On Friday, September 30, 2022, we gathered as a community – students, faculty, staff, families, trustees, members of Buckingham Friends Meeting, former students and parents, and neighbors and elected officials – to break ground and set the stage for a series of thoughtful, transformative changes to our campus that will allow us to continue to carry out our mission to “honor the Light within each person, inspire scholarship and spiritual community, and instill the value of caring for others and our world.”
We share gratitude with everyone who has helped us get to this point in the story of Buckingham Friends School. We look over our shoulders and appreciate all that has been done before us as we draw from our collective strengths to prepare for future generations of students. We mark the ceremonial start to several projects that will transform our campus, support the fulfillment of our mission, and enhance teaching and learning at BFS for decades to come.
In this blog post, I would like to share with you the remarks that were spoken last Friday by some of the community members who have helped us to arrive at this moment. I invite you to consider their thoughts and reflections, and their caring aspirations for our students and for this School community.
Michael Godshall, the Clerk of the Board of Trustees for Buckingham Friends School:
I am honored to be the Clerk of the Board of one of the oldest continuously operating schools in the country. I hope I may speak for the rest of the board when I say that we honor that history by accepting a charge to move this extraordinary school into the future with care and in thoughtful and intentional ways. It is our duty to the stewards who have come before us, to our present students and community, and to future generations of students, teachers, and families.
We also feel a calling to the Quaker values that have brought us this far and inform our future direction. It is a part of our responsibility to the Buckingham Friends Meeting, to the school community, and to the communities around us to ensure that what has been created here endures into the future.
We fulfill our commitment to those who have led before us and to future leaders by ensuring that Buckingham Friends School continues to provide an exceptional, relevant education, with facilities and an educational environment that prepares students for the demands of a modern world and a global economy, while continuing to inspire the Inner Light of each person and the value of caring for one another and our world.
With this in mind, as a community, we initiated a thoughtful and inclusive strategic planning to determine how to achieve all of our goals. With input from students, faculty, alumni, parents, Meeting members, former parents and architects, we strived to protect what was precious while we designed facilities that would be aligned with our vision for the program and the future needs of students and teachers. I hope you will join me in celebrating this moment and in thanking everyone in our community for their valued care for the school and the valuable input and contributions they have provided.
Bethann Morgan ’77, Clerk of Buckingham Friends Meeting:
It is a great pleasure to be here today at beloved school Buckingham Friends School. As a proud graduate of BFS, I can say that I am so impressed that the commitment to honoring the Light of each individual is as strong today as it was 50 years ago when I attended the school.
As the Clerk of Buckingham Friends Meeting, and as the School remains under the care of the Meeting, I can tell you that the consistency of that commitment is so important to all of us and to the members of the Meeting.
Also important is the quality of the education that students receive at BFS. We value the quality of education that leads to future successes, and we are equally committed to each person’s Inner Light, that they may realize their promise, developing the qualities of personhood that they will carry forward and express as they let their lives speak. This is also an education based upon the Friends testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. It is important to Buckingham Friends Meeting that BFS live it’s mission, remain committed to the principles of Friends education and that these testimonies remain integral to the education of young people at our school.
I want to finish by sharing a description of the last of the “SPICES,” the testimony of Stewardship, from the American Friends Service Committee.
Testimony of Stewardship
Friends strive to use God’s gifts wisely, with gifts conceived in the broadest terms.
These gifts include our talents and possessions, as well as our natural environment.
Friends believe that such gifts are not ours alone.
To Friends, good stewardship means taking care of what has been given, not just for ourselves, but for the people around us and future generations as well.
Friends believe it is important to leave the world a better place.
In closing, I bring thanks from Buckingham Friends Meeting and best wishes as we continue our long and rewarding partnership, and as we all witness BFS as the School moves into the future.
Maggie Rash, Alumni Parent, Buckingham Township Supervisor:
I am so glad to be a part of this celebration. Thank you for inviting me to join you.
I’m going to speak first as an alumni parent when I say that I hold this place close in my heart. When my children were here BFS was, as I am sure it is now, an ideal partner and community setting for raising children. I was always confident that my children were learning values like those we taught at home, and also certain that they were in a safe space and appreciated for who they were as individuals. Not just recognized, but appreciated. My son Chris especially had amazing learning and personal experiences here. Every subsequent educational situation was more fruitful because of the foundation they developed at BFS. Driving to high school the first morning Chris said, “Buckingham Friends made me the person I am today.” I think we can all say the same: Buckingham Friends makes us the people we are today!
As a Supervisor for Buckingham Township, and an alumni parent, I had pride on both sides of the table. I was thrilled to provide counsel and support and to move these plans forward because they were mindful of all of the ways that this Township has been trying to preserve green space, prevent disturbance of the land, manage groundwater and care for trees. In every respect, BFS’s plans met more than the minimum standards of the Township. And I was proud of the Township because I could feel how much everyone treasures this gem of a school.
I can say with confidence that all parties are looking to the future with mutual admiration and sincere wishes for success.
Members of the Class of 2023:
As an 8th grade student, I will graduate this year. I am the youngest of three sisters and the third to attend Buckingham Friends School. BFS has been an important part of our lives, as individuals and as a family, for the past 15 years.
For my sisters and me, it’s not just about what we learned in our classes and activities, or about the learning skills and sense of exploration. It’s much more than that. The time we have spent here has defined how we greet the world every day. It will always be a part of us.
