Know Your Schools

Fun facts and more about 38 Main Line institutions.


Fun facts and more about 38 Main Line institutions.


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The Baldwin School
+ Baldwin is located in the former Bryn Mawr Hotel, which was designed by Frank Furness and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

+ Eighth grade chemistry and 12th grade advanced environmental science teacher Tiffany Hays was selected as the 2007 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for the state of Pennsylvania by the Eastern Section of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.

+ One third of Baldwin graduates major in science or math in college, which is significantly higher than the national average—particularly for girls.


The Agnes Irwin School
+ There’s a reason students at the Agnes Irwin School celebrated the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birthday last year. Following in the footsteps of her great-great grandfather, who founded the University of Pennsylvania, Miss Agnes Irwin founded AIS and was the first headmistress of the school named for her. She went on to become the first dean of Radcliffe College in 1894.

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+ Agnes Irwin has had an all-girls robotics team for five years. Most recently, Femme Tech Fatale—composed of 13 upper school students, along with faculty advisors Thomas Weissert and Greg Scott—spent six intensive weeks turning sheets of metal, spools of wire, pieces of wood and lengths of plastic tubing into a working robot. All the work occurred in the school’s Arts and Science Center, which has a room designed for robotics.

Country Day School of the Sacred Heart
+ Once a year, the school holds a “congé”—a surprise in-school holiday in which classes are suspended and a few teachers and students plan a day filled with “games, skits and sweet treats.” Students are organized into teams to participate in the all-day activities.

+ Many field trips are offered in support of Sacred Heart’s “Integrated Humanities Curriculum,” an innovative approach where students study literature, art and music as a unified whole. Instead of focusing on different subjects in a vacuum, kids see connections across the curriculum and how their studies relate to different historical eras. Trips are organized so students can experience firsthand the art, music or historic sites of certain time periods. For example, seniors who study world literature travel to Washington, D.C., to see the Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. They also visit the Barnes Foundation three times a year.

Episcopal Academy
+ EA shares the longest-running high school athletics rivalry in the country with the Haverford School.

+ The school was founded in 1785, before the Constitution was actually signed.
+ Two members of the founding trustees of the school were signers of the Declaration of Independence—Pennsylvania delegates Robert Morris and Francis Hopkinson.

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+ The first Episcopalian bishop of Philadelphia, William White, helped found Episcopal Academy. He was also chaplain to the Continental Congress.

+ Incoming freshmen are required to attend a five-day Outward Bound program in Pisgah National Forest outside Asheville, N.C., to help break down social barriers and unite the class. The goal is to show kids what they’re capable of and expose them to situations they might not be familiar with. Administrators say it helps instill a lasting sense of discipline.

+ EA is one of the few schools in the area with a robust voluntary community service program; 80 percent of its students participate, although there is no school requirement and no credit is received. Programs include trips to Tanzania (to work in villages decimated by AIDS) and the Sioux
Indian reservations of South Dakota (one of the poorest counties in the United States). Locally, there are 30 different programs in and around the Philadelphia area. Administrators and students alike see volunteering as a core part of the school’s mission.

+ Over the course of its history, EA has moved at least nine times.


Friends’ Central School
The current presidents of Harvard University and Haverford College both sent their children to Friends’ Central.

+ On Nov. 15, two Friends’ Central alums will have a reunion of sorts—on the basketball court. Sacramento Kings point guard Mustafa Shakur (2003) will share the NBA spotlight with Memphis Grizzlies forward and fellow FCS alum Hakim Warrik (2001). The teams will meet at least two more times during the regular season.

+ Middle and upper School students at Friends’ Central complete 21,206 hours of community service every year.



Harriton High School
+ Harriton is one of 426 schools nationwide, and one of only two in the Philadelphia area, to offer the International Baccalaureate diploma program. A rigorous pre-college liberal arts curriculum for highly motivated students, it’s designed to meet the entrance requirements of the best universities. The diploma model is based on various national education systems, incorporating the best elements from countries around the world. Originally established in 1967 for international schools, IB is now recognized as a leading educational philosophy in more than 100 countries.

