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Meet PC's New Director of Lower School

Meet PC's New Director of Lower School

On Friday, May 17, 2024, Head of School Karen Warren Coleman shared with the PC community news of the next director of Lower School, Thu-Nga Morris

It is with extraordinary excitement and profound gratitude to all who participated in our comprehensive search process that I am writing to announce the appointment of Dr. Thu-Nga Morris as Penn Charter’s new director of Lower School, effective July 1, 2024. An educator for more than 15 years with extensive experience supporting and inspiring young learners – as well as the faculty who teach and nurture them – Thu-Nga will join Penn Charter from The Pingry School in New Jersey, where she currently serves as Lower School director and assistant head of school K-12.

Thu-Nga stood out among the candidates for her expertise in early childhood and elementary curriculum and instruction, demonstrated success as a school leader and lifelong learner, and a desire to work in a Quaker school that offers a fully integrated curriculum with a focus on project-based learning. She will succeed Marcy Sosa, who will become assistant head of school in July, joining David Brightbill in the head’s office. 

While at Pingry, Thu-Nga developed the K-5 student core competencies and assessment of student learning, established The Latest at Short Hills, a monthly video recap to strengthen communication between school and home, served as co-chair of the K-12 Academic Committee, and revised the Lower School Code of Honor to foster a positive and inclusive learning environment. 

In a message to the Pingry Community, Head of School Tim Lear wrote, “Dr. Morris thoughtfully guided our youngest students through the challenges of remote and hybrid learning, and her valuable contributions as both Lower School director and as a member of our senior administrative team will have a long-lasting impact on the educational experience of our students.” Thu-Nga’s former head of school, Matt Levinson, now head of school at San Francisco University High School, noted her depth of knowledge, characterizing Thu-Nga as a student of curriculum, leadership and program, especially for this age group. 

In addition to her tenure at Pingry, Thu-Nga served as the assistant head of school, director of academics, and director of upper school at St. Edmund’s Academy, a preschool through eighth grade day school in Pittsburgh. She joined St. Edmund’s in 2015 as academic dean and director of curriculum, overseeing professional development, support services, recruitment, hiring and faculty evaluation. Throughout her career, she has honed her perspective about how the early childhood and lower school curriculum provides the essential foundation for advanced learning in both the middle and upper schools.

Thu-Nga’s scholarship and professional service reflect her commitment to the exploration of knowledge grounded in principles of equity. Her proven record of innovative program design and implementation, including interdisciplinary and project-based learning, her focus on assessment and evaluation, and her support of faculty excellence will serve Penn Charter well as we engage in strategic planning and chart a path forward for our school. 

Thu-Nga is at home in the Philadelphia area, having earned her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Bowdoin College and her master’s degree in private school leadership from Teachers College at Columbia University. Her career in education began with Teach for America in 2007, and she also taught at Marymount School and The Nightingale-Bamford School, both located in New York City.

Throughout her career, Thu-Nga has embraced and addressed the diverse challenges that schools face and seized on opportunities to develop racial and cross-cultural literacy among students, including through the development of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging strategies for faculty and staff to apply in their daily interactions with students. In her role, she will also engage parents and caregivers through existing and additional programming to build home and school partnerships, a key to ensuring a successful and holistic approach to a child’s educational journey.

Thu-Nga’s desire to foster thoughtful dialogue on inclusion and belonging is further reflected in her contributions to academic research. Thu-Nga recently served as a guest editor of a special edition of the Teachers College Record: “Minding the Gap in Education Discourse: Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in Independent and International Schools.” She has frequently presented her research on the experiences of women of color in independent schools. 

University of Pennsylvania professor Howard Stevenson P '23 served as Thu-Nga's dissertation chair and wrote in response to her appointment, "Dr. Thu-Nga Morris is one of the most steadfast, committed and knowledgeable educators I have met, but it's her heart for helping children find their voice as they learn that I admire most." 

Thu-Nga is an outstanding independent school leader who quickly emerged from a national pool of accomplished candidates, and I am thrilled that she will join the Penn Charter community.

Thu-Nga shares, “I had a wonderful time exploring the Lower School and experiencing firsthand the joyful relationships that make up the community. While I could go on about the many things that make the Lower School special, the warm embrace I felt from students and adults alike made me feel right at home. I am eager to join a community that places students at the center, and I look forward to partnering with you to inspire and educate our youngest learners.”  

We look forward to welcoming Thu-Nga Morris and her family when she joins us here on School House Lane this summer. 

Warmly,
Karen Warren Coleman
Head of School

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