Friends Meeting School Annual Reports
The text of recently received Annual Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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Friends Meeting school once again ended its fiscal year with a small surplus. We are grateful for the careful financial stewardship of head of school Mara Nicastro, and the generosity and commitment of our school community. We graduated three seniors this year, all college-bound. Our enrollment is growing again, having recovered from the slump that accompanied the Great Recession. We will have about 85 students next year, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Quaker testimonies of peace and equality are central to the mission of Friends Meeting School. We are actively seeking to increase the diversity of our already diverse student body and to find ways to expand our international student program. We have introduced a “Restorative Resolution” program that trains student mediators to resolve conflicts among their peers. The “Student Peace Awards of Frederick County” program, under the guidance of Friends Meeting School, is now in its third year. Twelve high schools in Frederick County participated in 2016-2017, and our list of sponsors continues to grow. The awards ceremony in May focused on exploration of the question of “What is Peace,” and gave each awardee a chance to speak of how their experience of service has shaped their plans for the future.
Environmental stewardship is also a major focus of activity. Friends Meeting School is developing a small farming program to teach students about hydroponics and sustainable agriculture. We have received a generous grant from the Miles White Beneficial Society to host a Quaker farming conference this coming fall. The Middle School students have organized a “Great Garden Heroes” program that will help support local food banks. The opportunity for students of all ages to enjoy and explore our fifty-acre campus is an important part of learning at Friends Meeting School.
The Friends Meeting School Board of Trustees now numbers eleven, including six members of the Religious Society of Friends. The Board has just undertaken a strategic planning process that will support the growth of the school over the next five years. FMS is deeply committed to Quaker values, and offers an education that nurtures mind, body and spirit. We are proud to represent Baltimore Yearly Meeting In support of this work.
Deborah Haines (Alexandria) and Peirce Hammond (Bethesda)
BYM Representatives to the FMS Board
This has been an exciting year for Friends Meeting School. In May, the Association of Independent Schools of Maryland (AIMS) restored our accreditation and received us back into full membership. Accreditation had been suspended in the fall of 2012 because of concerns about the financial viability of the school. After three years of operating in the black under the leadership of our dynamic new head of school, Mara Nicastro, FMS was judged by AIMS to be financially strong enough to merit accreditation. Our academic program has never been in question
We graduated our largest high school class ever—eleven remarkable seniors, all of whom were able to enroll in a college of their choice. Our middle school students took many top honors in the Frederick County science fair. We were able to spin off our early education and pre-kindergarten programs, leasing space to Bluebell Early Learning Academy (BELA) for this purpose. The collaboration between FMS and BELA has proven very satisfactory. BELA is now providing before and after school care for our younger students and managing the summer camp program, as well as running a thriving pre-K program, allowing FMS to focus more on its elementary, middle school and high school programs.
The “Student Peace Awards of Frederick County” program, under the care of FMS, has been thriving in its second year. Twelve high schools participated in 2015-2016, as compared to four the first year. We had twenty-two sponsors helping to fund the awards, including banks, churches, local businesses, service organizations and individuals concerned about peace. The student awardees, nominated by the teachers and staff of participating high schools, had engaged in a wide variety of initiatives aimed at encouraging understanding and respect for all people, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. The awards ceremony in April was a deeply moving occasion, where the students spoke of their work and their dreams for the future, and engaged in an intergenerational dialogue with sponsors and guests.
The FMS spring musical, hosted by the Weinberg Center for the Arts, has become an annual tradition in the Frederick community. This year’s adaptation of “The Lion King”, performed in collaboration with the Maryland School for the Deaf, attracted the largest audience ever. A fundraiser for the Frederick Food Bank, it raised more than $2,000 in cash, and hundreds of pounds of food donations.
