By Vicky Liu ‘20, School News and Features Reporter 10-1-18
Mrs. Beth Davis Johnson ‘77, our Upper School Principal, is living, breathing, smiling proof that indeed, one can go home again. Friends’ Central is undoubtedly “home” for Mrs. Johnson, or “Ms. Beth,” as she likes to be called. Ms. Beth attended FCS from pre-K through 12th grade. Ten years after her graduation, she returned by joining Friends’ Central’s admission office. She later served as the Dean of Students and the Upper School Co-principal for eight years, until 2012, when she left FCS to serve the William Penn Charter School as Director of Upper and Middle School Admission. In July, Ms. Beth finally came home for good to City Avenue, and is now serving as the Upper School principal. She states with enthusiasm, “It feels great to be back on campus. It feels like home.”
Ms. Beth recalls why she made the decision to go to Penn Charter in the first place: “After being here for so many years, I thought that I was ever going to work anywhere else, I’d better think about it and do it at that time. I knew I would work in a Quaker school, and I knew a number of people at Penn Charter, so it felt like the right move.” However, while Ms. Beth certainly spent the better part of the past decade away from Friends’ Central, her love of the school never left her heart. She confesses, “It didn’t take a full year [away from the school before I started to] miss all the students here. The idea of coming back to work with [FCS] students again started to feel like a bigger and bigger draw to my heart.” She adds, “The more time went by, the more I was reconciling with myself that I was going to need to work with students [here] again. As I was getting to this realization, the opportunity of working at Friends’ Central became a possibility. So it was the perfect timing.”
Having now been reunited with her Friends’ Central family for just over two months, Ms. Beth is quick to compliment all of the aspects of Friends’ Central which made her want to return. Firstly, she appreciates how the school hears and values every voice. She elaborates, “I love the sense of community. I love that there is kindness. I love that we’re always trying to make sure that everyone are not only welcomed and valued but also feels that the school is theirs.” Secondly, Ms. Beth mentions, “We all take the work, whether it’s jobs or studying, more seriously than we take ourselves.” In fact, she herself possesses this quality. She constantly is setting goals, looking at the big picture of the school, and encouraging the faculty to do the same, all in the effort to make the FCS experience as remarkable as possible for every student who sets foot on campus. She meets with students by advisory and pays attention to their experiences, thus allowing her to be more supportive and helpful. However, in the midst of her hectic schedule, filled with serious tasks, having fun is one of Ms. Beth’s main priorities. She states, “That's why I instituted Principal’s Night Out, which is an opportunity for us to hang out, do fun things, have great food and just have fun.” She also shares that working with other Upper School administrators everyday is simply a joy.
Mrs. Johnson admits that some changes have occurred on campus over the course of her absence. As an example, she notes, “There is more diversity represented in the student body and in the faculty. To me, it’s all about the people.” She continues by discussing our invariable school spirit: “Whether on purpose or not, there is a kindness that comes through whether we are talking about areas of our curriculum, sports, arts, or Peace Day, which I think has something to do with being a Quaker School. There is a wonderful spirit of collaboration, which I interpret as people being open to learning, continuing new revelation, the voices of others, the experience of others, and to take all of those things to make meaning for ourselves.” Overall, she views Friends’ Central as a highly-academic, diverse, caring, and kind Quaker school with incredible faculty, staff, and students. She adds with confidence, “I think we should be the school of choice in the area.”
In addition to the school’s existing excellence, Ms. Beth hopes to bring new elements into the community such as helping with our school’s new teaching kitchen-food lab and being involved with Justice Core Team. She looks forward to being a catalyst in helping the school and the community grow and get even better. During the interview, she pointed towards the door to her office: “This door, for so many people, was a wall, because it was usually closed.” Therefore, starting at the beginning of this school year, Ms. Beth has chosen to keep the door open as much as possible. She explains, “What I want to project by having the door open is not just to show that my office is open but that I am open.” Ms. Beth wants students to think of her more as a person who advocates for, supports, and listens to them, and less as a disciplinarian. She wants the principal’s office to be a place of growth, change, and vision.
Personal note: Ms. Beth, welcome back! We are looking forward to both working hard and having fun in the years ahead. We are so happy you decided to come home.
Vicky Liu ‘20, on behalf of FOCUS club members