The Friends Council on Education recently announced 11 new Heads/Interim Heads of Schools, one of whom is also serving at a brand new Kindergarten to Grade 8 school — Lancaster Friends School. We are sharing the biographies of each new school head in the second part of this story, while the first focuses on the first newly founded Friends School in Lancaster.
A New Quaker School — Years in the Making — Opens its Doors with Success
Under the leadership of the new Head of School, Andrea Paz y Miño Carty, Lancaster Friends School (LFS), has been operating successfully — and exceeded enrollment targets — all with the support of Lancaster Friends Meeting and the surrounding community. Along with a spiritually grounded and strong academic curriculum grounded in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies (all hallmarks of Quaker schools) the school’s mission is centered in social justice and anti-racism.
Lancaster Friends School believes that children need an education that will prepare them to practically express a love of fairness and truth deep within them and to participate in and lead the construction of a more inclusive, just, and peaceful world. Current events have underscored children’s deep need for community and the kind of education that goes above and beyond academic preparation.
Below is a conversation with Andrea about the new school and its goals:
Q. What was the process within the community to open the school?
The conversation at Lancaster Monthly Meeting (LMM) started a couple of years ago. A group wanted to research the possibility of a school. I think there has been interest for many years but no real energy behind it. An exploratory committee formed and did some preliminary work, but fizzled out a bit after several months.
The energy grew as it became increasingly clear that Lancaster and our wider community needed an educational community with a focus on social justice and creating a more peaceful and equitable world. Individuals from LMM and local educators formed the School Committee and set to work at planning and getting the spiritual support of LMM.
The pandemic served to further amplify inequities and it also provided opportunities for Friends from various locations to meet virtually and make plans for LFS.
Q. The idea of founding a school has long been a dream for Lancaster Meeting. What changed? How was that work carried forward during Covid? How did the Quaker meeting support the school financially? Did that support come from the meeting as a whole or a group within (and outside of?) the meeting.
The Meeting has been incredibly supportive, both financially and spiritually. LMM has provided a home for LFS for practically no rent, a scholarship opportunity for Meeting children, and generous support from LMM and Members of LMM to our Equity Scholarship Fund.
Q. How has the inaugural year been so far? What are some future plans for the school? How many students are being served, and what is the instructional philosophy?
It has been a wonderful year so far! Our 26 students are happy and learning. We have had several field trips and events to build community and learn. We have students in kindergarten through grade eight. Our teachers are amazing, caring, hard-working, and dedicated to our mission. We hope to continue to grow and find a home in the city of Lancaster where we can be a real presence in the city and work within the community.
We have been employing various curriculum materials with a focus on the ability to meet the needs of individual students. For example, our reading curriculum for K-2 is one that is supportive of struggling readers but also very beneficial for stronger readers as well. It allows for a variety of abilities and the growth of all.
We are also implementing the Antiracist curriculum developed by Learning for Justice. We have time set aside for SEL (Social and Emotional Learning), and of course, we have Meeting for Worship weekly. We have dedicated ourselves to having real experiences outside of the classroom as well.
So far this year, we have gone apple picking at a local orchard, attended a performance at Millersville University on Cartography, and are headed to Heritage Creek Farm Camp tomorrow. Next week, we will visit a Longhouse to further our study of the history of Native Americans in the area. We spent Indigenous Peoples Day at school together, participating in activities to recognize and celebrate the holiday.
Q. Lancaster Friends is founded on Quaker values of peace, inclusiveness, and social justice; how is the school incorporating these values?
Our values are incorporated in all we do, from what we teach and how we teach it, to how we govern. We seek to include diverse voices in our reading and our experiences. We hope to be very involved in service opportunities.
We have already done some service work in Lancaster, including canvassing to educate around the dangers of lead poisoning and helping with back to school supplies for students in the School District of Lancaster. Our Equity Scholarship fund is designed to help us be more inclusive. We also have an active Diversity Equity Inclusion Justice (DEIJ) committee working to keep us working toward fulfilling our mission.
