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A Clear Direction for the Future

February 20, 2024

Dear Friends,

This is an auspicious time at AFS as we are guided by a bold and ambitious strategic plan entitled Envisioning the Future of Friends Education. AFS has long been a leader in Quaker education, continually growing into a vision for teaching and learning based on a broad, generous and expansive conception of who we are as human beings. We believe that full and active development of one’s mind, spirit and unique gifts is the best possible preparation for a life of fulfillment, leadership and contribution. And with our new strategic plan, we have clear ideas and direction for the next generation of a powerful education at AFS.

The central premise of our strategic plan is that innovation, creativity, research and development for the future of Friends education has to come from the richly resourced professional learning lives of our educators. To that end, we are excited to be developing the Fourth Century Center for the Future of Friends Education, a central hub of learning, support, collaboration and resources for our teachers, moving professional learning and research from the periphery of faculty life to the very center. The Fourth Century Center houses an interdisciplinary team of our Directors of Experiential Learning; Student Support and Wellbeing; and Equity, Justice and Engagement, and will be led by a new position, Director of the Fourth Century Center. From this newly created space, we envision prototyping of new curricular experiences, adoption of best, research-based practices for teaching (and parenting) and innovation of what education can and must be for the emergent world our children are growing up in and into.

We are engaged in several key projects this year to advance our plan:

A nationwide search for a Director of the Fourth Century Center is underway, to be completed by spring break. In collaboration with school leadership and other partners, this new position will oversee implementation of programmatic aspects of the Strategic Plan, including the development of the Fourth Century Center in concept; oversee overall curriculum continuity and programmatic offerings from Early Childhood through Upper School; coordinate all-school educational research and learning opportunities; and promote collaborations and partnerships with other educational institutions, nonprofits and aligned professionals as resources for our students and our school.

A comprehensive Campus Planning process with the Philadelphia architecture firm Cicada is underway, to be completed this spring. This process, which started in the summer of 2023, will engage every constituency of the school toward the goal of identifying major improvements and updates to campus facilities indoors and out; the creation of the Fourth Century Center within our existing campus; and a comprehensive roadmap of facilities updates and maintenance for several years into the future. The Campus Plan will set the stage for an upcoming feasibility study and capital campaign to support major campus initiatives.

We’ve begun a quiet campaign to raise at least $1 million to fully support the work of the Fourth Century Center for at least three years, including a robust internal fund for faculty initiative grants for curriculum and classroom innovations, professional learning, research and graduate study. We have already raised $700,000 toward this goal, which has led to the founding of a Faculty Research and Design Fellowship program currently funding 10 inaugural projects for this year, most of them in collaborative teams of faculty across all three divisions.

As I prepare to retire from AFS at the close of this school year, my 19th as head of school, I could not be more proud of or more excited for the AFS community at this moment. Strong in enrollment, finances, and more importantly, collective vision, depth of spirit and shared commitment, this is an excellent time to welcome a new and exciting generation of leadership from Dr. Nicole Hood. Nicole is a gifted and deeply experienced school leader, a PhD art historian, rich in intellect, depth of spirit and joy in the daily life of learning in schools. I am thrilled to be collaborating with her on the transition in these months since the announcement of her selection in October and so happy with the strong foundation we have built that will bridge these exciting initiatives into the future under her leadership.

An exceptionally well-supported, talented and always learning and growing faculty and staff; the promise of a campus well-designed for our many ambitions for the experience of students; new programmatic initiatives that extend the reach of children into the world, build their essential health, wellbeing and independence as well as their efficacy and leadership for a diverse world that needs them; a grounding in deep Quaker values that prize our essential humanity and speak to the profound potential of each student; and a community of families with a strong collective commitment this powerful vision for education – these are ingredients for the best possible environment of growth and learning for students.


Rich Nourie
  • Rich Nourie
  • Head of School
  • Abington Friends School
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