The William Penn Charter School, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was established in 1689 by William Penn as a day school and is the oldest Quaker school in the world. It is an independent school that enrolls boys and girls in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The School Motto is "Good Instruction is Better Than Riches." This motto is engraved in stone and permanently displayed on the front of the Lower School.
The Penn Charter Mission Statement reads: "Quaker principles and practice guide Penn Charter, a Friends school by birthright and conviction. Within a diverse community we engage students in a stimulating and rigorous educational program. We foster academic discipline, intellectual curiosity, and spiritual growth to prepare our graduates for higher education and for life. We develop students to act in a moral, civil, and responsible manner."
The Penn Charter Non-Discrimination Clause reads: "Penn Charter admits students of any race color, national or ethnic origin to all the rights privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. Penn Charter does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin or sexual orientation in administration of educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship or loan programs, and athletic and other school school-administered programs."
It is also the third oldest grade school in the nation, after Roxbury Latin (college preparatory school and moved to successive blocks of Twelfth between Chestnut and Walnut. It finally moved to its current forty-four acre co-educational in principle by allowing girls to continue past the second grade. In 1992 the first co-ed class graduated from Penn Charter. It is considered to be an exclusive private school in terms of admission criteria.
While the school is not under the care of a formal monthly Meeting, in keeping with the school's Quaker heritage, the Board of Overseers, a board of 21 trustees established by William Penn, still governs the affairs of the school through Quaker consensus. William J. Carr, Jr. is the clerk of the Board of Overseers. In addition, all students still attend a mandatory 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: Upper School students must complete at least 40 hours of community service each year. A van of students leaves the campus after school every day to perform community service in various locations of Philadelphia.
Currently there are 890 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade; 260 in Lower School, 205 in Middle School, and 425 in Upper School. Students neighborhoods represented by almost 100 ZIP codes in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania and Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties in New Jersey. 23% of students enrolled identify themselves as students of color. 30% of the students receive need-based financial aid. 100% of graduates go to a college within one year. Of the 100 faculty members, approximately 70% hold advanced degrees, including 10 with doctorates.
The school newspaper, The Mirror, is the oldest student newspaper in the United States, having been published since 1777. In addition, the school shares the nation's oldest continuous football rivalry with Germantown Academy, celebrated every year with PC/GA day, which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2006. Color Day, celebrated on the Friday before Memorial Day, is a tradition in which the entire school (K-12) is split into two teams by the school's colors, blue and yellow, and compete against each other in athletic events. Penn Charter is a member of the Inter-Academic League (Inter-Ac), the nation's oldest high school league. The Quaker's 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 Steps.
On the 44-acre campus, the three divisions of the school (Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools) have their own buildings. The Upper School has a 38,000+ volume library, four science lab, three art studios, a darkroom, and a film-editing lab. A music studio, choral and band rooms; various computer labs; and a 565-seat Assembly Room complete the Upper School. Athletic facilities include nine playing fields, seven tennis courts, 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. Some classrooms in the Lower School and all classrooms in the Middle and Upper Schools are equipped with Smart board interactive white boards.
In the summer months the school runs a very 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 number of special programs for area public middle and high school students. Penn Charter is generally considered one of the elite private high schools in America.
After 31 years as Head of School, Dr. Earl J. Ball retired in June 2007. Dr. Darryl Ford, former director of the William Penn Charter School's middle school division, was appointed as Head of School, by the Board of Overseers after conducting a national search. Dr. Ford is the school's first African American head of school.
Penn Charter is in the process of raising funds and finalizing plans to build a new performing arts center. When completed, the main performance hall will bear the name of Earl Ball and his wife, Pam, in honor of their three decades of leadership and service to the school.
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