William Penn Charter School
|William Penn Charter School|
|3000 West School House Lane
|Motto||Good Instruction Is Better Than Riches|
|Head of school||Darryl J. Ford, PhD|
|Grades||Pre-K – 12|
|Color(s)||Blue and Yellow|
|Accreditation||Pennsylvania Association of Private Academic Schools (PAPAS)|
|Yearbook||The Class Record|
|Affiliations||Religious Society of Friends|
William Penn Charter School (commonly known as Penn Charter or simply PC) is an independent school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1689 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. 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. 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 might be assumed, mean that it is a modern "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-seven 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.
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. Jeffrey Reinhold 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. The school's Center for Public Purpose engages students in service and community-based work by addressing some of the most pressing social issues in Philadelphia, particularly education, food insecurity and poverty. To earn an activity credit, many Upper School students complete 40 hours of community service a year; a van carrying 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 rope pull.
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 Upper School Quakers Dozen is the school's select 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, including the Special Olympics.
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. As of 2015 the game has been played 129 times, more times than the Army-Navy Game (116) and just three fewer times than the Harvard-Yale Game (132).
On the 47-acre (190,000 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 an IdeaLab equipped with a makerspace, media lab and creative lab; 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 two synthetic turf fields; seven tennis courts; new squash courts; an eight-lane oval track; a wrestling facility; a six-lane competitive swimming pool; three gymnasiums; and a renovated field house with two basketball courts; and state-of-the-art training and fitness facilities.
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. 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. Braxton was headmaster from 1968 until 1976. He was followed Head of School Earl J. Ball III, who skillfully led the school into the 21st century. After 31 years as head, Ball retired in June 2007. Darryl J. Ford, former director of the Penn Charter Middle School, was appointed as Head of School, by the Overseers after conducting a national search. Ford is the school's first African-American head.
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, a OPC 1994. The show features Germantown Academy as the chief rival of the school that the Goldberg children attend. The show also features actual teachers and students who attended the school in the 80s and 90s, including Head of School Earl Ball, Coach Rick Mellor, Mrs. Taraborelli, Susan Cinoman, Ruben Amaro Jr., David Sirota, Garret Ball and Emmy Mirsky.
- Montgomery, Thomas Harrison (1900). A History of the University of Pennsylvania from Its Foundation to A. D. 1770. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co. p. 41.
- "Top Schools 2006". Phillymag.com. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
- "Top Feeder Schools". Worth Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2010.