Summer will bring in a fresh start to the Frankford area, as the Frankford Friends School will welcome in a new head of the school.
It will be a major shift for both students and the newcomer, Kathryn Park Cook, who currently serves as the director of innovative programs and summer programs at Moorestown Friends School.
Cook plans on bringing a lot of new concepts to the school as she is the first new face the community has seen in the position for a decade. She will take the place of Penny Davis on July 1st.
The Frankford Friends School, located at , at 1500 Orthodox St., set up a search committee to find a replacement for Davis. After a year of searching, the committee settled on Park Cook, claiming her to be the perfect fit.
“We’re looking for continuity,” said Amy O’Leary, the director of development and communications at the Frankford Friends School. “We want things to stay stable and continue to thrive the way that they have.”
Coming from her current friends school, Park Cook is already familiar with the Quaker traditions and values they hold.
“My kids have all gone [to Moorestown Friends School],” Park Cook said. “I have four children. I’ve seen it as a parent and that’s what originally got me interested in Quaker education.”
The Friends schools are private schools that focus on Quaker values. Students of these schools are taught about cooperation and kindness when dealing with others while also being subjected to a rigorous yet unique academic world.
“Quakers believe that there is that of God in every person,” said O’Leary, “and that no one has the complete truth but everyone has a little piece of the truth.”
This guiding principle helps shape the way for the schools’ inquiry-based learning curriculum. Inquiry-based learning means that when students learn about something they must take their learning a step further than memorization and note-taking and ask questions about what is not known about that subject yet. Students then do research to find answers to those questions.
“A lot of Quaker schools use that kind of education,” O’Leary added. “What’s different here is that we don’t have all of the material resources that a lot of the big Friends Schools have. The buildings are very modest. The staff wear a lot of hats here just like in a lot of small schools.”
This will most likely be one of the biggest adjustments Park Cook will have to make in her new position. The Moorestown Friends School is much larger than Frankford Friends School – stretching across 48 acres and holding 730 students in grades 1-12. The tuition rate at Moorestown is more than twice as high as Frankford, and it has a bigger focus on sports than the Frankford Friends School.
Park Cook will be leaving that environment for the much more modest Frankford Friends School that holds a fraction of the students. But Park Cook takes it in stride.
“It’s a really neat school,” Park Cook said. “It’s preschool through eighth grade, so it gives you an opportunity for you to get to know the kids, have them there for nine years and really have them become a part of your family.”
Park Cook is also not a stranger to the city of Philadelphia. Park Cook received her master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania after attending several international schools as a child. Upon graduation, Park Cook gained experience in the Philadelphia School District as a science teacher at Turner Middle School in West Philadelphia. She claims the City of Philadelphia presents a lot of opportunity for the Frankford Friends School to grow.
“It’s an area of Philadelphia that allows for a more diverse student population,” Park Cook said.
“We really can help make the school representative of the city and the world – it makes us have a really rich and engaging student community and that was a really good opportunity for me.”
Text, video and images by Dave Appiott and Sarah Figorski.