William Penn Charter School

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William Penn Charter School
3000 West School House Lane
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
United States
Motto Good Instruction Is Better Than Riches
Established 1689
Founder William Penn
Category Independent
Headmaster Darryl J. Ford, PhD
Grades Pre-K – 12
Gender Coeducational
Enrollment 960
Campus Urban
Color(s) Blue and Yellow          
Mascot Quaker
Nickname PC
Rival Germantown Academy
Accreditation Pennsylvania Association of Private Academic Schools (PAPAS)
Yearbook The Class Record
Affiliations Religious Society Of Friends
The William Penn Charter School for boys and girls

William Penn Charter School (commonly known as Penn Charter or simply PC) is an independent school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1689[1] at the urging of William Penn as the "Public Grammar School" and chartered in 1698 to be operated by the "Overseers of the public School, founded by Charter in the town & County of Philadelphia" in Pennsylvania. It is the oldest Quaker school in the world, the oldest elementary school in Pennsylvania, and the fifth oldest elementary school in the United States following The Collegiate School (1628), Boston Latin School (1635), Hartford Public High School (1638), and Roxbury Latin (1645). Today, Penn Charter enrolls boys and girls in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. It is considered to be an exclusive private school in terms of admission criteria and is ranked among the top schools in the Philadelphia area.[2] According to Worth Magazine, Penn Charter ranks within the nation's top 100 private and public schools that send the most students to Harvard, Princeton and Yale.[3] The school motto, taken from one of Penn's writings, is "Good instruction is better than riches."


Penn Charter is among the first schools in the United States to offer education to all religions (1689), financial aid (1701), matriculation to girls (1754), and education to all races (1770). The "Charter" in the school's name does not, as it might imply, mean that it is a charter school. Rather, it is a reference to the historic document that was signed by William Penn to establish the first Quaker school in America. Originally located on the east side of Fourth Street below Chestnut, the school officially consolidated in 1874 as an all-boys college preparatory school at 12th and Market Streets. Penn Charter moved to its current forty-four acre East Falls campus in 1925. In 1980 the school became fully co-educational by allowing girls to continue past the second grade, thus graduating the first co-ed senior class in 1992.


William Penn as a young man in 1666.

While the school is not under the care of a formal monthly Meeting, in keeping with the school's Quaker heritage, the Overseers, a board of 21 trustees established by William Penn, still governs the affairs of the school through Quaker consensus. Anne Marble Caramanico is the current clerk of the Overseers. All students attend a weekly Meeting for worship. Faculty meetings and all-school assemblies and some classes begin with a moment of silence.

Service learning is integral to the school and incorporated in the pre-K to 12 curriculum. To earn an activity credit, many Upper School students complete 40 hours of community service a year. A van of students leaves the campus after school every day to perform community service in various locations throughout the Philadelphia area.

Color Day, celebrated on the Friday before Memorial Day, is a tradition in which two teams sporting the school's colors, blue and yellow, compete against each other in playful contests, concluding with a 12th grade Tug-of-War.

The school's Senior Stairs are a central stairway that only current seniors, faculty and alumni are permitted to use during school hours.

A Penn Charter graduate is known as an "OPC." The honorific "OPC 1689" is bestowed, rarely, by the Overseers upon significant faculty and staff in recognition of their service to Old Penn Charter.


The school newspaper, "The Mirror", is the oldest secondary school student newspaper in the United States, having been published since 1777.

The Quakers Dozen is the school's most-selective co-ed a cappella group. During the last week of classes before the winter recess, the group greets the community in the morning with holiday music on the Senior Stairs.

In the summer months the school runs a popular day camp for children of all ages that offers activities like swimming, tennis, archery, computers, team sports, art, music, a talent show and an end-of-camp fair. It also hosts enrichment activities for its own students as well as a number of special programs for local public middle and high school students.


Penn Charter is a member of the Inter-Academic League (Inter-Ac), the nation's oldest high school sports league, and shares the nation's oldest continuous football rivalry with Germantown Academy, celebrated every year since 1886 during PC/GA Day. The game has been played more times than the Army-Navy Game and the Harvard-Yale Game.


