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.

College Counseling

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 Payton


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.

Bill Kennedy

Interim Assistant Principal

A master teacher, Bill has also held many leadership roles at FCS, including partnering in running a strong and successful FCS Upper School as its Co-Principal, Dean of Faculty for 12 years, and Co-Principal, Dean of Students for two years. He also served as Upper School Assistant Principal from 2018-2021, and Interim Upper School Principal for the 2017-2018 and 2021-2022 school year. He has also worked as the Upper School English Department Chair and as a grade dean. In these roles, Bill was responsible for curriculum development; recruiting, evaluating, and retaining faculty; observing classes and coaching teachers; mentoring new faculty; building faculty and student community; and student discipline. 

Before joining the Friends' Central faculty, Bill taught middle and upper school English at St Albans School in Washington, D.C. and served as an Assistant to the Dean of the College at Haverford College. Bill is a graduate of Haverford College and the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English.

Alex McDonnell '87

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.

Tom MacFarlane


Tom MacFarlane

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.