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  • Head of School Rich Nourie Announces Retirement Following 2023-2024 School Year

Head of School Rich Nourie Announces Retirement Following 2023-2024 School Year

A Message from Becca Bubb ‘02 P’33 P’35, Clerk of the AFS School Committee

Becca Bubb headshotDear Members of the Abington Friends School Community,

I am writing this letter on behalf of the Abington Friends School Committee to share, with utmost gratitude and appreciation for his leadership, that Rich Nourie will be retiring as Head of School at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year. Since 2005, Rich has led our school in loving and deeply thoughtful service, grounded in his firm belief in the core Quaker values of community and belongingness. His profound commitment to this work is an integral part of the ethos of AFS today, and we will carry this with us as we move through this transition for our historic school, founded in 1697.

In completion of nearly two decades as Head of School, Rich has led Abington Friends School through a period of tremendous growth and development and has also guided our community with great care through times of significant challenges, including the Great Recession and a global pandemic. His vision and collaborative spirit carried us through three strategic plans, resulting in signature achievements that include:

  • the creation of an integrated Early Childhood and Lower School program that provides a deeply nurturing space for young children to grow;
  • lifting up the faculty and their work at the heart of our community by redesigning professional development to be sustained and collaborative, as well as restructuring the School’s finances to provide a 25% increase to faculty salaries over three years during the Great Recession;
  • launching AFS Outside (Outdoor Scholarship, Initiative, Discovery and Exploration), which included accreditation for our campus as the first high school arboretum in the country;
  • the design and installation of the Headwaters Discovery Playground, the first nature playground in Pennsylvania to be accredited by the National Arbor Day Foundation; and
  • the construction of the state-of-the-art Richard N. Berman Athletics Center, the flagship home of the AFS Athletics program.

Rich’s bold convictions about the bright possibilities of Friends education can be fully seen in the launch last spring of the AFS 2022-2027 Strategic Plan: Envisioning the Fourth Century of Friends Education, which charts a pioneering and innovative path forward, weaving together the strands of Experiential Education, Student Wellbeing, and Equity, Justice, Engagement and Belonging.

Quakers believe in “continuing revelation,” through which we understand that for each person, as well as the world, learning and growing is a never-ending process. I feel this is true for our school as well. As Rich shared in his letter, he came to the school in part because we were “in search of the truest version” of ourselves. As a student at AFS shortly before Rich was hired, and as a Quaker, I can say confidently that our school has grown into a far truer version of itself under Rich’s leadership and for that we are tremendously grateful. In the spirit of Quakerism, that search continues. With all he has helped us accomplish in the last two decades, I am excited not only for where we are, but where we can go, and who that person will be that helps lead us there.

Strong in fiscal health, robust in enrollment, sound in governance and guided by a strategic vision for the fourth century of Quaker education, Abington Friends School is well-positioned to draw a deep and talented pool of candidates from which to select our next Head of School. The decision and responsibility to appoint the next Head of School is among the most important roles the School Committee holds. We are committed to an inclusive and informative process with input and feedback from all the community’s constituencies.

We are incredibly fortunate that Margaret Sayers P’16 P’18, current member and former clerk of School Committee, has agreed to chair the Search Committee. Margaret’s dedication to the mission of the school is immense, and we can think of no better person to lead this effort. With Margaret’s leadership, we have already identified a short list of search firms, one of which will be selected in the coming weeks by the Clerks and Officers of School Committee, to help us conduct a national search. A search committee will be formed to engage members of our community and discern the essential shared qualities we seek in our next Head of School. We hope to announce a new Head of School by winter 2023, to begin in this role in July 2024 in preparation for the 2024-2025 school year.

Finally, we are grateful that we are not yet at the end of Rich’s tenure. We are blessed to be in community with Rich until June 2024, and will be sure to make time and space to celebrate his extraordinary leadership and wish him well in his next chapter.

In Love and Light,

Becca Bubb ‘02 P’33 P’35

Clerk, AFS School Committee

A Message from Rich Nourie, Head of School

April 16, 2023

Dear Becca and Members of the AFS School Committee,

I am writing to share the news that I will be retiring from my role as Head of School at Abington Friends School at the close of the 2023-2024 school year, my 19th year as Head, 30th year of school leadership and 41st year in Friends education. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as Head of School at AFS and I am profoundly grateful for the gift of partnership with an outstanding faculty and staff, the guidance of a distinguished and devoted School Committee and the support of the spiritual community of Abington Monthly Meeting.

This is a spirit-led decision, as was that which brought me to AFS almost 20 years ago. At that time, I discovered in AFS a faculty and staff unusual in their collaborative ethos, a community with an historic commitment to Quaker values and practice, and a school in motion, in search of the truest version of itself. I was excited by that sense of possibility, the authentic search for the best environment for children in this increasingly diverse community surrounded by a changing world. It is that search which has guided me and our community over my time at AFS.

We have together been led by the Quaker discernment tradition, seeking continually for what might be possible, what is right and what is necessary. We have been blessed, by Abington Monthly Meeting and by our identity as an independent school, with an unusual and invaluable freedom, not to do whatever we want but to continually seek to do what is best. That search has led to some wonderful innovations such as AFS Outside and the reimagination of the role of natural experience in the lives of children, the creation of programs like the Center for Experiential Learning, the redesign of an integrated Early Childhood and Lower School program and the creation of the Berman Athletics Center. And our grounding in Friends values and practices, in the resources and vitality of true spiritual community, has allowed us to navigate periods like the Great Recession and the pandemic with strengths that could only be found in profound challenges together.

I believe the time is right for a leadership transition at AFS because the community is so strong right now in so many dimensions. Enrollment is robust and our financial footing is sound. Our faculty and staff are creative, ever-growing, learning and innovating, and our governance is mature and well-led by Becca Bubb as our Clerk, following the extraordinary previous tenures of Margaret Sayers and Peter Schorsch. We have a clear sense of the future of our school in our Strategic Plan 2022-2027, Envisioning the Fourth Century of Friends Education, and the development of the Fourth Century Center. Our profoundly diverse community of families and students is joined together in strong common values and aspirations. And we have a collective sense of spiritual grounding and strength that gives daily direction and inspiration for creating the best possible environment for children.

The time is also right for my own transition as I look forward to spending more time with Robin and our growing family and to the freedom to seek out new ways to support the work of Friends schools on a schedule that can be carried more lightly than the immersive role of school leadership.

And so I share this news with you and with our community with a deep sense of gratitude for all that Abington Friends School has given to me in the opportunity to lead for such a long time and for the many gifts my family has experienced here. I remain fully committed and energized to lead AFS over the next 15 months, excited by our future and eager to see the best possible transition to new leadership beginning on July 1, 2024.

With great appreciation and affection for you and the AFS community,

Rich Nourie

Rich Nourie

Head of School

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