Introducing the New Heads of Schools 2021-2022
The Friends Council on Education shared eleven new heads/interim heads of Friends schools:
Chris Benbow, Interim Head, Westtown School (PA)
Chris Benbow (Westtown ‘90) has a long relationship with Westtown and his wide-ranging teaching and leadership experience there and at other institutions will serve him well as Interim Head. Chris’s roles at Westtown include Dean of Students (2004-08), Upper School English Department Chair (2002-04), and most recently Associate Head of School (2019-21). He also taught English in the Upper School from 1998 until his 2008 appointment as Assistant Head of School/Head of Upper School at The Williams School in Connecticut. Chris rejoined the Westtown community in 2014 as Upper School Principal. In this role, Chris deftly and subtly led a number of initiatives to improve program and student experience. Chris is a graduate of Friends Council on Education’s Institute for Engaging Leadership in Friends Schools (IELFS). He obtained an M.Ed. from Temple University and a B.A. from Skidmore College. He taught 3rd through 8th grade at Cathedral Christian Academy, served as Director of Education at InnerCity Baseball Academy, and taught English in the School District of Philadelphia.
Dennis Bisgaard, Interim Head, Friends School Baltimore (MD)
Dennis Bisgaard is well-known in the independent school community and is a highly respected leader with more than 15 years of experience as a head and more than 30 years as a teacher and administrator. Dennis comes to Friends School of Baltimore from Northwest School in Seattle, WA where he served as Interim Head last year. Prior to that, he was Founding Head of School of the newly established Whittle School & Studios, an innovative educational startup in Washington DC.
Previously, he spent 12 years as Head of School at Kingswood Oxford School in Hartford, CT, founding the Kingswood Oxford Leadership Institute for Educators of Color, six years as Associate Head of School at Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA, six years as Associate Dean of Faculty and Director of Diversity at Collegiate School in New York, NY, where he founded and directed The Collegiate School Teaching Institute for Educators of Color. Before that, Dennis also taught at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and at Vejlefjord Hojere Skole in Denmark.
Beyond his day job, Dennis has been a force for good in his community, having served on 13 different boards, ranging from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) to Student Achievement through Opportunity, a nonprofit aimed at narrowing the opportunity gap for students in Hartford, CT, to Interval House, Men Against Domestic Violence Against Women. He also has participated in and presented at numerous conferences throughout the world. Dennis holds advanced degrees from Odense Universitet in Denmark and from Columbia University.
Dennis is married to Monica, whose background is counseling psychology, and who currently serves as a Senior Associate at the executive search firm Storbeck Search. Monica and Dennis are the parents of Nicolas, a recent graduate of New York University, and Saudea, a rising high school senior.
Madeleine Beresford, Director, Ridgewood Friends Neighborhood Nursery (NJ)
Madeleine Beresford is returning as director of Ridgewood Friends Neighborhood Nursery this year. Madeleine served as both a teacher and the director of Ridgewood Friends Nursery from 2012 through 2019. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and received her M.A. in Early Childhood Education and Teaching Children with Disabilities from Montclair State University. A puppeteer,
Madeleine is the director of the Galapagos Puppet Theater based in Arlington, MA, and Ridgewood NJ. She specializes in Chinese hand puppetry and performs traditional Chinese folk tales with puppets made by the family of her Taiwanese teacher. Madeleine also makes her own puppets and performs shows about tolerance and respect for each other.
Andrea Paz y Miño Carty, Head of School, Lancaster Friends School (PA)
Andrea Paz y Miño Carty is a Montessori trained teacher with a Masters in Elementary Education from Temple University. She has taught children from preschool to 6th grade and enjoyed all of those experiences. Having been exposed to public school and Quaker education as a student (Greene Street Friends School, Friends’ Central School), she brings a deep appreciation for an excellent education with a firm foundation on the core Quaker values.
Andrea’s passion for social justice and her belief in the inherent value of every person is what brought her to Quakerism and what inspires her as a founder of and first Head of School for Lancaster Friends School. Andrea shares that the formation of Lancaster Friends School has been a challenging and rewarding experience and that she is in constant awe and appreciation for the work of so many dedicated Friends, educators, and community members. The extraordinary educational community being created is one she is honored to be a part of. She enjoys teaching in multi-age classrooms and looks forward to teaching 1st-5th grades while continuing her work as Head of School. “Allowing students to learn from each other, work together to problem solve, and build lasting relationships in an authentic, inclusive community is what makes teaching so rewarding,” she says. Andrea’s son currently attends Westtown School and her daughters who thrived at George School and Westtown are in college.
