Best Schools 2009

When it comes to getting kids ready for the future, you never know where you’ll find great ideas. From writing to rocket-making, college counseling to cool cafeterias, here’s our roundup of local schools that are the best at what they do. (Feel free to crib their answers)

Nicole Curry, Phoenixville
Wacky works for Phoenixville Latin teacher Curry, who’s been known to wear togas and to rap — seriously, she kicks off classes with "When I say ‘salvete,’ you say ‘salve,’" to the beat of "Let Me Clear My Throat" — in order to get her subject across. Roman games, mythology-based journaling and classical art projects are all part of Curry’s curriculum, which has resulted in bronze, silver and gold medals for her students at the National Latin Exam.

Father Judge
In a sport — yes, sport — dominated by Southerners, the members of Father Judge’s all-female “super varsity” squad (made up, since Northeast Philly’s Father Judge is all boys, mostly of students from St. Hubert’s) don’t just stand out for their accents. They stand out for their seamless choreography of back handsprings, back tucks and stunts. The 36-girl team has won Top 10 status since it began competing in nationals in 2005. (Last year, the Crusaders took second.) Their theme song: “Philadelphia Freedom.” You go girls, indeed.

Moorestown Friends
The Jersey private school has your traditional clubs (debate, drama, model U.N., gay-straight); quirky clubs (barbecue, rocketry); Quaker clubs (peace, service); futuristic clubs (Japanimation, computer); and do-good clubs (Operation Smile, animal awareness). But it also has the “’90s Fad Club” to celebrate ephemera and phenomena like Pokémon and Crazy Bones, and “The Society for the Advancement of British Humor,” to play around with “British spelling and pronunciation of otherwise American-looking words” and, one imagines, to always look on the bright side of life.

Choir Director
Mark Thomas, Upper Perkiomen High School
You think the kids from American Idol have a rigorous touring schedule? In an average year, Upper Perkiomen’s choruses perform in 40 out-of-school locations (which have included Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, and Europe), along the way collecting a Phelps-ian number of gold medals. Credit goes to down-to-earth music education doctorate Mark Thomas, whose global connections — he’s conducted orchestras and choirs in Prague, Vienna, and St. Petersburg, Russia — build international bridges for his students.

After-School Program
Boys’ Latin Charter School
School doesn’t let out at 3 p.m. at this Southwest Philadelphia all-boys charter. Instead, all 250 students fan out in the city for classes in fencing, Latin, golf, chess, lacrosse, mock trial, rocketry, jazz band and more. Last year, the program’s success inspired a before-school version, which produced the city’s first all-African-American high-school crew team; members placed in the Manny Flick and (for the most part) maintained honor-roll status.

Girls’ Basketball Coach
Bob Schnure, Downingtown East
Want your daughter to play on the area’s biggest stages for a high-school basketball legend-in-the-making? Make her a Cougar. In his 29 years as head coach at Downingtown, Bob Schnure has led his team to five state titles, 11 district championships and nearly 700 wins. Five years ago, Schnure hired former WNBA star Tina Nicholson as assistant coach, and since then, he’s landed his girls atop District 1 at Villanova’s Pavilion three times.