How it Works

Students at PFS learn through freedom and responsibility. By actively directing their own education, students learn how to take responsibility for themselves and their community.

For more on the way this philosophy leads to deep learning, go to Why It Works.

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The Philadelphia Free School is a democratic school operated by its students, staff, parents, and community members. Each individual in the school community has one vote in decision making.

Our governance structure includes the following bodies: 

  1. Assembly: Students, parents, staff, trustees, alumni, and publicly elected members make up our School Assembly. Each has one vote at our biannual Assembly Meetings, at which broad policies like tuition, budget, and school calendar are decided.
  2. School Meeting: Students and staff make up the School Meeting, which meets weekly. Each person has one vote in making all decisions about the day-to-day operation of the school, such as spending money and creating rules. School Meeting is also responsible for hiring staff.
  3. Board of Trustees: Our Board of Trustees provides fiscal oversight and advises on decisions pertaining to long-term sustainability and well-being of the school. Members serve for two year terms and are elected by the Assembly.
  4. Students: Students of all ages (4-19) have equal power at PFS. They each get a vote in the School Meeting and Assembly, and their vote is of equal weight to those of adults.
  5. Staff: Staff are elected by School Meeting to keep the school running. They serve as a resource and, upon student request, provide guidance for student explorations. They also serve as models of effective adults who get things done. Staff have one vote each in the School Meeting and Assembly. There is no Principal, tenure, or hierarchy among employees. For more on being a staff person at PFS, look here.
  6. Clerks: Clerks serve as liaisons between School Meeting and the Committees it creates to get work done. Clerks are elected to their positions by School Meeting for terms that vary by committee. Students and staff can all serve as Clerks.
  7. Parents/ Guardians: Parents and Guardians are members of the Assembly and each have a vote on decisions of broad policy. Parents also serve on Assembly Committees to help the school continue to thrive. Parents serve a vital role in supporting students as they learn to direct their own education.

Click below for a video on Individual Growth by the Hudson Valley Sudbury School.