Penn Alexander School receives national honor

September 28, 2016

Blue Ribbon celebration at Penn Alexander School

President Gutmann, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite, Penn GSE’s Caroline Watts and others gathered Wednesday to celebrate a remarkable accomplishment – the naming of the Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School (Penn Alexander School/PAS) as a National Blue Ribbon School – one of only a few hundred schools to receive the coveted annual distinction, and only the first West Philadelphia district school to ever receive the honor.

Public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that attain Blue Ribbon status are those where students achieve at high levels or where the achievement gap is narrowing. Penn Alexander was honored for its work narrowing the achievement gap.

Principal Michael Farrell, Penn President Amy Gutmann, Former Principal Sheila Sydnor, Penn GSE Director of School & Community Engagement Caroline Watts

Leaders from the school, Penn, and Penn GSE were joined by City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and the Mayor’s Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney to watch U.S. Secretary of Education John King announce this year’s Blue Ribbon Schools via a live webcast. 

Both recently-retired founding principal Sheila Sydnor and new principal Michael Farrell were there to celebrate the accomplishment, and will attend a Department of Education event in D.C. with Dr. Hite in November. 

 “I will be thinking of you when we accept the award,” Principal Sydnor said to the school’s children and staff. “Cherish the moment, roll up your sleeves, and continue your journey to academic excellence.”

Principal Farrell is planning a special Blue Ribbon day for the school after the D.C. event. He ended the announcement event with a bang – teachers shot off blue confetti cannons for the children.

The Penn Alexander School opened in 2001 as the result of a historic partnership among the University of Pennsylvania, the School District of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to build a model university-assisted, public school for West Philadelphia children. Penn’s Graduate School of Education maintains the partnership.

Serving approximately 550 students, Penn Alexander provides high-quality public education through a child-centered, research-based program. The mission of the diverse, West Philadelphia school is to “maximize the academic and personal competence of all its students to become successful lifelong learners and productive citizens in a diverse and highly technological society.”

Befitting a leading public-private partnership school, Penn Alexander is named for Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, a trailblazing University of Pennsylvania graduate and a woman of many firsts. True to its namesake, the school was dubbed a City Leader among K-8 schools on the 2014-15 School Progress Report and continues to enrich and empower diverse young students through a dynamic academic program and vital community ties.