The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

photo of Riley kissed by Mom and Sister

St. James School parent Valencia Newton, left, kisses her son Riley (8th Grade) with help from his older sister, Reina. Valencia says she is a member of our Parent Guardian Association “because I think it is important for Riley to see that I am invested in his future.” Please enjoy reading our Q&A with Valencia below.

Dear Friends of the St. James School Community,

The COVID-19 pandemic has felt in some ways like an earthquake with unending aftershocks. Structures that gave stability to our lives crumbled. Routines were upended. The experience threw us all off balance.

It has taken resilience, effort – and tremendous support from you, our donors and supporters – to regain our footing at St. James School. Even eight weeks into our new structures and routines, there are challenges for the staff and our students. Parents and guardians have their own challenges, as you will learn in the Q&A below with Valencia Newton, mother of 8th Grader Riley.

photo of 6ABC-TV News report on St. James SchoolThose of us who are still on campus, because we live here, have frequent conversations with parents on the street. (If you haven’t seen the 6ABC-TV news report about our work on the street feeding our families and neighbors, you can view it here.)

When parents tell us about their challenges, we do our best to advise and encourage them. We also learn from them!

Recently a parent told us she was reestablishing structure and routine at home by writing up a family schedule. Posted like a sign on the wall, it tells her household hour by hour when it is mealtime, homework time, TV time, etc. She said it was helping her children focus on their studies while giving her predictable times to focus on other things.

We were impressed and told her so. She suggested that our school create a sample family schedule based on best practices and share it with all. What a great idea! Principal Dave McDonough and Director of Operations Annie Lerew worked on the schedule together and offered it both online and in our weekly printed packets for families. Feel free to download and share it with parents you know.

I am happy to report that we are right on schedule in preparations for our first Virtual Scholarship Benefit Event on June 4th. I hope you will be joining us for this fun and festive evening. Don’t forget to order a Di Bruno Bros. gourmet package – only 10 days left.

Meanwhile, if you are able to assist us in meeting the daily need for food in our corner of North Philadelphia, please see below How You Can Help Right Now.

God bless you,

David Kasievich
Head of School

P.S. Did you know St. James School plays a role in the play My General Tubman, written by our Scholarship Benefit honoree, Lorene Cary? Mark your calendar for May 31st at 5 pm, when Lorene and two actors from the play will take part in a live Zoom event that includes a performance of two scenes and a Q&A. Photo below and details to come.


 A Few Words with St. James School Parent Valencia Newton

photo of Riley with MomHow has your daily life been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis?
I am grateful that I am still working as a dental assistant, so I still have an income. On the other hand, I put myself in jeopardy of contracting the virus every day at work. We are only seeing emergency patients, we strictly follow all social distancing rules, and I am well equipped with PPE, but it is still a very stressful environment. I teach a class to dental assistant students as well. It was one evening a week for four hours but under the quarantine, I teach a virtual class, one hour a night, four nights a week, which has been an adjustment for me and Riley.

How is Riley doing?
Riley is okay. He has had to take responsibility for a lot of things. I call him several times during the day from work. St. James School teachers also check in on him every day by text or email. I have an open line of communication with Riley’s teachers, which I take full advantage of to keep on top of how he is doing.

What are his high school plans?
Riley was accepted by La Salle College High School, Archbishop McDevitt High School and Holy Ghost Prep, among others. He is trying to decide which is the best fit for him.

Has St. James School been helpful during this time?
Extremely helpful! Since I work all day and cannot get to The Welcome Table, Father Kellner stopped by every day in the first month of the quarantine to drop off food and Riley’s homework. Now that Riley has a Chromebook for assignments, Father Kellner still comes by two or three times a week to deliver food.

What are you missing about St. James School right now?
I miss being invited with the other parents to the pancake breakfasts that Principal McDonough would cook after report cards to celebrate the kids who did well.

What is the best thing about St. James School?
The teachers. They are so invested in the students. I hear from his teachers all the time, not just about things that need to be improved upon but they take the time to let me know when Riley has had a particularly good day or achieved something.

Is there anything else about the school you’d like to share?
I love that St. James School introduces the kids to new and exciting things like horseback riding, radio broadcasting and rowing. I love everything about St. James School! Sending Riley there was one of the best decisions I ever made.

How You Can Help Right Now

Pray for us, our students, families, staff and neighbors.

Purchase needed items from our Amazon Wish List, which Amazon will deliver to the school.

Make an online donation to our COVID-19 food program: examples of what your contribution can buy are:

$30 (box of oranges)     $75 (case of chicken)     $190 (case of cereal)
$300 (case of yogurt)     $575 (1 day of food)     $4,000 (1 week of food)

Deliver food directly to St. James School or drop items off at:

  • St. Christopher’s Church (226 Righters Mill Rd, Gladwyne, PA 19035). Large plastic bins marked “St. James School” are under the cloister walk between the school building and the church.
  • St. Alban’s Episcopal Church (3625 Chapel Road, Newtown Square, PA 19073). The church sanctuary is open from 11am to sundown each day, and the back pew is designated for St. James School. Donating items that need refrigeration? Call ahead to 571.429.1427.

Church leader? Invite Dave Kasievich to join your Sunday Mass via Zoom and/or to share information about St. James School needs for publication in your church bulletin. Reply to this email or call Dave at 215.226.1276 x108.


The two actors in this scene from the play My General Tubman will join the playwright, Lorene Cary, for a free Zoom event May 31st at 5 pm. The actors are Brandon Pierce, left, and Dax Richardson. Details to come.
Photo credit: Ashley Smith Photography for Arden Theatre Company