The Friends Meeting School Board of Trustees now numbers nine, including six members of the Religious Society of Friends. Friends Meeting School is deeply committed to Quaker values, and offers an education that nurtures mind, body and spirit. We are proud to represent Baltimore Yearly Meeting In support of that work
Deborah Haines (Alexander) and Peirce Hammond (Bethesda), BYM Representatives to the FMS Board
“A whole program, age 3 through 12th Grade, Friends Meeting School offers a college preparatory curriculum emphasizing Friends’ ideals of peace, equality, integrity and service. Vigorous academics are enriched with additional classes in music, drama, art, Spanish and physical education. Small classes and experienced teachers create a caring and creative learning environment encouraging joyful exploration inside and outside the classroom, taking full advantage of our 50-acre campus and the metropolitan area. Located in southern Frederick County - just minutes from I-270, I-70, and Montgomery County – we serve the communities of Frederick, Damascus, Hagerstown, Thurmont, Clarksburg, Gaithersburg, Urbana, Mt. Airy, and more.” (From FMS promotional materials)
In 2014-2015, Friends Meeting School increased its enrollment to just over 100 students, a level we hope to maintain and build on. We undertook a successful fundraising campaign that stabilized our operating budget. We graduated six seniors, all accepted into colleges of their choice. Our energetic new Head of School, Mara Nicastro, completed her first full year of innovative leadership. These are difficult times for small and independent schools, but we are optimistic about our future. The Quaker education we offer, as part of a community of Friends schools in the Baltimore-Washington area, speaks to a deep hunger in our society.
Here are some of the highlights of the past year:
Friends Meeting School was authorized to issue foreign student visas in June 2014, and we welcomed our first six international students, mostly from China, during the 2014-2015 school year. We are looking into ways to build on this initiative, perhaps by hosting a summer camp for Chinese students.
In April 2015, 1,200 trees were planted on our fifty-acre campus, to help protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We have also begun an organic farming initiative, with the help of a farmer who will be part of the FMS teaching staff. Our middle school students recently applied for and received a grant from Whole Foods to serve as “Garden Heroes” in partnership with the Frederick Food Bank.
Our annual spring musical this year was “Mulan, Jr.”, an adaptation of the Disney movie, presented in cooperation with the Chinese community in Frederick and a school for the deaf. As has been the tradition for a number of years, the public performance at the Weinberg Center in Frederick raised funds for the Frederick Food Bank, as well as 1,000 pounds of donated food.
We would love to deepen the connection between Friends Meeting School and Baltimore Yearly Meeting. If you are interested in Friends education, or any of these special projects, we encourage you to get involved.
Deborah Haines, BYM representative to the FMS Board of Trustees
Friends Meeting School, located in Ijamsville, Maryland, was founded in 1997, and now serves students from pre-K through Grade 12. The recent severe recession reduced enrollments and strained finances, but after several difficult years, the School appears to have turned a corner. Enrollment has stabilized at around 85 students, and we ended the 2013-2014 school year with a small surplus, due in large measure to the very generous financial support of the FMS parent community. We have just celebrated our second high school graduation. There were seven students in the graduating class of 2013, and three in the class of 2014. All were able to enroll in the college of their choice.
In March 2014, we brought in a permanent Head of School, Mara Nicastro, to replace Interim Head Wil Graham, who had served for two and a half years. Mara came to us from the Nora School in Silver Spring, Maryland. She brings to FMS not only a wealth of experience in independent education, but a calm, capable, reassuring presence and a deep desire to absorb and promote Quaker values. Under her leadership, the teachers and staff are rediscovering the excitement of Quaker pedagogy and the joy of being part of a mutually supportive community. One highlight of the spring was a day-long teacher training session led by Irene McHenry, outgoing head of the Friends Council on Education.
Quaker values and Quaker practices have always been foundational at FMS. The School’s motto is: “Seek and Speak Truth and Love.” Four of the eight members currently serving on the Board of Trustees are Quakers, including one nominated by Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Students participate in weekly meetings for worship, where queries are used to help them explore their own spiritual lives and share their insights with each other. Monthly themes, beginning with ‘That of God in Me’, and ‘That of God in Others’, are woven into the curriculum. The students engage in a wide variety of service projects. This spring the Board approved establishing the “Student Peace Awards of Frederick County,” modeled on the successful program pioneered by Herndon Friends Meeting in Virginia. Our dedicated teachers seek to incorporate peace and peacemaking into every aspect of the school curriculum and community, making it a signature theme of Friends Meeting School.
Submitted by Deborah Haines (Alexandria)
No report received.
No report received.