+ The Harriton Science Olympiad team has won three national championships in the past 12 years—the most of any school in the country—and has placed in the U.S. top 10 in every competition. Harriton’s streak of 12 consecutive state titles is believed to be the longest active championship streak of any competitive team—athletic, academic or otherwise—in Pennsylvania. At the national level, Harriton regularly goes up against (and defeats) admissions-based science and tech schools with double or triple the student enrollment. Olympiad students have earned something akin to rock-star status in the Harriton community. When the team won its last national title in 2006, the awards ceremony was broadcast live from Chicago on the district’s cable channel, and team
members returned to a red-carpet ceremony at school.

+ For the annual Harriton tradition “Senior Signs,” seniors create and hang posters that celebrate their friends’ destination choices for the following year—be it college or something else. Beginning in December (when the first early acceptance letters are mailed) and concluding in late May, school lobbies are filled with colorful, often elaborate signs and slogans (one example: “Temple just got better times 10, now that they have Jen”). Administrators monitor the size of the posters and limit their number to one per senior.

The Haverford School
+ Based on its successful 2006-2007 swimming and diving season, Haverford is ranked 13th out of 300 schools in the country for high schools with under 900 students. (By National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association standards, each swimmer’s times are awarded certain points based on how fast they are. The NISCA compiles the teams’ best times to come up with a total score. )

+ English department chair Delia Turner made the World Championship Fencing Team for the third straight year. At the USFA National Championships this past July in Miami, she won the over-50 women’s saber fencing competition. She also won the World Championships in Bath, England, last year and placed second the year before.

+ Haverford middle schoolers can opt for a fun extracurricular activity: juggling.


Haverford School District
+ The district aims to provide students with a “Responsive Classroom” setting where respect and non-violence are fostered. Teachers participate in a weeklong workshop based on the philosophy of teaching students “socially and academically side-by-side” beginning at the elementary school level.

Lower Merion High School
+ The Lower Merion boys’ basketball team has won more state titles (six) than any other team in Pennsylvania. While the past 15 years have been notable for two titles and the career of Kobe Bryant, the team also won four under legendary Coach Bill Anderson in the 1930s and ’40s, including three straight from 1941 to 1943. Anderson is the school’s all-time win leader with 346; current head coach Gregg Downer is second with 320.

+ The schools’s most popular student activity is the LM Players, the renowned student-run theater company. Nearly 400 kids—a quarter of the school’s enrollment—participate in at least one production during the year. Performances regularly draw a packed house, prompting the development of an LM Players website with online ticket sales. More than 3,500 people filled the auditorium for a recent three-day run of Bye Bye Birdie.


+ Ten years ago, Lower Merion student orchestra director Tom Elliot worked with a friend and former Disney artist to develop Maestro the Lion, a musical mascot to accompany the high school’s symphony orchestra during children’s concerts. Maestro is now a musical force and an independent non-profit organization with plans to go nationwide. The annual Maestro the Lion’s Children’s Concert Series at Lower Merion and Maestro-themed children’s books have introduced thousands of Philadelphia-area youth to classical music.

+ Lower Merion is a host school for “A Better Chance,” a program that enables disadvantaged, academically talented inner-city youth from across the country to attend some of the nation’s best college preparatory schools. It’s also part of ABC’s Community Schools Program, which places students in 25 of the top school communities nationwide. The three-story ABC House in Ardmore opened in 1973 and is home to eight students, who are supervised by a resident director and assisted by two resident tutors. ABC students’ prospects for college
acceptance and success are markedly better as a result.

Malvern Preparatory School
+ Ninety percent of Malvern Prep seniors are accepted to their first-choice college; 100 percent to their second choice.

+ Among its bevy of student artists, Malvern Prep has two Pennsylvania state champion pianists, Alexander Tran (7th grade) and Aaron Snyder (11th grade).

+ During the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Paoli was fought on school grounds. Malvern Prep history teacher and alum Thomas J.McGuire is nationally recognized as the premier scholar on Philadelphia-area Revolutionary War battles. He’s published three books: The Philadelphia Campaign, Volume I: Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia, The Battle of Paoli and, most recently, The Philadelphia Campaign, Volume II: Germantown and the Roads to Valley Forge.

