Happy early days of summer!
Following a vibrant year of growth for our students and for our community, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the closing weeks of school and share some news about important initiatives taking place this summer and into the new year.
We celebrated a joyful end of the school year with a plethora of curriculum nights, arts events, school traditions, Moving Up Ceremonies and Commencement. Though Commencement was in the Berman Center this year due to the Canadian wildfires, it was beautiful nonetheless with the Juniors processing with the Daisy Chain, First Graders singing to their beloved Senior friends and moving words from Seniors Riley Blore, Jabril Hampton and Bella Mele and alumni keynote speaker Mini Racker ‘14. You can find all of these remarks, including my words to the class of 2023, here.
The abundance of celebrations over the past month reflected a very full year overall in our school community. Finally past the constraints of the pandemic, our experiential learning cohorts, global travel, myriad field trips and full and extensive arts and athletics programs filled the lives of students. The learning environments of the classroom were lively and fully restored. Especially heartening was seeing the fullness of relationships wholly realized this year between teachers, students and their families. That connection is the context of all the best of what happens in our deeply interpersonal Friends school and nurtures the mind, heart and spirit of children in indelible ways.
We’ve also had a busy year with several major initiatives, of which I’d like to give an overview before we head off to summer, with more detailed reports to come at the start of the new school year.
Our Strategic Plan, Envisioning the Fourth Century of Friends Education, was brought to life this year by the work of our School Committee, Administrative Council, faculty and the Fourth Century Team of Adena Dershowitz, Dan Taboada and Mikael Yisrael who worked steadily throughout the year with me to turn our aspirations into concrete plans and programs. I’m pleased to report that early, successful fundraising will allow us to launch a Research and Design Fellowship Program in the new school year that will robustly support faculty research and curriculum design projects. We are also able to launch a search in the fall for a Director of the Fourth Century Center, who will also serve as the school’s first all-school Dean of Faculty. Additionally, we have contracted with Cicada, a Philadelphia-based architecture and planning firm, to lead a comprehensive campus master planning process beginning this fall, to be completed early in the new calendar year.
We’re also pleased to announce some major renovations to the campus this summer, following a year of collaboration with our architects at WRT. The Stewart Lobby, Student Street, the Student Commons and the Middle and Upper School main corridors will be fully renovated with new flooring and beautifully designed spaces and furnishings to welcome all visitors and fully support a vibrant student culture of connection and community. Work will also begin this summer on a new all-gender bathroom facility in the Upper School Science Wing. The Cafeteria too will see all new furniture to create a more intentional communal experience of gathering for meals and better support the full range of students in each division.
We’ve been hard at work throughout this school year with a complete redesign of our Safety and Security protocols, which we will be sharing and debuting at the start of the new school year. Subcommittees have been examining our physical campus, including an extensive upgrade of our exterior door systems and cameras throughout campus; a thorough review of all of our emergency practices and protocols; renewing and extending our community partnerships and emergency planning with the Abington and Jenkintown Police Department, Abington School District and the Montgomery County Office of Public Safety; and designing a new set of trainings and protocols for all professional staff and students. More to come in the new year.
Another working group has convened this year to develop the next generation of our systems of support for transgender and gender-expansive students and their families. We have updated our policy statement on transgender and gender-expansive students, created a new systemic protocol of a Gender Support Plan to ensure well-conceived, consistent and responsive care for individual students and families and are partnering with the Bryson Institute/Attic Youth Center for professional training for all faculty and staff. Again, more to come in the new year!
Finally, as you know, our Head of School search is now well underway in partnership with Jennifer Wong Christensen and Bob Vitalo of Carney Sandoe & Associates. We have been gratified by the excellent participation of the community in the recent survey and focus groups. A strong candidate pool is already being developed to be evaluated by the Search Committee this summer, leading to community engagement later this fall with finalist visits. Our school is a national leader in Friends education with an exceptional reputation for educational innovation. I am very confident that outstanding candidates will be drawn to this rare leadership opportunity.
In closing, I’d like to thank the entire community for the warm and encouraging support I’ve received throughout the year as I’ve been managing my cancer diagnosis. While this has been a challenge for sure, I have been pleased to remain fully engaged in the many projects underway and in day-to-day life at school. I am grateful to my excellent colleagues, Andrea Emmons, Martha Scache, Devin Schlickmann and Mikael Yisrael, for their leadership during my weeks away in May.
And so, we close this school year with so much to look forward to in this vibrant community. I wish all a summer of refreshment, renewal and precious time with family and friends. I look forward to our joyful reunion in the 2023-2024 school year.