The existing residential home is remodeled and converted to a spacious school building, and a performing arts center is added to the property to support Plumfield’s growing music program.

Ms. Drakulich and Plumfield’s leadership team continue to improve the property, adding additional buildings, which like the performing arts center, are unique in their round, redwood yurt design. Playing fields, a creekside trail, a bridge across the campus pond, play structures, and a green house offer endless opportunities for students to explore the world around them. The beautiful campus provides a backdrop for classroom and outdoor learning, campus activities, and celebrations.

2005 drummers
2005 parade
Under the direction of talented music instructors, for more than 20 years, the Plumfield Academy Beat Boys and Drum Ensemble perform annually in the Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival, the Santa Rosa Rose parade, and for many other community organizations.

The Plumfield Academy campus is a hub for community connections for youth in our program. Partnerships with community organizations and businesses offer our students opportunities to explore their personal and career interests. With the support of Plumfield staff members, youth at Plumfield engage in educational, work and volunteer opportunities with varied local businesses, and regional organizations.

The State of California’s Continuum of Care Reform mandates sweeping changes for residential treatment programs like Plumfield Academy, and significantly impacts our ability to serve children and youth who benefit from our therapeutic model. Plumfield leadership makes the difficult decision to close our residential program and solely focus on our therapeutic school program for students with social, emotional and learning differences.

2021 Jill in frame
After four decades of service to Plumfield Academy, Darcee Drakulich retires. Jill Davidson steps into the role of Executive Director at Plumfield Academy. A veteran member of the Plumfield team, Ms. Davidson joined the organization as a residential counselor, and served as the Program Social Worker from 2010 to 2020.

tire swing
The COVID-19 pandemic causes significant school disruption for students, and the Plumfield team works collaboratively to provide individualized instruction, enriched learning, and continuous therapeutic support to our students and their families during the campus closures. These closures especially impact early learners just entering school.

When schools reopen in the spring of 2021, local education agencies reach out to Plumfield with requests for us to build our capacity to serve students in grades TK-3. To meet this need, we expand our elementary program by hiring teaching staff who specialize in early education, and add dedicated classroom space for these early learners.

Over our 60 year history, Plumfield has served more than 1,000 children, providing them with a safe and loving place to learn and grow. We want to thank everyone who has been a part of our history—staff, board members, teachers, students, parents, donors, service clubs, volunteers, and the community. We look forward to serving students with social, emotional and learning differences for many more decades to come.

If you have been a part of Plumfield’s history, please share your memories with us by emailing us at plumfield@plumfieldacademy.net. We would love to hear from you! You can also stay connected with us by signing up for our newsletter here or following us on Facebook or Instagram.