an education that engages students with culture & community

School Leadership

Ellen Somekawa, Executive Director

“We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other.” – Grace Lee Boggs

As Executive Director, Ellen works with the Board, school leadership team, and staff to center FACTS’s mission and core values in the daily life of the school. Ellen works to ensure organizational sustainability; foster a sense of community and shared purpose among staff; oversee school operations; and guide the school through change and growth. Ellen works in close partnership with Principal Pheng, who is the instructional leader of the school. Ellen is a proud founder of FACTS and parent of two FACTS alums. She  joined the staff as Executive Director in 2014.  

For 18 years prior to joining the FACTS staff, Ellen was the Executive Director of Asian Americans United, one of FACTS’s founding organizations. At AAU, she helped nurture the creation and growth of the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival, engaged youth as changemakers in their communities, and worked on campaigns such as the Justice for Heng Lim and No Casino in Chinatown Campaigns. At AAU, she also helped bring the organization to consensus over starting a charter school, and then to envision, plan, and start up FACTS. Before becoming ED of AAU, she served as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s first Asian American Community Specialist, providing technical assistance to Pennsylvania Asian American organizations and initiating projects to build the capacity of refugee organizations. She holds an MA in Recent US History from the University of Pennsylvania where her research focused on the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees in Philadelphia. She earned an Executive Leadership Certificate from the Non-Profit Executive Leadership Institute at Bryn Mawr College and participated in the second cohort of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Superintendents’ Academy.


Pheng Lim, Principal

“When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” – Maya Angelou

Being an educator fulfills Pheng’s sense of purpose and helps her feel like she’s living life to the fullest. As Principal, Pheng works to create a culture of collaboration, reflection, and inclusion which nurtures teaching excellence and student growth. Pheng brings to FACTS a first-hand understanding of the refugee experience and the experience of being an English Learner. This experience gives Pheng a deep understanding of and commitment to FACTS’ mission.

Pheng Lim has been FACTS’ principal since 2012. Pheng was a founding teacher of FACTS in 2005 and rose to become the ESOL Supervisor before being appointed Principal. Under Pheng’s leadership, FACTS was named the top school in Philadelphia (2014, School Progress Report) and was honored as a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. The American Folklore Society awarded her the 2016 Robinson-Roeder-Ward Fellowship as an exceptional educator in folk arts education.  Pheng has presented at numerous regional and national conferences in education and was highlighted in the May/June 2017 edition of the National Association for Elementary School Principals in an article, Entrepreneurial Leaders Redefine the Principalship. She is a Philadelphia Academy of School Leadership Neubauer Fellow and worked as a senior fellow in their Performance Partners Program.  She served on Philadelphia’s Universal Pre-K Commission in 2015 and 2016. In 2022, Pheng joined the Philadelphia Citywide Talent Coalition–composed of representatives from 23 organizations from across a diverse range of sectors, including education, nonprofit, civic, research, and philanthropy. The Coalition was established to drive implementation of a Citywide Strategy for Diverse and Effective Teachers. Pheng holds a Master’s of Science in Education degree from Temple University. She holds Pennsylvania certification in the following areas: Administrative, Early Childhood, Elementary, Special Education, ESOL Program Specialist, and Mid-level English.


Michelle Barton, Assistant Director

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein  

Michelle coordinates data collection and data reporting to ensure compliance with government reporting mandates. She oversees compliance with FACTS National School Lunch Program and federal title programs as well as manages the administration of human resources including personnel files, clearances, and the recruitment and hiring of new staff. She started teaching in 2000. Michelle joined FACTS as a 5th and 6th grade math and science teacher in 2009. Michelle became the 7th and 8th grade math teacher in 2019 and the Assistant Director in 2023. Michelle has served as a mentor teacher for new teachers at FACTS. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Arts in Secondary Education from Widener University. She holds Pennsylvania certifications in elementary, general science, earth and space, and middle school math education.


David Brown, Finance Director

 “The theme you play at the start of a number is the territory…and that which comes out after, is the adventure.” – Ornette Coleman. 

As Finance Director, David pores over the territory of numbers, excavating the stories inside them: the good, the bad, the opportunities and pitfalls. He works closely with the Executive Director and the Admin Team to ensure that FACTS has the necessary resources to support the school’s teaching and learning goals. In addition to accounting, budgeting, financial analysis, payroll and purchasing, David works in partnership with the Assistant Director to provide the school’s incredible and inspiring staff with HR support.  

Before joining FACTS in 2016, David worked for 20 years as a non-profit administrator, primarily in the performing arts (Painted Bride Art Center, New Orleans Ballet, InterAct Theater Company) in management, finance, and marketing. In this role, he dedicated himself to ensuring that the diverse stories of artists would be shared, be it from the stage or within the community. He also co-founded, with his spouse, the theater company Gas & Electric Arts (2005 -2015), producing contemporary movement-theater works by women playwrights.  David is host of “The Jazz Continuum” a weekly community radio show on G-Town Radio, WGGT 92.9 FM.


