Friends' Central Upper School
Our Upper School's challenging and innovative program includes lively and rigorous classes, athletic, artistic, and performance opportunities. The Friends’ Central classroom emphasizes advanced levels of critical and conceptual thinking, and independent projects that require significant student research. Students also have academic-based travel opportunities to places such as France, Spain, Greece, Japan, and Peru.
Leadership skills, global awareness, and self discipline are developed throughout the curriculum and in extracurricular activities such as Model United Nations, Makerspace, Debate, Mock Trial, athletics, drama, and numerous other clubs and activities. The Upper School program includes a required community service component with Upper School students and faculty spending five full days a year at agencies and organizations throughout the greater Philadelphia region.
Friends’ Central’s Upper School curriculum provides students an exceptional college preparatory program in an atmosphere that sets the highest of academic and personal standards. The environment is one in which students are encouraged to find their own voices and pursue their own intellectual, spiritual, and ethical passions.
Friends’ Central has a vast array of student-led clubs. Students are encouraged to develop new clubs, each of which must be approved by the Dean of Students and supervised by a faculty member.
Friends' Central School provides highly personalized, expert college admission counseling to students and their families. Our three full-time counselors have extensive experience working in independent school college counseling and selective college admissions.
Meet Our Upper School Leadership Team
Lee joined the Friends’ Central leadership team in July 2022. He comes to us from William Penn Charter School, where he was, most recently, the Assistant Director of Upper School. Lee is a seasoned teacher, advisor, coach, and administrator. He began his career of over 20 years at Penn Charter teaching social studies/history and went on to serve in many roles, including Department Chair, Director of the College Prep program, and Quakerism teacher. In addition to his work at Penn Charter, Lee has served on the boards of the Friends Council on Education and the School in Rose Valley. He has also served as a trainer for Lion’s Story, an organization that prepares individuals and organizations to identify and address issues around race.
Lee holds a Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Temple University with a BA in History. He is a member of the Religious Society of Friends and a graduate of Friends Select, where he met his wife Karyn. They have three children.
Interim Assistant Principal
Elizabeth comes to Friends' Central School after 15 years at DV Friends in a variety of roles including Director of College Counseling, Director of Alumni Relations, English teacher, and most recently as the Coordinator of both Service Learning and Mindfulness Education. She is a certified academic language practitioner (CALP) who provides explicit, systematic, sequential Multisensory Structured Language instruction which builds a high degree of accuracy, knowledge, and independence for students with written-language disorders, including dyslexia. She is a graduate of the College of Wooster and of Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English where her masters coursework focused on World Literature and the teaching of writing. Additionally, Elizabeth is a certified yoga teacher, a graduate of two Friends Council on Education leadership programs (SPARC and IEFSL), and has been the board president of the Mindfulness in Education Network (MiEN) since 2017. She is a student of the late Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn, the founder of the International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism.
Upper School Dean of Students
Alex McDonnell '87 has previously been an Upper School history teacher, Grade Dean, Technology Integration Specialist, Summer Programs Director, and GOA Site Coordinator at Friends' Central School. He is from Ardmore, PA and was born in Philadelphia. Alex began working at FCS in 1991. Alex attended Swarthmore College for his BA before continuing on to St. Joseph's University for his Master's degree. He completed Friends Council's Spirited Practice and Renewed Courage (SPARC) program, a leadership development program based on principles from Parker Palmer's , Courage to Teach. Alex is an alum of SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity). Alex is a 1987 graduate of FCS and father of five alums.
Upper School Dean for Community and Leadership
A veteran member of the FCS English Department, Tom became the Upper School Dean of Students in 2014. Before then, he served as a Dean for Community Life and Student Leadership for several years, working alongside the grade deans to oversee student leadership opportunities and to help coordinate extra-curricular programming. The "whole school" perspective that Tom brings to the Upper School Office comes from his experience in many different roles here. He started at FCS as Communications Director (creating the first editions of Just the Facts) before joining the Middle School faculty as an 8th grade Language Arts teacher. He has been a Varsity head coach, a co-clerk of the Diversity Board, a member of the Quaker Life Board and many other faculty committees. He is also the parent of three Friends' Central "lifer" daughters, two of whom have now left home for college.
A graduate of Princeton University with an AB in English, Tom earned his MA in English from the University of Toronto and spent several years as a freelance writer before settling in Wynnewood and joining the Friends' Central community.