Steve Cleaver, Head of School, Richmond Friends School (IN)
Prior to joining Richmond Friends School, Steve directed a residential environmental education center and summer camp for inner-city children, served as Interim Religious Life Director at Earlham College, and taught (and still teaches) yoga at Earlham, Indiana University East, and Beatree Yoga Studio. He is the author of the award-winning novel, Saving Erasmus: The Tale of a Reluctant Prophet (Paraclete Press, 2007) which he wrote while in class with Tom Mullen, former Dean at the Earlham School of Religion.
Steve earned a B.A. in Biology and K-12 Comprehensive Science Teaching Certificate from Rutgers University and an M. Div. from Earlham School of Religion. A lifelong Quaker, Steve attends Clear Creek Meeting where he is a member of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee. He also is a founding member of the Richmond Writers Group. Steve loves a good laugh, the outdoors, and finishing a good book (either by reading it or writing it).
Liza Ewen, Head of School, Monteverde Friends School, Costa Rica
Liza Ewen brings 21 years of experience in Quaker schools to Monteverde Friends School. Most recently, she served as the Acting Head of School for Friends School of Haverford in Philadelphia, PA where she was also the Dean of Students and Middle School English Teacher from 2015-2019. From 1998-2015, Liza was a faculty member at Friends’ Central School, serving as chair of the English Department and a grade dean, and now serves on the Board of Trustees.
Her passion and commitment to Quaker education began during her undergraduate years studying English Literature and Education at Swarthmore College. She earned her Master’s Degree from the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English. Liza and her family, Sandra, Santiago, and Pablo, are members of Green Street Monthly Meeting in Philadelphia. Originally from Clinton, NY Liza is grateful for the opportunity to continue her work in Quaker education in Costa Rica, her wife’s native country.
Shelly Hoffman, Head of School, Wichita Friends School (KS)
Shelly Hoffman brings 30+ years of educational experience to Wichita Friends School. She was a teacher for the Wichita Public Schools for numerous years and has many years of experience working with future educators at the college level. Shelly received her undergraduate degree in education from Wichita State University where she was a member of the varsity softball team. She received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and her doctoral degree in educational leadership with building and district licensure from Southwestern College.
Shelly is married with five children and three grandchildren. She is a life-long learner and loves children and activity. She enjoys spending time at the lake camping. Shelly feels she has been “called” to serve the children and families at Wichita Friends School and is excited to meet all our children and families.
Beth D. Johnson, Interim Head, Friends’ Central School (PA)
Beth D. Johnson has been described as a “gifted, seasoned, and visionary leader.” She brings a wealth of talent and school leadership experience, along with a genuine warmth and natural exuberance, that makes her ideally suited to the role. An alumna of Friends’ Central (Class of ’77),
Beth graduated summa cum laude from St. Joseph’s University with a degree in Elementary Education. She completed a Master of Science in Education in the School Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania where she currently serves as a mentor to emerging school leaders. During her long career at Friends’ Central, Beth has held numerous roles, including Upper School Principal and Assistant Head of School for Student Life, Director of Admission and Financial Aid, Upper School Co-Principal and Dean of Students, Day Camp Director, and Interim Director of Diversity.
In addition to her administrative roles, Beth also has helped with the School’s capital campaigns, participated in Long-Range Planning processes, co-founded Parents of Students of Color (PSOC), taught math, and coordinated the Wynnefield Community Scholar Program. Beth has presented at conferences sponsored by organizations such as the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), A Better Chance, Inc., and the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP) to share her expertise and present on issues ranging from diversity to educating for the future. “When I think about what the world is like right now, it’s not lost on me that a Black woman is going to be sitting in the Head of School’s Office,” Beth noted. “It’s really important to recognize this moment.”
David Kern, Interim Head, State College Friends School (PA)
David Kern has been appointed Interim Head of State College Friends School (PA). This is one of many leadership roles David has held in Friends education over the years. Most recently he served as Interim Director of the middle school at Germantown Friends School and prior to that, in 2018-19, he served as Interim Head of Plymouth Meeting Friends School.
David served as Lower School Director at the William Penn Charter School for seven years, and as the founding principal of the Middle School at Germantown Friends School for thirteen years. He is currently on the founding Board of Lancaster Friends School, which opened in this fall, and is consulting with Chicago Friends School regarding curriculum development and Phoenix Friends School on plans to open in 2022-23.
