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New Leadership for the Fourth Century Center

May 31, 2024

Dear AFS Families,

What a beautiful week we have had to bring us to the end of May! It is a joyful time of year at AFS, with so many culminating performances, curriculum nights, traditions and special programs starting this coming week such as ExTerm and Global Travel in the Upper School, the 8th Grade Washington trip and the Lower School end-of-year performances. I hope you and your family are enjoying these celebrations, and I look forward to our Moving Up ceremonies and Commencement in just a couple of weeks.

I’m writing this week to share a couple of important announcements in our progress advancing the AFS strategic plan and the development of the Fourth Century Center. As I shared in this year’s enrollment letter in February, 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.The Fourth Century Center is envisioned as, and is quickly becoming, a dynamic new hub of learning, support, collaboration and resources for our teachers, driving research-based practices for teaching (and parenting) and fueling innovation of what education can and must be for the emergent world our children are growing up in and into.

Adena Dershowitz, Director of the Fourth Century Center

After an extensive national search, I am very pleased to announce that Adena Dershowitz, our Director of Experiential Learning, has accepted the position of Director of the Fourth Century Center. Adena brings deep experience and vision to this work, having served in various educational roles prior to joining AFS last year, including Director of Academic Technology, Director of Professional Development and Middle School Director. Since joining AFS, she has revitalized our experiential learning programs across all school divisions, establishing valuable relationships with teachers and colleagues, creating a network of community and professional partners to support experiential learning, and maintaining and extending her own active learning and research practices. Additionally, she has led the inaugural Faculty Fellowships program, supporting nine collaborative research projects among our faculty this past year. Their findings will be shared with the full staff in June, and applications for the next round of fellowships will open this summer. The announcement of Adena’s appointment was greeted with cheers from faculty and staff at a recent all-school meeting.

By design, Adena will combine her leadership of the Fourth Century Center with her role as Director of Experiential Learning, allowing her to continue her energizing collaborations throughout the school in experiential learning programs with additional support and partnerships. The interdisciplinary Fourth Century Center team, which has been meeting regularly with me over the past two years to advance the development of the Center and its programs, also includes Mikael Yisrael, our Director of Equity, Justice and Engagement, and Dr. Michael Cassano, who is transitioning from his role as our consulting psychologist to the role of all-school Director of Student Wellbeing and Support. We thank Dan Taboada, our current Director of Student Wellbeing and Support, for his compassionate and expert leadership as he departs AFS for his next professional steps. In the coming school year, a Director of Teaching and Learning position will be added to complete the vision for the Fourth Century Center team.

This summer, offices will be constructed for the Fourth Century Center team adjacent to the Faulkner Library to provide a central location for this work going forward. A complete and integrated vision for the Center is a part of our new comprehensive campus plan, which has been led by the local architectural firm, Cicada. This campus planning process is nearing completion, marking another exciting step in our strategic plan progress.

I look forward to sharing end of the year news and perspective with a final letter in June. In the meantime, I’m happy to see that our community is abuzz with eager anticipation of Nicole Hood’s official arrival as Head of School on July 1, following many visits this spring and her family’s recent move to their new home in Jenkintown. Her interview with the editors of The Blue and White was released earlier this month and can be heard here. We have so much to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead, a very positive season in the life of our 327-year old school. Here is to a joyful conclusion of a very full, spirited school year.


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