Marple-Newtown School District
+ Marple-Newtown’s HI-Q program is the longest-running academic program in the Philadelphia region. Every public, private and parochial high school in Delaware County participates (21 in all). The three highest-scoring schools compete in playoffs. Marple-Newtown won the contest two years in a row and was honored by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in May.

+ Last year, school superintendent Meryl Horowitz established Sponsor a Scholar, a mentor program that helps acquire college funds for eligible high school students—generally freshman who’ve exhibited university-caliber potential (good character, GPA and discipline). Mentors work with those selected to ensure that they’re on the right track. Upon graduation, students receive a check for the specified sponsor amount to put toward college.

+ The district offers parents 24-hour access to their children’s progress, posting period grades, attendance and assignments via its online Parent Portal.

+ This past May, the district held the region’s first-ever parent education conference, with workshops on college
admissions, financial aid, improving SAT scores, helping special needs children, enhancing gifted children’s learning and prepping for AP courses.

+ Marple-Newtown has an advanced emergency notification system, Global Connect, that calls up to six phone numbers per child in four minutes and continues until contact is made.

+ Each October, the district brings together 11th grade students and community and business leaders to learn about a variety of careers. Junior Initiative offers students insight into four career paths from a personal perspective.

+ The district offers a Renaissance Program for high school and middle school students. The comprehensive, goal-oriented initiative was developed nationally to reward kids for achieving certain criteria (grades, participation, conduct) with privileges, awards and recognition. It’s particularly beneficial for kids with special needs who can’t compete academically.

Merion Mercy Academy
+ Merion Mercy’s new principal, S. Barbara Buckley, is an alum.

+ Merion Mercy students hail from 73 zip codes, 45 school districts and two states. This year, the school welcomed students from Uganda, Spain and South Korea.

+ MMA’s mean score on the writing portion of the SATs is 630.

+ All students dedicate time to service and/or social justice activities.

+ MMA’s class of 2007 earned 297 scholarships and $9,268,392 in scholarship and grant monies (an average of about $75,000 per student). 

+ The school’s literary magazine, Image Explosion, has been awarded a gold medal rating by the Pennsylvania School Press Association nine times.

+ Toshiba Exploravision organizers awarded MMA’s freshman team the national top prize for its Passenger Tire Waste Heat Recovery System project. The competition is geared toward budding scientists and the spirit of innovation, creativity and the use of science in daily life.

+ Created by professional and student artists, the artwork in the school chapel inspired the book Women of Mercy.


Radnor School District
+ Radnor Middle School’s new vegetative roof is a first for any public school in the region. Instead of black tar, the roof
is white to support plants that produce oxygen, reduce stormwater runoff and keep the building’s temperature down.

+ All Radnor schools have geothermic wells (dug 500 feet deep under the playgrounds) that rely on natural heat from the earth to moderate temperature for energy conservation.


The Shipley School
+ The site of Shipley’s Gladwyne Farm Fields, where the Gators have won seven Friends Schools League titles in the last two years, was once a working farm and dairy that provided food for students. Now covered by synthetic turf, The Farm is home to Shipley’s soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams.
+ Head of School Steve Piltch reads to pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade classes once a week. He initiated the ritual early in his 15-year-tenure at Shipley.

St. Joseph’s Preparatory School
+ St. Joe’s Prep draws from more than 260 elementary schools and 158 zip codes throughout the Delaware Valley.

+ President Rev. William J. Byron, S.J. (1945), is one of the preeminent Catholic authors in the country, having written or edited more than a dozen books and several hundred articles on the Church and faith.

+ Under the direction of noted Philadelphia actor and comedian Tony Braithwaite (1989), the Cape and Sword Drama Society has established itself as one of the top high school drama societies in the area, winning 15 Cappies (Philadelphia’s high school version of the Tony Awards) over the past two years and selling out all 16 performances in 2006-’07. In 2007-’08, Cape and Sword will perform three shows—Death of a Salesman, 12 Angry Men and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.