Andrea Myers, Head of School, Friends School Haverford (PA)
Throughout her career, Andrea has demonstrated the professional agility necessary to lead across a variety of areas of independent school life. In addition to Andrea’s role as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at The Miquon School, she also has been a valued member of the school’s leadership team, providing strategic direction to improve the school’s operations, professional development programming, and business growth opportunities. Before this, Andrea spent her career in PreK-8 and lower schools working in admissions and teaching grades 2-6 in a range of schools around the country.
She also has worked in boarding high school settings, including Andover and Fountain Valley School of Colorado. Andrea holds an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Hampton University, a Masters in elementary education from Lesley College, and an M.B.A. from Temple University. Andrea currently lives in Lafayette Hill with her daughter Ava and dog Maggie. They enjoy spending time hiking trails along the Wissahickon.
Sara Primo, Head of School, Friends School of Portland (ME)
Sara comes to Friends School of Portland from Germantown Friends School where she served as teacher, leader, poet, and anti-racism educator over the past decade. Sara brings a life-long passion for social justice and outdoor education to the role, having first experienced transformational Quaker values at Vermont’s Farm and Wilderness Camp. She continued her development by becoming a trained Quaker clerk and facilitator through coursework at Pendle Hill.
Sara has sought out and led working groups on confronting racism, attended and participated in workshops that have deepened her Quaker commitment to social justice, and worked purposefully on curriculum that seeks to address systemic inequities. She has engaged in race facilitation training through Penn’s Race Institute.
Andy Jones Wilkins, Head of School, Greenwood Friends School (PA)
Andy Jones-Wilkins began his career in education in 1989 at the oldest Quaker school in the country, William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, PA. After five years of service there, Andy and his spouse Shelly embarked on a two-year, 18,000-mile bicycle tour around the world before settling in Paradise Valley, AZ where they both taught at the Phoenix Country Day School. Andy’s administrative career began at Head-Royce School in Oakland, CA where he served for five years as the Head of the Middle School before accepting his first Head of School appointment in 2006 at The Community School in Sun Valley, ID. Longing to return to Friends education, Andy became the sixth Head of School at Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, VA in 2011. While there he guided the school through a comprehensive accreditation process with Friends Council and along the way reinforced the school’s Quaker identity. Most recently, Andy served for two years as Head of School at The Delta School before accepting the appointment as Head of School at Greenwood Friends in the spring of 2021. Andy and his wife Shelly have been happily married for nearly 30 years and are the proud parents of three sons: Carson (23), Logan (21), and Tully (18). An active outdoors family, the JWs can often be found traveling the country camping, hiking, and adventuring. They are thrilled to have settled in the Susquehanna River Valley and look forward to exploring all the trails and mountains this region has to offer.
Lena Parker (she/her/hers), Co-Clerk, Arthur Morgan School (NC)
Born in Asheville, Lena grew up in New Delhi, India, and Chapel Hill, NC. Lena studied Data Science and Educational Studies at Davidson College. Before Arthur Morgan School, she taught in after-school programs and worked as a research analyst at Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. At AMS, Lena feels like she’s found a place that embraces the independence, curiosity, and energy of adolescents. In between foraging for mushrooms, sweeping chimneys, and throwing a frisbee with students, Lena teaches math and health classes. She also serves as a co-clerk of AMS, striving to honor the horizontal governance of the school, and incorporate the voices of their many community members – especially students. 2021-22 is Lena’s second year serving in the role of co-clerk (FCE missed featuring her last year so we’re doing so this year).
Rebecca Zeldin, Co-Clerk, Arthur Morgan School (NC)
Rebecca holds an undergraduate degree in Spanish Literature from Haverford College and a master’s degree in Philosophy and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her first teaching experiences were in college, as a summer volunteer in elementary school classrooms in Costa Rica and Ecuador. Since then, she’s taught at a residential school for young adults with developmental disabilities and at a progressive school in Philadelphia, PA where she taught Spanish, English, Philosophy, and sundry other topics to middle school students. Including a stint in graduate school, she’s been in education for more than ten years; she can hardly imagine any way she’d rather spend her workday than as a teacher. At Arthur Morgan School, Rebecca cherishes the consensus-driven adult community, the closeness with the kids, and the informality of the culture. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, wandering, reading, playing board games, chatting, and playing sports non-competitively.
Image Credits: Lancaster Friends Schools and Friends Council on Education