PROFILES in EDUCATION
Name: Jane Fremon
As a cheerleader at Princeton High School, Jane Fremon always knew how to have school spirit. And with a mother who was president of the Princeton Regional School Board, she was always aware of the importance of a leadership position in an educational institution.
Perhaps that's why as she grew older Ms. Fremon had the desire to start her own school, a Quaker school in Princeton.
As founder and head of the Princeton Friends School for 17 years, Ms. Fremon has learned how to start a school from ground level and turn it into an institution exemplifying the visions that her family, friends, teachers, and mentors have inspired in her since childhood.
"Really the hallmark of the school is the sense of community people feel when they walk in the door," said Ms. Fremon. "I can't count the number of people who have said they wished they had gone here because they would have liked school better."
Born in Charleston, W.Va., Ms. Fremon came from a family that had always been seriously involved in education. Her parents helped establish a progressive school, Valley Day School, in Charleston, where her godmother was the headmistress for many years. In addition her mother, as school board president, helped oversee the transition of Princeton Borough and Township into one school district.
"My parents highly valued education," said Ms. Fremon, adding that she had many excellent teachers in Princeton who also pointed the way for her.
Currently a resident of Yardley, Pa., Ms. Fremon lives with her partner, Paul, and her daughter, Georgia, an adopted 8-year-old from China who goes to school with her every day and is able to experience first-hand the institution her mother helped create.
A Career in Education
Ms. Fremon began her career in education after graduating from the second class at Princeton University to include women. After working as an assistant teacher, swimming coach, and camp counselor in the 90-student Roosevelt Public School system, she decided to return to college for her master's in education.
Once she earned a degree in education from the Bank Street College, a school with a progressive vision of education, Ms. Fremon returned to the Roosevelt Schools, where she served as a head teacher for six years. She then came back to her hometown of Princeton, where she taught English and history at Princeton Day School for six years.
During her time at PDS, Ms. Fremon and some other teachers and parents began a discussion on the need for a more progressive school in Princeton, a Quaker school that could be established at the Quaker Meeting House.
In 1987, Princeton Friends School was established, holding classes in the Meeting House's Sunday School rooms. Ten years later, the school opened a $1.8 million schoolhouse, which, according to Ms. Fremon, "was built on the faith and generosity of those connected with the school."
Having expanded the school from 19 students to today's 125, Ms. Fremon is involved in every aspect of running the school, from planning the school's curriculum with faculty members, to running a daily morning gathering with students, to meeting with the Board of Trustees to work on the school's long-range plans.
"What I love about my job is that I get to think about the school in every area of its existence," she said.
Along with continuing to enlarge the building space for the number of students now enrolled at the school, Ms. Fremon said her concern right now is making sure that once the founding teachers retire there are others who will carry out the school's "culture of high expectations but low competition...an educational climate of inclusion, support, and celebration."
She added that she doesn't anticipate the school's sense of small community being lost in the coming years: "Even now we have faculty members here who plan to carry the school forward."
According to Ms. Fremon, one of the hardest decisions she had to make as an educator was deciding to work in a private school after thoroughly enjoying her own experiences at Princeton's public schools.
"That's been a hard decision to live with, in a way, because I do believe in the value of public education," she said.
However, in a smaller, private setting, there is more freedom for creativity and experimentation than there is in a public school: "The size of a school really factors into what educational institutions can and can't do. My wish for public schools is that they would reorganize into small learning communities that could be free to experiment, create, and imagine as private schools are able to."
Being able to expand or create programs for the children as the school's leaders see fit makes the Princeton Friends School a special institution, said Ms. Fremon. Having an intimate environment where students enjoy close relationships with their teachers is also important, she pointed out: "That's ultimately what children need: adults who will show themselves to children and become their models."
When looking ahead to the future of the Princeton Friends School, Ms. Fremon said she knows that while she was here for the school's beginning, she more than likely won't be here for it's end. But even still, she said she intends to always have some role in the Quaker education at the school.
"I'll be here for the next phase, for sure...I can't imagine not being involved in Friends education in some capacity," she said.
To suggest a teacher for the Profiles Series in Education, contact staff reporter Candace Braun.