Galen Fitzpatrick, Instructional Data Coordinator

“Study depends on the goodwill of the student…” – Quintillian

Galen Fitzpatrick, the wizard of data at FACTS, doesn’t just decipher numbers; he promotes enthusiasm for the use of data among teachers and administrators by turning data analysis into engaging performance and usable insight. He holds the belief that students (and teachers) are at their best when they trust that the people with whom they work know, respect, and care about them, and that classrooms (and workplaces) are at their best when difficulty is met with a supportive smile, a disarming joke, and patient help. With this approach, Galen helps FACTS staff to learn and grow as we strive  to strengthen FACTS’s data culture and our increased integration of technology into teaching and learning. Galen uses his tech-savvy to upgrade and increase the efficiency and usefulness of our systems and to streamline our compliance and data analysis efforts.  Armed with an M.A. in Childhood Education and Special Education from New York University, Galen kicked off his FACTS adventure in 2009 as a Special Education Teacher, before deciding to don the wizard’s hat for data in 2021.


Jacqulyn Griffin, Director of School Culture (Grades 5-8)

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King 

Teacher Griffin has been a part of the FACTS community since 2005 when she joined FACTS as a founding teacher. As Director of School Culture, Griffin strives to ensure that every student is valued and cared for. Griffin believes that taking time to build community and establish relationships, teaching into life skills like cooperation and perseverance, and agreeing on and sticking to community norms are all critical to setting the conditions for student success. Griffin supports teachers, students, and parents in doing their parts to establish positive school culture at FACTS and in restoring relationships and community safety when things go wrong. In addition, Griffin supports 8th grade students and families to navigate the high school admissions process.

Teacher Griffin earned her bachelor’s degree from Cheyney University in 2002. She has trained with the Crisis Prevention Institute and Responsive Classroom. Before joining the FACTS community, Griffin interned at Asians American United’s Freedom School. It has always been her great mission to serve and give back. She believes that FACTS is truly a family that will forever have an impact on her life.


Jill Lingenfelter, Special Education Supervisor

“Who learns will love and not destroy, the creature’s life, the flower’s joy.” – Henry Chapman Mercer

Jill grew up wanting nothing more than to be a teacher at a school like FACTS. She developed an interest in special education and advocacy for students with disabilities in second grade, thanks to her elementary school’s inclusive education model and community partnerships. She joined FACTS as a special education teacher in 2016 and became supervisor of the department in 2023. Prior to joining FACTS she taught English in Thailand and Chile, and led numerous study abroad programs for US and foreign high school students. Jill finds constant delight in the ability to combine her loves of cultural exploration, social justice, and public education at FACTS. 

Jill is responsible for the oversight, management, administration, and evaluation of the special education program. She supervises an awesome team of teachers, paraprofessionals, and contracted professionals within the Special Education program. She hopes to continue promoting FACTS’s mission of inclusivity and advocacy for all learners. Jill holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Special Education from Temple University and a Masters of Education in Special Education Leadership from Slippery Rock University. She holds Pennsylvania certifications in Elementary Education, Special Education, English as a Second Language, and Special Education Supervision.


Trish Morris, Director of School Culture (Grades K-4)

“To Preserve Culture We Must Continue to Create It.” – Johan Huizinga

The FACTS school pledge helps to unite the FACTS community around our core values and aspirations; it is the base upon which we build our school culture. In an effort to create and preserve our unique school culture, Trish models the school pledge by encouraging students and staff to “practice creative expression” and “act with courage.” Whether it is bringing music to our recess yard, teaching a line dance to our staff, or performing at one of our ritual calendar events, Trish demonstrates the power of the arts in building a healthy and joyful school environment., which helps to create the unique school culture present at FACTS. 

As Lower School Director of School Culture, Trish works in collaboration with the Upper School Director of School Culture and Administrative Team to cultivate and maintain an environment of respect and care for the whole school community. Trish supports teachers of the students in our younger grades as students learn and practice the skills of being a learner and being a caring community member. Trish teaches and models mindfulness practices, reminding both students and staff that paying attention to breathing and to the needs of our bodies helps to support our well being and ability to be prepared for learning. 

Trish has over 10 years experience in Behavioral/Mental Health and Performing Arts. Trish began practicing and honing her knowledge in these skills as Milieu Director at Warwick Family Services/Girl Space, as well as Case Manager at the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC). Trish has been trained in the Sanctuary Model, Suicide Prevention and Safety Crisis Management. She has worked  extensively as a dance teacher and choreographer throughout the United States, combining practices of mental health and performing arts, using dance as a healing art and therapy. Trish will maintain a career in psychological/social human behavior and the performing arts.