February 2020

Published monthly by William Penn Charter School in the interest of our faculty and staff.


On Sunday, Jan. 26, the Center for Public Purpose hosted the 2020 National Network of Schools in Partnership's pre-conference workshop: "How Do We Know? Various ways to collect data, measure value and assess the impact of your community engagement and partnership programs."  Over 20 schools convened at Penn Charter to share their different approaches to measuring the impact of their community engagement programs.  Sharon Ahram and Alyson Goodner were also joined by Penn Charter students Hannah Bowe, Kailei Makhija, Savannah Payton, Sophia Reagan and Sabrina Schaffer, who met with schools to review their project outlines and provide student voice and insights to their planning. 

Paul Blackwood completed Fortinet Network Security Engineer (NSE2) certification. 

Julian Guindon is now a JAMF Certified Expert.

Jackie Hamilton, Coordinator of our Urban Teaching Fellows Program, was featured in NAIS's winter magazine with her article "In Practice: Building the Urban Teaching Fellows Program." The article gives an overview of the program, reveals areas of growth in the past two years and plans for the next evolution of the program.

As a member of the Education Committee for the Pennsylvania Society of Clinical Social Workers, Lisa Reedich helped organize and host a conference held at Lankenau Hospital on Jan. 25. entitled "Breaking the Mold: Re-imagining Today's Evolving Family Structures" presented by Steve Treat.

This fall Laura Valdmanis completed the Citizen Planning Institute course through the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. The course provided an overview on zoning, city planning, community organizing and development in Philadelphia.

Congratulations and special thanks to the many PC colleagues who shared their expertise by offering January TLC workshops: Sharon Ahram, Eileen Bossone, David Brightbill, John Estok, Jane Evans, Wilson Felter, Debbie Foley, Julian Guindon, Judith Hill, Joy Lai, Ruth McGee, Sara Moses, Lee Payton, Christie Pearsall, Pam Shannon, Lori Swartz, Melanie Wills and Nina Wojtowicz.


News & Notes

2020 NAIS Conference
Pennsylvania Convention Center 
Friday, Feb. 28 

All faculty have been registered for the 2020 NAIS Conference held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 28. (in-service day). Thank you for filling out the Google Form. You should receive confirmation from NAIS sometime next week. 

Friday is designated as Teacher Day, and the event planners scheduled workshops and presentations that would be of interest to teachers. Please view the program details online (click here) and begin to plan the sessions you would like to attend. The two keynotes for Friday are Angie Thomas, author of The Hate You Give, and Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. It is also a great time to build community off-campus and to catch up with colleagues from other schools. You are guaranteed to bump into someone you know. 

Please note that Penn Charter is offering regular on-campus child care, as this is an in-service day. Since lunch is provided in the registration fee, Penn Charter will not reimburse attendees for additional food expenses. Finally, Penn Charter will also provide bus transportation between Penn Charter and the Convention Center. If you should choose to travel by another means, Penn Charter will be unable to reimburse you for those costs, including parking. There will be a signup form for bus transportation in the next week or so. 

Sabbaticals, 20-Year Grants and Summer Work

Faculty members who have been at Penn Charter for at least 10 years may apply for a sabbatical to explore an area in the faculty member's field of interest. The Personnel Committee of the Overseers reviews the applications and makes the final decisions. A three-month sabbatical comes with full pay, a yearlong sabbatical half pay. Click here to access the sabbatical proposal form. The due date is April 6, 2020.

20-Year Grants

Two $2,000 grants are available annually for faculty members who have worked at Penn Charter for 20 or more years. Traditionally, faculty members have used these funds for travel and/or other professional development activities related to their discipline. If you are interested in applying for a 20-year grant for next year, submit a letter with a description of how you plan to spend your time and a timeline for your work. Copies of your letter should be sent to Darryl Ford, Beth Glascott and David Brightbill. The Personnel Committee of the Overseers will make the final decision. The due date for 20-year grant proposals is April 6, 2020.

Summer Work

It is customary for faculty to do some curriculum maintenance during the summer months. Summer work proposals are for work that is directly related to enhancing existing curriculum, usually on a broader scale. Normally, projects last one or two days. The per diem rate is $125. Click here to access the proposal form. The due date for summer work proposals is April 27, 2020.

Additional information about sabbaticals, 20-year grants and summer work can be found on the TLC website. You can also contact David Brightbill with questions.

Leticia Carter, Judith Hill and Doug Uhlmann attended the American Libraries Association Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia; they attended workshops, met with vendors in the exhibit hall, and Judith participated in a focus group to determine the shape of future conferences.

Ari Baker, Brad Ford and Eva Kay Noone attended the Performing Arts in Quaker Education conference on Friday Feb. 5 at the Friends Center on Cherry Street. Andre Robert Lee, filmmaker and teacher at GFS, presented on the importance of the arts for social change through his film “The Prep School Negro.”  Also the day included breakout sessions based on subjects taught in order to best serve the students and the Quaker values of the Friends Schools. Participants included local Friends schools from the area as well as schools from Washington, D.C., Baltimore and North Carolina.


