Dear Upper School Parents and Students,

I just made my first trip to Staples with my own daughter for school supplies so it must indeed be time for us to consider —just consider— starting school.  You have a little time to ponder that, unless you are a fall athlete, or the parent of one.  The football team started pre-season practices this week; the rest of the fall sports teams start practices next week.  And before long, every Upper School student will land on campus for Registration Day on Tuesday, September 4.  Come Thursday, September 6, let the classes and fun begin!  As much as I am enjoying Jersey peaches and tomatoes, walks with my husband, afternoons in my garden and long dinners with family and friends, I am excited for the 2018-2019 school year, and I hope you are, too.  

The purpose of this email is:  1) to alert parents of 9th and 11th graders of upcoming Getting Acquainted Conferences with your child's advisor, 2) to inform all Upper School students and parents about the important changes and updates we have made to the Upper School Student and Parent Handbook for the coming year, and 3) to highlight some divisional priorities for the coming school year.

Getting Acquainted Conferences for Grades 9 & 11

By the end of next week, parents of 9th and 11th grade students will be contacted by their child's advisor to arrange a time for a Getting Acquainted Conference. Since new advisory groups are created in both of these grades, we feel that having a face-to-face meeting with your child's advisor is beneficial to all as we begin a new school year. We have set aside two specific days for these conferences:  Wednesday, August 29 (after 1pm) & Wednesday, September 5.  Please work directly with your child's advisor (find them here)  to find a time to meet on one of these days or on another mutually convenient day before or during the first week of school.  (Please note that advisor/parent conferences for all grades will be held on Monday, November 19.)

Upper School Handbook Changes and Reminders

It is important that students and parents/guardians read and review the Handbook carefully each year. As you will read below, the 2018-19 version of this document contains a few important changes, and I want to highlight some long-standing policies so that we begin the year with a collective understanding of the expectations that will inform our community this year.

After you read the 2018-19 Handbook for Students, please download and sign the "Acceptable Use Policy" and "Community Code" documents. Both of these documents are attached to this email. Students must present these signed documents to their advisors during Upper School Registration Day on Tuesday, September 4. In this communication we are also including a flyer with reminders about Registration Day, including grade-level lists of students and advisors.  

Dress Code:  Perhaps most exciting for students is a more expansive dress code this year, compliments of a two-year Student Council initiative.  The new dress code is more simple, equitable and liberal than the old one. See pp. 62-64 for details. Furthermore, the administration agreed to limit the number of Special Dress days (p. 64).  That said, having approved Student Council's dress code proposal, the faculty and administration will be enforcing dress code violations (p. 64), and this year, morning detention is offered on only Tuesdays and Thursdays (see p. 71).

Assembly & Advisory:  Another exciting change involves our schedule (pp. 88-89).  Students will plan and run assemblies, which will take place in the Kurtz Center on Blue Mondays from 9:45-10:15.  Each Wednesday afternoon, we will have Advisory, and many faculty and administrators have spent time this summer planning meaningful and fun activities for you to do with your advisors and fellow advisees during that time.

Attendance:  We expect students to be in school, on time, every day, for the whole school day.  The classroom experience and the learning that comes with it are the bedrock of a Penn Charter education.  Carefully review the Absence Policy (pp. 15-16) and Lateness Policy (pp. 18-29). Please note that: If a student is late or absent because of an appointment (i.e., medical, dental), or needs to leave school during the school day for such an appointment, documentation from the care provider's office is required that specifies the time and length of the appointment in order for this absence to be excused; on the fifth absence (excused or unexcused) in any semester, parent(s)/guardian(s) may be notified and the student may meet with the assistant director or the director of the Upper School. If absence continues, a student may be given an incomplete for courses and placed on academic probation; in additional to regular attendance, Upper School teachers take daily class attendance.  Once a student has missed a class more than five times in a semester ... the student could be assigned extra work by the teacher.  

Cell Phone Policy:  Student cell phones are not to be seen or heard during the academic day.  Should you need to inform your child of an immediate and significant emergency, parents/guardians and family members should call the Main Office (x100), Rose Mary Cavalcante (x101), or Bridgette Bonner Fennal (x264) (p. 21).

Social Media Policy:  Students are responsible for the content of their electronic communications and posts on social media accounts--regardless of whether or not they reference Penn Charter and regardless of whether they post while on or off of campus. Students represent the school at all times. Please read the complete policy carefully (p. 52).  

Drug & Alcohol Policy:  We have augmented our policy to explicitly include e-cigarette smoking of nicotine as well as marijuana.  For more information about e-cigarettes and the risks of teen smoking see this CDC site.  Meanwhile, we have added the text in red (below) to two portions of the Handbook.


  • Policy on Alcohol & Other Drugs:  The Penn Charter policies in this crucial area are motivated by respect for the law as well as a genuine concern for the physical, psychological, and emotional well being of all its students.  The possession, purchase, acceptance, and/or consumption (use and abuse), whether actual or attempted, of alcohol, drugs, drug paraphernalia, tobacco, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaping and Juuling devices, or other controlled substances ('Prohibited Substances') by students on the Penn Charter campus or at any school related activity/event at any time or at any place is prohibited (42).
  • Comportment Issues:  Smoking cigarettes, smoking e-cigarettes, and using smokeless tobacco are prohibited, as are vape pens, Juuls, and related devices, on school property, off school property (within sight of any part of campus), and during any school activity or event (65).


Policy on reporting major discipline incidents to colleges: Please be reminded that all suspensions and disciplinary probation resulting from community council deliberations or from an administrative decision at any time in a student's Upper School career, regardless of length, will be reported to colleges if requested by the college or university.  For full details on this process, please see p.73.


The purpose of this letter is to highlight major changes to the Handbook for Students and Parents and to raise up other important policies and practices. Reading this letter does not, however, supplant your responsibility for reading and internalizing the information contained in the entire Handbook.  At the same time, neither this letter nor the Handbook  necessarily conveys the sense of freshness and optimism that I always associate with a new year:  new books, new friends, new teachers, new ideas, new experiences, new challenges. I hope the end of your summer is luxuriously long, and I wish you a school year full of sparkle and novelty, understanding and knowledge, even enlightenment.



Erin P. Hughes, Ph.D.

Acting Upper School Director

3000 West School House Lane   Philadelphia, PA 19144