By: Natalie Neuhaus, Reporter '21
Throughout the past decade, Friends’ Central has continued to bring new and positive changes into many aspects of the school. From the new dining hall to changes in the athletic and wellness program, Friends’ Central has improved and changed for the better. To get a better understanding of what changes have been made at FCS over these last ten years, I interviewed a few teachers, getting their thoughts and insight. Each faculty member I interviewed shared different, but very thoughtful, responses to the changes FCS has had over this past decade.
Mr. Dankoff, who has been teaching at Friends’ Central for the past seventeen years, talked a lot about how the new dining hall, which was renovated in 2017, has been such a positive change: “The biggest single change, and I think one of the best things was the renovation of Shallcross Hall. Shallcross was pretty awful, the line to get food was the most un-Quakerly place on our campus. It was rowdy… it lead to un-Quakerly behaviour.” Ms. Plunkett, who has been teaching at Friends Central since 2001 and is currently in her eighteenth year teaching, also noted changes in the dining hall. However, she discussed these changes in relation to environmental stewardship: “The school has also recently made a commitment to environmental stewardship. Years ago everything was plastic utensils and styrofoam, but now the school invested in all of the china and silverware for the dining hall.”
Another physical change that Mr. Dakoff mentioned was the renovation of the main building. He says, “We renovated the first floor of the main building, and that lead to a lot of changes of people's first impressions of the school, and that's a pretty big change… its a much more comfortable space for visitors and that is huge.” Along with the physical changes made over the past years, Mr. Dankoff connected the use of technology and the way in which it has been integrated into student life to his teaching: “The school is one-to-one and that requires students to have a device… I can build lessons around that. It can be much more dynamic and engaged teaching.” Eight years ago it became required for students to have a device; for a bit it was an iPad, then it could be a variety of different things. This year, starting with the Class of 2023, every student is provided and Chromebook, which helps teachers plan lessons and gives every student the ability to access technology both at school and at home.
Additionally, both Mr. Dankoff and Ms. Plunkett brought up the changes made to the Athletics Program. One thing Ms. Plunkett talked about was the change to wellness credits, which now gives students who do not want to take part in a team sport credit for doing other things that they enjoy, such as the play or an outside of school sport that Friends’ Central does not offer. To get a better understanding of the specific changes made in the athletics program, I asked Mrs. Crowley how FCS athletics has changed and evolved over these last ten years. She explained to me that, as the years have gone on, many more students now specialize in individual sports outside of school, sports that FCS does not have. We see that for about 15% of the student population. Along with an increase in individual sports, the athletics program has done much more work surrounding mindset, nutrition, sleep, and recovery, making these things an important part of every athlete’s experience.
Of all of the changes Ms. Plunkett talked about, the biggest change she has seen over the past decade is how the student body and the administration has become much more diverse. She says they are working on making the faculty more diverse as well. When I asked Ms. Plunkett what has been her favorite change in the past decade, she quickly told me that the return of Ms. Beth as the Upper School Principal has been her absolute favorite change. Ms. Plunkett says, “I worked with Ms. Beth when she was the Dean of Students. Not only does she support her teachers, she is eminently fair. The thing about Ms. Beth is that she makes it fun, and we were missing that. It is so much better now that she is back and in charge.”
At the end of my interviews with both Mr. Dankoff and Ms. Plunkett, I asked them what are some of the changes that they wish to see in the future at Friends’ Central. Both gave me great thoughts on the possible changes that could be made in the next ten years and beyond. Mr. Dankoff talked about his hope of renovating Rex Gym in the next five or ten years, which is currently only used during certain times of the year. He says, “There is so much potential there. It’s a beautiful space it’s right on kind of the heart [of campus]. It opens onto the oval, and it could be a multi-purpose space.” Ms. Plunkett explained to me that the one thing that she feels Friends’ Central is starting to do is address important issues that occur in today's world and then take them on rather than just react to them and leave it at that. She explained to me that she hopes Friends’ Central will continue to do this as the years go on.