Andy Jones-Wilkins began his career in education in 1989 at the oldest Quaker school in the country, the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. After five years of service there Andy and his spouse Shelly embarked on a two year, 18,000 mile bicycle tour around the world before settling in Paradise Valley, AZ where they both taught at the Phoenix Country Day School. Andy’s administrative career began at Head-Royce School in Oakland, CA where he served for five years as the Head of the Middle School before accepting his first Head of School appointment in 2006 at The Community School in Sun Valley, ID. Longing to return to Friends education, Andy became the 6th Head of School at Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, VA in 2011. While there he guided the school through a comprehensive accreditation process with Friends Council on Education and along the way reinforced the school’s Quaker identity through a variety of transformative initiatives. After a two year stint as Head of School at The Delta School, a progressive, project-based startup in Wilson, AR, Andy became Head of School at Greenwood Friends School in the Spring of 2021.

Returning to the Valley of the Sun to become the Founding Head of School at Phoenix Friends School represents, for Andy, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. In many ways, Andy’s 32 year educational career up to this point has all been preparation for this moment, starting a new Friends School in a place that he loves. After leading schools, both Friends Schools and otherwise, in many parts of the country over the past two decades, Andy believes that the launch of the Phoenix Friends School can be the crowning achievement of his career.

Andy and his wife Shelly have been happily married for nearly 31 years and are the proud parents of three sons, Carson (24), Logan (22), and Tully (19). An active outdoors family, the JWs can often be found traveling the country camping, hiking, and adventuring. They are thrilled to be moving back to Phoenix after 21 years away and look forward to becoming reacquainted with all the area has to offer.

Andy’s Vision for Phoenix Friends School

For over 300 years Friends Schools in the United States have provided students with an education that supports the development of the whole child. Beginning in 1689 with two schools in Philadelphia, Friends Select and Penn Charter, the Friends School Community now numbers 78 schools in 20 states educating over 20,000 students. The Phoenix Friends School will join that community in the Fall of 2023.

Built on a foundation of the “Four C’s” I envision a small, faith based school emphasizing Citizenship, Community, Collaboration, and Creativity. Grounded in Quaker values, Phoenix Friends School will provide an inclusive education to a cross section of students in the Valley valuing diversity, service, and the search for truth.

At the core of the Quaker belief system is the notion of that of God in every person. Referred to often as the inner light, Quakers believe that a divine spark burns in each of us. Responsible citizenship is a hallmark of the Phoenix Friends School experience. A thoughtfully designed four year Civics curriculum highlights the importance of active engagement in and care for the larger community.

All Friends Schools are centered around a healthy community. Middle School students, in particular, benefit from the interconnectedness that a strong sense of community provides. Now more than ever, feeling a part of something larger than oneself can provide stability and support for young people during uncertain times. Forging connections within the school community and in the greater Phoenix community will be a hallmark of the school as “the city is our classroom.”

For decades American education has forced students to work in isolation which in turn has impacted students ability to adapt to a more collaborative world. In the project based learning environment of Phoenix Friends School, students will be encouraged to work together to ask questions, solve problems, and seek solutions. Additionally, our teachers will act as facilitators in the collaborative process as a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage.”

Finally, with the school located in the heart of Downtown Phoenix art and culture district our students will be asked to stretch themselves not only academically but creatively, as well. Opportunities for projects in art, theater, and music, connected with the downtown arts community, will provide students with a creative spark that will arouse curiosity and expand awareness.

Phoenix Friends School is poised to become a strong and influential institution in the Valley and the entire Southwest. With the support of the Founders, a strong mission, and an entrepreneurial spirit, I envision a school that will be an asset to the community for years to come and, along the way, change the lives of all who choose to join our community.

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