On the 44-acre (180,000 m2) campus, the three divisions of the school (Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools) have their own designated buildings. All classrooms are equipped with SMART Board interactive whiteboards. The campus has four art studios, a darkroom, and a film-editing lab; various computer labs and mobile laptop carts; a state-of-the-art performing arts center with separate band and choral spaces, recording studios and a 650-seat theater; and nine science labs, all with Smart Boards, WiFi access, and gigabit LAN. Athletic facilities include nine playing fields, including a synthetic turf field; seven tennis courts; new squash courts; a synthetic six-lane oval track and five-lane straightway; a wrestling facility; a six-lane competitive swimming pool; three gymnasiums; and a field house equipped with a state-of-the-art training facility and fitness room.


John Flagg Gummere, scion of a long line of talented and prominent Quaker educators, was Headmaster from 1941 to 1968. He was a noted Latin scholar (Ph.D., Penn) and author of several widely used textbooks. Dr. Gummere was a loquacious raconteur with seemingly encyclopedic knowledge on many topics. Regarding Penn Charter sports, his variation on Penn's motto for the school (the Gummere variation: "Good Instruction is Better than Losing") says volumes about his attitude toward a coach's teaching role with students. He was followed by Wilbert L. Braxton, a longtime dedicated Penn Charter faculty member and able administrator. Mr. Braxton was Headmaster from 1968 until 1976. He was followed as Head of School by Earl J. Ball III, who skillfully led the school into the 21st Century. After 31 years as Head of School, Earl J. Ball III retired in June 2007. Darryl J. Ford, former director of the Penn Charter Middle School, was appointed as Head of School, by the Board of Overseers after conducting a national search. Dr. Ford is the school's first and so far only African American Head of School.

Popular Culture[edit]

The ABC show The Goldbergs features a fictional school that the Goldberg children attend called William Penn Academy that is based on William Penn Charter School. The creator of the show Adam F. Goldberg is an alumnus of William Penn Charter School, graduating in 1994. The show features Germantown Academy as the chief rival of the school that the Goldberg children attend.[4]

Notable alumni[edit]


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  2. ^ "Top Schools 2006". Phillymag.com. Retrieved February 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Top Feeder Schools". Worth Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2010. 
  4. ^ http://articles.philly.com/2014-04-30/entertainment/49497079_1_quaker-school-jenkintown-tv-show
  5. ^ Narducci, Marc (February 14, 2012). "Union sign veteran defender, Penn Charter grad Chris Albright". Philly.com. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Ruben Amaro, Jr. Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
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  10. ^ "Douglas, Charles Gywnne, III – Biographical Information". Bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
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  12. ^ "J. Presper Eckert 1990 Computer Entrepreneur Award Recipient". IEEE Computer Society. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
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  14. ^ Mezzacappa, Dale (December 2, 2013). "What would Bill Green do as chair of School Reform Commission?". Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Crawford Greenewalt of DuPont Dies". MIT media relations. MIT. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  16. ^ 1997 Athletic Honor Society Inductees. Penn Charter School. Retrieved on February 5, 2013.
  17. ^ Oswald, Alison L. "HOWARD HEAD PAPERS, 1926–1991". http://amhistory.si.edu. Smithsonian. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  18. ^ "HOEFFEL, Joseph M., (1950 – )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Rob Kurz Info Page". NBA.com. March 5, 1985. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  20. ^ Almond, B.J. "Leebron to receive Alumni Award of Merit". Rice News. Rice University. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Jack Meyer Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Front Office". Philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  23. ^ a b "JAlumni Award of Merit". William Penn Charter School. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  24. ^ Port, David L., ed. (1995). Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: 1992–1995 Supplement for Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Other Sports. ABC-Clio. pp. 498–499. ISBN 9780313284311. Retrieved May 7, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Robert Picardo's Biography". Robertpicardo.com. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  26. ^ Zolecki, Todd (March 20, 2003). "Football mentality has served Penn Charter's McDevitt well". Philly.com. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Grover C. Richman, Jr. Attorney General 1954–1958". The State of New Jersey. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  28. ^ "2 Matt Ryan, QBAtlanta Falcons". www.cbssports.com. June 14, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Sean Michael-Eli Singletary". Basketball-Reference.com. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°01′20″N 75°11′11″W / 40.0222°N 75.1864°W / 40.0222; -75.1864