+ The Phillie Phanatic is a former Prep student (Tom Burgoyne, 1983). Other alums have inhabited the bodies of Phlex (Phantoms), SocceRoo (Kixx), the Bulldog (Wings), the SJU Hawk, the Wisconsin Badger, the Villanova Wildcat and the Fairfield Stag, among others.

+ Faculty members average more than 20 years of service to the school, and many are alumni who have returned
“home.” Of the full-time faculty, more than 90 percent hold master’s degrees.

+ The Prep offers “Mandarin Chinese I,” “II” and “III” in its modern language department.

+ The school’s annual book drive collects more than 10,000 books for local elementary schools and charitable organizations.



Valley Forge Military Academy
+ A boarding school with an 80-year history, the academy just opened its first day school program this fall for students in grades 7-12.

+ Recently departed English teacher John Granger is the author of several books on Harry Potter, including Looking for God in Harry Potter and Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader.


+ Along with a mandatory non-denominational Sunday chapel service that focuses on leadership and character building, the academy holds a weekly parade (open to the public) with an entire core of cadets and horses, and a battery of trucks and motorcycles. Part of the Sunday Regimental Review, the event calls upon the entire core of cadets to form up in units and parade past reviewers and onlookers who evaluate such skills as marching in formation. Company of the Day is awarded each week, with the ultimate prize being Company of the Year.


West Chester School District
+ All three high schools came out of West Chester High School, which was founded in 1866 and burned down in 1947.


+ Only five girls attended West Chester High School when it first opened.

+ New in 2006, Rustin High School is named after civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, a 1932 graduate of West Chester High School who worked with Martin Luther King Jr., organizing his march on Washington.

+ Henderson High School’s Boys Speaking Contest was started back in 1890. Competitors are evaluated on how well they interpret a published selection of their choosing. Winning the contest is still considered one of the greatest honors among students. Thankfully, there’s now Girls Speaking Contest as well.

+ The old high school used to have a “heated” Turkey Day competition with Conestoga High School, a popular rivalry with students. Now the rivalry is between West Chester East and Henderson high schools. Rustin competes with Bishop Shanahan in a similar competition, which takes place the day before Thanksgiving.


Westtown School
+ Westtown offers month-long exchange programs to Mexico, France (Normandy or Martinique) and Germany for students studying the languages.

+ Committed to environmentalism, adventure learning, leadership and service, Westtown is one of only a handful of schools selected to be part of the Round Square International Program, an association of 50 schools on five continents. Every year, they sponsor international service projects in different countries, where students learn about the environmental issues facing that region. This year’s service project is in Peru.

+ The Flexible Flyer sled and the Slinky were both invented by Westtown alums. Students still use antique Flyers on school grounds.


Renovation Rundown

The latest upgrades at local schools.

Academy of Notre Dame de Namur
Harron Family Building, featuring a state-of-the-art library and a gymnasium with two full-sized basketball courts and fitness room. Current gym will be redesigned as a gathering space with new lighting, sound system and stage curtains; seven additional classrooms and new music and language labs also planned.
Completion date: January 2007.
Cost: $8 million.
Funding: capital campaign.

The Baldwin School
Athletic center with six-lane swimming pool; gymnasium; three-lane jogging track; tennis courts; practice fields; fitness center; multipurpose studio for dance, yoga, aerobics and small performances; and more.
Completion date: f
all 2008.
Cost: $21.5 million.
Funding: capital campaign.

Episcopal Academy
A 213-acre campus in Newtown Square, with seven
major buildings—lower, middle and upper schools;
science center; chapel; athletic center; campus center.
Completion date: September 2008.
Cost: $212.5 million.
Funding: capital campaign; sale of Merion and Devon properties. 

The Haverford School
Upper school project includes a new glass, steel and brick
facility with a pavilion; two-story library; connecting corridor with informal meeting places, computer access, lockers, etc.; classrooms; and an arts and sciences center. Qualifies for gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
Completion date:
August 2008.
Cost: $41 million.

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!