Head of School Welcome
"In community, we survive and thrive together, we perish and struggle apart."
Head of School Darryl J. Ford addressed students in grades 1 through 12 at the annual All-School Assembly on Sept. 8. His remarks appear below. Watch a brief video welcome from Dr. Ford.
I welcome you – our students, faculty and staff to the 2016 – 2017 school year. This year we welcome 109 new families and over 150 new students who join Penn Charter. For those of you who are new, we are thrilled that you have chosen PC as your school.
Schools are characterized by cycles – new beginnings each September, endings and new beginnings upon graduation, and times when adults retire to move to the next phase of their lives. Friends, Mr. Ed Jones has worked as a security person for us for almost 20 years. For you Lifers, Mr. Jones welcomed you in Kindergarten, saw your move into Middle School, and directed you when you began to drive in Upper School. He always provided a friendly hello to students, parents, faculty, and staff. Let us thank Mr. Jones for his 20 years of service to Penn Charter and congratulate him on his retirement.
People like Mr. Jones are at the heart of the Penn Charter community. This year our theme is the Quaker Testimony of community. We often speak of community as being one of the most special characteristics, which defines who we are as a school. To help us understand this year’s theme, we have banners around campus. One gives us a quick definition of community: Fellowship with others who share common attitudes, interests, and goals. The other banners ask three important questions of us: 1) What does my community give to me? 2) What do I give to my community? 3) What does my community give to the world? I hope you and your teachers will take time to consider these queries throughout the school year, and I believe they will help us all to focus on our theme.
Today, however, I want to share a story with you all. It is a story that I learned more than twenty years ago, adapted for Penn Charter, and told when I addressed the Middle School students and faculty at my first Middle School Assembly. Because two decades have past since I first shared this, I will make a few updates to the story for today. It is called “Sticks.”
Once upon a time, a bleak midwinter snowstorm trapped twelve people at very old Quaker school. They were stuck in the Overseers Room in the main building where a warm fire was burning. Each person possessed one stick of wood that could keep the fire burning until the next morning when everyone could be rescued.
It should have been clear what each person could do for the group. However, each made a personal decision.
- The principal said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire to warm these people who have constantly criticized me. They don’t appreciate my leadership. They don’t do as I say.”
- The teacher said, “I am not putting my stick on the fire to warm these students who think they know everything about everything, grub for grades, and won’t listen to me in class and to my great ideas."
- The new student said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire for all of these old students who ignore me, won’t elect me to any office, keep me off of the basketball team, and don’t invite me to parties – all because I’m new."
- The returning student said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire for the new students who keep changing everything that I have always done the right way all of the time at my school."
- The Overseer said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire to warm these people who could have bought more sticks for many fires many years ago at a cheaper price but, instead, spent the money on foolish things like cushions for the Meeting Room benches and artificial turf fields."
- The field hockey player said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire to warm everyone else because I need it to play field hockey. What would I do without my stick?"
- The drummer said, “Hey dude, I need my stick to play drums so I’m not putting it on the fire.”
- The choir member said, “I’ve got to keep warm so my voice will sound good for next week’s concert, so I am holding on to my stick for later.”
- The back-up quarterback said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire to warm the first string quarterback because I never get to play in any games.”
- The parent said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire to warm teachers because I don’t like the way they grade my child’s papers.”
- The kindergartner said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire because I will need it later in May to dig for worms for our worm sale.”
- The administrative assistant said, “I am not going to put my stick on the fire because I need it to draw a line in the sand so that no one will cross it and get on my nerves.”
And so it was cold, too cold, and the fire went out, and they all perished. They perished not because of the cold from without, but from the cold within.
So here is the lesson: In community, we survive and thrive together and we perish and struggle apart.
So as we take on difficult topics this year – topics like politics; socio- economic status; race, equity, and justice; gender; and many, many issues – I hope we, as a school, can tackle differences of opinion, strive to understand others’ points of view with empathy, and remember that in community, we survive and thrive together.
Welcome to this new school year, which promises to be one of great learning and great growth. Welcome to the opportunity to lean in and explore what pulls us apart and what holds us together as a community.
In the midst of it all, I hope you will not hold onto your individual sticks, but share them freely with others when we, as a community, just might need them the most.
More Opening Remarks for 2016-2017
Senior Class Co-Presidents Amira Martin and Joshua Patton.