Faculty and Staff Changes

Faculty Leave Replacements


Kennie Huang, Lower School Art

Jill Levi, Middle School Social Studies

Stacy Master, Second Grade

Kristen Ostendorf will be leaving Penn Charter after this academic year to pursue a master's of Divinity at General Theological Seminary in New York City, where she has been named a Kellogg scholar. She is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, which includes Philadelphia. 

Lori Swartz will be leaving Penn Charter after this academic year to pursue a master's in Sports Science at the University of Pittsburgh. She also hopes to continue to work for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which she did as an intern this past summer. 

Kristin Swoszowski-Tran will be leaving Penn Charter after this academic year to raise livestock and crops in the mountains of New Mexico, where she has a farm focused on sustainable, holistic and organic practices.

Linh Tran will be leaving her position as Pre-K assistant at the end of this school year, but she will continue to be a part of the parent community. She plans to do volunteer work, possibly related to architecture. 


Technology Tips 

by Paul Blackwood

What Cybercriminals Want from Schools

Cybercriminals target educational institutions for a treasure trove of personal and financial data. The impetus for introducing tech initiatives on campus is for improved quality of education, differentiated instruction and the ability to engage students through familiar media, as well as more streamlined communication systems for administrators, teachers and staff.

Every day, schools are exposed to cyberthreats like phishing emails, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, insider threats and malware — with the most disruptive coming from information-stealing Trojans and ransomware attacks. With the ever-changing threat landscape and the growing sophistication of targeted attacks against organizations, educational institutions need to be protected now more than ever. 

strong passwords

Creating Strong Passwords

Method 1:

Choose a couple of words that aren’t directly related to each other but that you can remember. (e.g. ball, dog)

Change one or more of the letters in the words to upper-case letters, numbers or symbols. (e.g. bAll, d0g). Join the words with one or more non-alphanumeric symbols to get the final password. (e.g. bAll@$d0g)

Method 2:

Choose a song lyric, quote or other sentence that you will easily remember. (e.g. “There is no place like Nebraska”) Take the first letter of each word. (e.g. TinplN) Change one or more of the letters to a number or symbol, or add a symbol or number to the beginning or end. (e.g. T1npINE!). 

Here are a few tips on picking a secure password:

  • NEVER use a blank password, the word ‘password’ / 'Pa$$w0rd' or have the password be the same as your username, especially if you’re connected to a network. These are generally the first three items guessed by attackers.

  • Avoid using keyboard combinations, such as ‘asdf’, ‘qwerty’, ‘123456’ or ‘aaaaaaa’ as these are also frequently guessed very quickly.

  • Don’t use easily guessed personal information, such as your name, birth date, family members’ names (including pets), Social Security number, license-plate numbers, phone numbers, or anything you’ve shared via social media.

  • The next thing an attacker will probably try after trying the most common passwords is a dictionary attack. To avoid this, don’t use a normal word as your password. Some dictionary attacks will even check variations of words, like using numbers in place of letters (such as replacing the letter o with the number 0) or having a number or symbol at the beginning or end of the word.

  • If a dictionary attack fails, about all the attacker will be left with is trying a ‘brute force’ attack, trying every combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Most will have given up and gone after an easier target by this time, but using more types of characters, such as upper-case letters, lower-case letters, numbers and symbols will make it a much, much longer process to crack your password.

  • The longer your password, the more secure it is, generally speaking.

  • Use a password of at least eight characters and try using a pass phrase.

Lastly – a few more tips:
  • Change your password often

  • Don't use the same password on multiple sites

  • Treat your password like your credit card number – would you post your credit card number on your monitor? 

  • Don’t share your password


MBE Corner: 

Stress and the Brain: The Problem with Encouraging Self-Care

by Anne Coleman 

When we emphasize the importance of self-care in stress management, we risk shifting the blame for chronic and excessive stress onto the individual’s behavior and actions, rather than recognizing the broader conditions that create such stress. Chronic stress — and its worrying long-term health outcomes — disproportionately affects individuals who lack one or more types of privilege. Teaching self-care practices in those terms is therefore more likely to have unintended negative effects for the students who most need support with coping and managing systemic stressors. “As well-meaning as [self-care-promoting] projects may be, one result is that individuals, many of whom are already socially disadvantaged in a number of ways, end up being seen (and seeing themselves) as responsible for their own failures to adequately ameliorate the stresses that they suffer” (Kaplan 2019).

This doesn’t suggest that we should stop teaching what are now termed self-care practices. Rather, it suggests we change how we conceptualize the work of coping with stress and we look at broader, systemic sources of stress to effect change. While the latter requires big picture thinking and time, the former is a bit more straightforward and short-term.

When working with a student who is struggling with chronic stress, help the student to understand that his/her stress is not something of his/her making. Remind the student (and yourself) that stress of this kind is never the student’s fault and that struggling to cope with stress is natural. If you recommend coping strategies, try to pair these recommendations with acknowledgments of the broader, systemic forces that the individual strategies may help to mitigate. Above all, take the time to consider what invisible forces may be at work in creating this chronic stress and bring your observations and questions to the attention of colleagues. We cannot reduce stress for students by purely focusing on coping with its effects. 

