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.

 

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. Pheng holds a Master of Science in Education from Temple University. She holds Pennsylvania certification in the following areas: Administrative, Early Childhood, Elementary, Special Education, ESOL Program Specialist, and Mid-level English.

 

Pratima Agrawal, Accountability Manager

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is – what are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pratima joined FACTS in 2014 as the Accountability Manager. She was drawn to FACTS’ origins and mission to serve students in the context of folk arts education and social justice, a school that truly embodies service to others. In her position, she manages data reporting and compliance for the school district, state, and federal government, while also managing data for internal school use. She coordinates state mandated testing for the school, including PSSA and WIDA ACCESS for ELs, in addition to managing other administrative tasks.

While working at FACTS, Pratima has also worked as a substitute teacher in the Philadelphia School District and as a teaching artist with Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Prior to FACTS, she worked in many administrative positions across various sectors. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin and a teaching certification in K-12 Theatre in Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Outside of FACTS, she is a theatre artist and volunteers with the Sierra Club around environmental justice.

 

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 Associate 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 theatre company Gas & Electric Arts (2005 -2015), producing contemporary movement-theater works by women playwrights.  David is a piano student at Settlement Music School, and is host of “The Jazz Continuum” a weekly community radio show on G-Town Radio, WGGT 92.9 FM.

 

Galen Fitzpatrick, Special Education Teacher and Technology Coordinator

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

In his role as the Technology Coordinator at FACTS, Galen helps teachers and students to utilize a growing and changing set of digital tools to best express their big ideas both academic and creative. As digital tools have transitioned from the plaything of computer scientists into one of the primary methods by which popular and folk culture are disseminated, it is vitally important that students are prepared to have their ideas and voices be part of that ongoing conversation. 

Galen has an M.A. in Childhood Education and Special Education from New York University. He has worked as a Special Education Teacher at FACTS since 2009, helping students in the regular classroom and the special education classroom setting. 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 are at their best when difficulty is met with a supportive smile, a disarming joke, and patient help.

 

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.

 

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 facilitating  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.

 

Lisa Pankey, Special Education Supervisor

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.“ – Fred Rogers

Watching students grow and thrive in an inclusive environment that teaches essential life skills and values community and family is one of the most exciting aspects of Lisa’s job at FACTS. Lisa is drawn to FACTS because FACTS values progress of all students in more ways than are typically measured and encourages students to celebrate their accomplishments. As Special Education Supervisor, Lisa works with and supervises the special education team, including teachers, assistants, therapists, and other service providers, ensuring that students’ rights are protected and they receive high-quality, individualized education. She manages services provided to students, communicates with families to advocate for their children, maintains compliance with the State Bureau of Special Education, and manages funding sources.

With 8 years of special education experience in Philadelphia public schools prior to joining FACTS in 2012 as special education coordinator, Lisa became supervisor in 2015. She has a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from Millersville University, a Master of Arts in Reading from Gwynedd-Mercy University and completed post-graduate studies, earning her supervisory certification from Penn State University. She holds Pennsylvania certification in Special Education, Mid-Level English and Math, Reading Specialist, and Supervisor of Special Education. Selected by the Philadelphia Schools Partnership, Lisa obtained a leadership role in their Special Education Community of Practice. Lisa recently completed courses toward her Certificate in School Management and Leadership through Harvard Graduate School of Education.

 

Ricque Porter, Associate Director

“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” – Confucius

As Associate Director, Ricque is dedicated to streamlining systems at FACTS. A former math teacher and advertising research analyst, she admits to loving charts, data, and schedules. She works closely with the Executive Director, serving as the school’s Federal Programs Coordinator and is a member of the Development Committee, coordinating fundraising activities for FACTS. Ricque manages the front office and food service staff and works in partnership with the Administrative team to provide HR support to current staff. She leads the team when searching for amazing educators to join our school community. 

Ricque holds Pennsylvania and New Jersey certification in Elementary Education and taught for 11 years, seven of those at FACTS, before becoming the Associate Director in 2015. She has a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications Management from Ithaca College and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Rhode Island College.

 

Mikki Schrodel, School Counselor

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

Mikki keeps the line of the FACTS School Pledge “We care for one another and learn together” in the forefront of her mind. It helps fuel her passion for planting the seeds of emotional growth in our students in the hopes they will become thoughtful, caring, and justice seeking members of our world. As the School Counselor, Mikki takes on the role of helping students effectively manage emotions and apply interpersonal skills in a positive manner. She achieves this by advocating for students who may need additional support as well preparing multi-grade classroom lessons focusing on being prepared for all emotions, big and small. 

Mikki joined the FACTS team in 2014. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology from Hood College and a Masters of Education in Elementary and Secondary School Counseling from Wilmington University. 

Mikki has over eight years of School Counseling experience in the School District of Philadelphia and FACTS. Prior to becoming a Certified School Counselor, Mikki brought her passion and talents for serving youth as the Regional Director of the Philadelphia Youth Advocate Program. She oversaw program and professional development of programs for Adjudicated and Non-Adjudicated youth. She has earned additional credits in ADHD Training, Suicide Assessment and Intervention and Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Reintegration Strategies.