Announcing New Interim Head of School Beth D. Johnson '77
On January 8, James C. Wright, Clerk of the Board of Trustees, announced to the School community on behalf of the Board that Beth D. Johnson ’77 will be stepping into the role of Interim Head of Friends’ Central School beginning July 2021. Craig N. Sellers completes his nine-year tenure as Head of School at the end of this school year.
In his message, James Wright described Beth Johnson as a “gifted, seasoned, and visionary leader.” She brings with her a wealth of talent and school leadership experience, along with a genuine warmth and natural exuberance that make her ideally suited to the role. Currently serving as Upper School Principal, Beth is a proud “lifer” who first joined the Friends’ Central community in 1963, when she entered the School as a nearly four-year-old. One of her earliest memories is of sitting in the Kindergarten classroom – now a Middle School teaching and conference space – looking up at the Noah’s Ark mosaic above the fireplace which can be found there to this day.
When reflecting on her Friends’ Central education, Beth noted the impact it has had on her own life. She values the combination of the academic preparation and Friends values she learned as a student and remarked they have guided her decisions and kept her at Friends’ Central for all these years. “The testimonies of the Religious Society of Friends have been in my heart and helped inform all aspects of my life – professional as well as personal,” Beth said. “Unique to Friends’ Central is the way continuing revelation (the Quaker belief that new truth is revealed to us as we continue our spiritual journeys individually and with one another) plays such an important role in everything we do. This particular testimony will be at the forefront for me as I take on this new role.”
Beth went on to say, “Continuing revelation is also the spark for both the intellectual engagement and transformational relationships that are at the heart of Friends’ Central. As I look ahead, these will be at the center of my support for Friends’ Central’s strategic plan, Plan 175, and our division principals, faculty, and staff. I am confident that they are unmatched and that, together, they go further for our students and our community. ”
“The testimonies of the Religious Society of Friends have been in my heart and helped inform all aspects of my life – professional as well as personal.”
Beth D. Johnson ’77
Beth graduated from Friends’ Central in 1977, proceeding to graduate summa cum laude from St. Joseph’s University with a degree in Elementary Education. She returned to Friends’ Central in 1987 as Assistant Director of Admission. She has since taken on numerous different roles at the School, including Day Camp Director, Interim Director of Diversity, Director of Admission and Financial Aid, Upper School Co-Principal and Dean of Students, and, most recently, Upper School Principal and Assistant Head of School for Student Life. Beth’s many contributions along the way give her an essential breadth and depth of knowledge of the School’s many dimensions. In addition to her administrative roles, Beth has also helped with the School’s capital campaigns, participated in Long-Range Planning processes, co-founded Parents of Students of Color (PSOC), taught math in both Upper and Lower School, worked in our summer programs, coached Varsity cheerleading, and coordinated the Wynnefield Community Scholar Program.
In 2012, Beth left Friends’ Central to serve the William Penn Charter School as Director of Upper and Middle School Admission. In 2018, the School was thrilled to welcome her back as Upper School Principal.
In 2009, Beth completed a Master of Science in Education in the School Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania. For the past 11 years, she has worked as a program mentor, advising masters candidates on matters of leadership and serving on a team that evaluates group inquiry projects and assesses internship performance. Beth has been called upon by organizations like the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), A Better Chance, Inc., and the Council for Women in Independent Schools (CWIS) to share her expertise and present on issues ranging from diversity to educating for the future. In recent years, Beth offered workshops for the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (PAISBOA).
Beth’s daughters Tanya Johnson-Muse ’02 and Kristen Johnson-Reid ’03 are also FCS alumnae. Tanya was the first second-generation African American student to graduate from the School. And Tanya’s two sons, current Middle and Lower School students, are Friends’ Central’s first third-generation African American students. Tanya herself is now a beloved Kindergarten teacher at Friends’ Central’s Lower School. Kristen is a Practice Operations Administrator at Penn Medicine.
“When I think about what the world is like right now, it’s not lost on me that a Black woman is going to be sitting in the Head of School’s Office,” Beth noted. “It’s really important to recognize this moment. It feels like an incredible weight, incredible opportunity, and incredible blessing all at the same time. My mind goes to Betty-Ann Workman who knew my mother. Betty-Ann was a woman of color and a former Head of Friends School Haverford. It’s wonderful to have her memory and her smile and have her shoulders to stand on.”
As Beth begins the transition to her new role, she has been grateful for the support she has already received from current Head of School Craig N. Sellers. “Craig continues to be supportive. His graciousness in pledging to work closely with me to affect a smooth transition is characteristic of his generosity,” she said.
“I am so pleased that Beth Johnson will step into the Interim Head of School role – she will be exceptional!” Craig wrote in his message to the community. “The prospect of such a prominent and devoted alumna leading FCS speaks to the many ways a Friends’ Central education has inspired students for decades and affirms that her vision and values will fit perfectly with the Board’s future plans.”
Beth maintains a special connection with many of the School’s alumni/ae and is a popular presence at Reunions and other alumni/ae events. “The thing I love the most about Beth is her ability to connect with alums of all generations,” Director of Alumni/ae Relations Linda Waxman Wasserman ’75 reflected. “She is considerate, understanding, and compassionate, and she knows how to make everyone feel welcome and valued. Her passion for education, social justice, and the well-being of others have allowed her to enrich the lives of countless alums, not only as a role model and mentor, but also as a friend.”
“The thing I love the most about Beth is her ability to connect with alums of all generations.”
Linda Waxman Wasserman ’75
Director of Alumni/ae Relations
“I’ve been so excited about having the responsibility, as well as the opportunity, to meet alums I’ve never met before and to foster connections with all alums – some I haven’t seen in quite some time and others I know well,” Beth said. “We’re all part of this wonderful community. One revered alumnus, Clayton Farraday ’32, is someone I wish I could call. Clayton was utterly devoted to Friends’ Central, serving our School in a number of important ways, including as acting Head of School. It is his office I occupy now, and in many ways, I feel I am following in his footsteps.”
Asked what she most looks forward to when she takes the reins this July, Beth replied without hesitation, “Getting to know everyone and having everyone know me – I’m excited about that.” She plans to be a presence throughout the School, in all divisions and at as many events as possible; she doesn’t want to be thought of as working in one office in one building. “I really feel that the most amazing part about our School is the sense of community,” she said. “I want to help foster this wonderful, relational sense of our School.”
“I was blessed to be asked to speak at my daughter Kristen’s Commencement in 2003,” she continued. “I remember that my speech was titled ‘Friends’ Central: It’s All About the People.’ And I think that’s really true. One of our current students, in speaking to a prospective family about why he chose Friends’ Central, said that when he visited other schools, they all emphasized the great relationships that students had with their teachers, but when he came to Friends’ Central, he actually saw it in action, and that’s why he chose this School. We are a unique community with incredibly interesting and vigorous and intellectual educational opportunities. But we do this with this element of relationship and community that is really so special and different than any other school. And it’s true for generation after generation.”
Along with her outstanding record of leadership and commitment to the School, Beth is best known for her ebullience and warmth. “I love to find joy in everything I do.”
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