Kaplan, Jonathan. “Self-Care as Self-Blame Redux: Stress as Personal and Political.” Kennedy Institute of Ethics journal vol. 29,2 (2019): 97-123. doi:10.1353/ken.2019.0017


The Eco Corner

by Tom Rickards

I hope you all are settled as we move into semester two. We are looking forward to an active late winter and early spring for environmental work! 

  • Seedling in the MS Basement: We have a number of young seedlings that are getting started in a light cart in the MS basement hallway. We are looking for more help with watering. You can contact our two environmental certificate students who are helping organize this project: Jay Johnson or Taylor Whitehead

  • Environmental Divisional Coordinators: We are seeking environmental divisional coordinators for the next academic year (2020-21). The position is based on model for our current Diversity and Inclusion Divisional Coordinators and would receive extra compensation. This would involve monthly meetings with Tom Rickards and the rest of the environmental team. More information can be shared, but we are asking interested faculty to send an email of interest and intent to Tom Rickards and Beth Glascott

  • Some Upcoming Conference and Events


Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

The Teaching & Learning Center is offering both old favorites and new diverse workshops in the coming months with hopes of meeting your teaching and learning interests and goals. You can sign up for the workshops below using this SignUp Genius TLC link

  • Pedagogy:

    • ASCD Live Webinar: Teaching for Deeper Learning with Jay McTighe and Harvey F. Silver

    • Mind, Brain, Education Research and Implications for Teaching

    • Meaningfully Using Homework to Promote Learning

    • Tuesday with TED-Ed Talk

    • Creating Lifelong Learners

    • Using Comics and Graphic Novels in Powerful, Fun Ways to Promote Comprehension

    • Using Newsela with Your Students for Inquiry Studies: Newsela Provides Current High-Interest Nonfiction Texts on a Variety of Subjects at Varied Reading Levels from Grades 2 through 12

    • Using Metacognition and Digital Portfolios to Promote Deep Learning

    • Project-Based Learning Group

    • Talking Teaching discussions at Jefferson University

Understanding Students ... Our School ... Ourselves ... and the World:

  • Student Activism: For Students by Students-Learn about Evie Eisenstein and Hayden Sage's Gun Violence Awareness Club and How They Are Campaigning and Fighting for Change
  • Urban Teaching Fellow Cafe: What Happenstance Means to a First-Generation College Kid

  • Communicating with Parents: Strategies to Build Positive Relationships Panel Discussion 

  • Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

  • Discussion of Indigenous People’s History – Teaching Tolerance Webinar Continued Discussion

  • BARWE – Building Anti-Racist White Educators

  • Girls’ Social/Emotional and Educational Empowerment Group

  • America 4.0: a Collaborative Exploration of National, Social, Political and Culture Tensions that Have Surfaced Since 2008

  • Technology

    • Using Newsela with Your Students for Inquiry Studies: Newsela Provides Current High-Interest Nonfiction Texts on a Variety of Subjects at Varied Reading Levels from Grades 2 through 12

    • One-to-One Computer Help

  • The Arts

    • The Black Figure in Public Monuments: a Close Look at Recent Public Commission Work by Artists Kehinde Wiley, Wangechi Mutu and Kara Walker

    • Penn Charter Cultural Event: Philly Pops presents Aretha: Respect

    • Get Your Knitting TLC

  • Wellness

    • Learn with Sekia about Bone Marrow Transplants

    • Learn about Acupuncture and Auricular Acupuncture Drop-In Sessions

    • Commit to 1% Mindfulness Group

    • PC Winter Mindful Yoga (Tuesdays at 4:10 pm)

    • Morning Fitness Class (Monday, Wednesday and Friday)

    • Swim Some Laps at Lunch (on yellow Mondays that are really on a Monday)

    • Support Group for Parents of Kids Three Years and Younger

    • Work Hard, Rest Hard: Mindful Work-Life Balance

      And more sessions added all the time! Let me know what you’d like to see offered or teach!

Once again, here is the link to sign up for a workshop. If there’s a session you’d like to attend, but the timing doesn’t work, please email me (, and I can set up a one-to-one session. 

Below are some of the resources from January workshops that you can take a look at your convenience.


As always, I am happy to meet with you to discuss specific workshops you’d like to attend or teach. I’m also available to facilitate a Critical Friends Group, arrange a classroom visit, and/or arrange a one-to-one session with a mentor on a topic of your choice.  Hope to see you at the TLC!



It’s not too late to apply for a VITAL grant! VITAL proposals are due on Monday, Feb. 10.  Take a look at our VITAL webpage to learn about past VITAL projects and find links to the application and the criteria the VITAL Selection committee uses to evaluate proposals. Feel free to direct any questions to the VITAL selection committee co-clerks, Ruth Aichenbaum and David Brightbill.