We don’t leave this campus at the end of the day, or at the end of our years here, and stop seeing the goodness within the people around us. We don’t forget to treat others with respect and the world we live in with care. We don’t forget the values we were taught and lived for nine years.
I’m happy to be here today to see the beginning of big changes that will impact this community that has been my second home for 9 years. And I’m thrilled to know that the process we went through will help the BFS communities that follow us.
My sisters have already warned me that nothing will ever be like BFS. That’s why I’ll savor every moment during my final year and why I’ll appreciate BFS long after our graduation.
I am also in 8th grade this year, and the second person in my family to attend BFS. The whole family has been involved in our school experience. My parents have been class parents and have volunteered to help with things like the yearly auction and the lasagna dinner. Just about everyone here knows my Mom. She’s a PTAC LEGEND.
My brother graduated two years ago, but he had a big role with the strategic planning and facilities planning meetings that were held here. One of the amazing things about BFS is that they invited students to be fully involved in planning sessions where they shared their ideas and input about the future of the school. And my brother wasn’t an onlooker. He really contributed, and felt that his thoughts and additions were heard and valued. In the end, he presented the reports from his planning groups to the entire strategic and facilities planning groups.
My own experience here is one of personal growth that might not have happened in another school. Everybody in this community looks for the good in others. That means that our teachers are seeing us as individuals, that they truly care about us, that they are dedicated to each of us becoming the best version of ourselves.
Last year I got a lot of help from one of my teachers. Mr. B., my advisor and science teacher, saw that I could use some help with my organizational skills. He took the time and effort to teach me how to keep up with my assignments and sharpen my focus. And he taught me why it’s important to me to stay on top of things.
This was something that I would not have learned in a textbook. It was a bigger lesson. It will help me for the rest of my life. That’s what’s so great about BFS. I had a teacher who really looked at me as an individual—and he was really thinking about MY success. He taught me something that will change my life.
Steve Bernardini, Upper School Advisor and Teacher (Steve, who is entering his 42nd and final year of teaching and community leadership at BFS, has always exemplified the very best of BFS. He was one of many faculty members who participated in the strategic and facilities planning processes, ensuring that the vision for the future and the physical changes to the campus would be focused on pedagogy, quality, and sound decision-making. As a teacher and as a mentor and friend, he has had an immeasurable impact on the lives of his current and former students, their families, and his colleagues.)
Good afternoon, everyone…
Having been here for so many years, I’ve seen a lot of changes to the campus. Each has enhanced our ability to deliver our program, and each has enriched and invigorated our enthusiasm and our love for this school. But what we are here to celebrate today is certainly the most ambitious and impactful undertaking that I have seen in my time here, and arguably in the history of Buckingham Friends School. Here’s why:
We’ve been having a conversation about building a gymnasium for easily the last 30 years. Though we have been appreciative of our current space, and its charming design, even long ago, we were acutely aware of the limitations of the building. With physical education and interscholastic sports programs evolving as they have, our facilities have needed to evolve as well.
Our new space will allow teachers and coaches to deliver a level of instruction that we have not seen at BFS. Students will be able to enjoy games that would be impossible to play in the current space. The increased square footage will allow more students to be engaged at any given time. The overall fitness of students will increase, simply from playing in a larger area. For the first time ever at BFS, players in our basketball program will play on a regulation-sized court, and their spectators will be seated comfortably in a designated area next to the court. Large windows will bring in natural light while allowing all of us to look out and appreciate the sylvan setting of our beautiful 44-acre campus. All of this will add to the already rich program by increasing possibilities and reducing limitations. If you are a current student, I invite you to imagine entering the new connector that will join the gym with the arts building…which, by the way, will be ADA compliant… and then passing by the new kitchen, as you proceed down into our new gymnasium for your first PE class or your first practice. It will be breathtaking! A project that has been a distant dream for decades is about to come to fruition.
As if that weren’t enough, we are also constructing a dedicated science building! In 1981, the year I started at BFS, we didn’t have a dedicated science ROOM, let alone a building. This new facility will be situated in the woods where students will study science literally in the ecosystem. It will be constructed with sustainability in mind, taking into consideration how light will enter and warm the building, and how rainwater will run off into the environment. The structure itself will be a teaching tool, and an outdoor teaching porch will support hands-on learning and exploration of our natural world. It will allow for the development and display of special projects, and it will further define science as a signature discipline in our school. Tangentially, the establishment of this facility will also support the augmentation of the learning spaces in the Middle and Upper Schools by allowing us to enlarge the classrooms, and create flexible, flowing common areas that are more inviting, intentional, and accommodating to the process of learning. These spaces will further accentuate our collaborative learning efforts and will foster a more shared learning experience. All told, we are going to feel like we are in a brand-new school! Please take a moment to visualize what it will be like to set foot on this campus in a year or so. How incredibly exciting that will be!
In all the years that we have contemplated change, preserving our mission, philosophy, sense of community, and our values as an organization has always been a priority to us. Throughout this process, we have been mindful to safeguard the special atmosphere that has defined us for the last 228 years. With vision, hard work and a great deal of generosity, our amazing community has come together to make what seemed to be an impossible dream, a reality. Though some of us won’t be here when this project is completed, we all will be able to say that we participated in its conception, and we will always be able to share in the pride of the legacy that is being created right before our eyes.
In closing, these campus-improvement projects are the most ambitious and impactful undertaking in recent history. We could not have come to this historic moment without you, all of you, who have been advisors, supporters, and friends. Your encouragement has given us the confidence to ensure that this incomparable School will be able to advance its mission for future generations.