News May 2019

© International Friends School

Friends dual-language immersion school opens in Bellevue, Washington

International Friends School (IFS), the first dual-language immersion school in 330 years of Friends education, opened in fall 2018 on a five-acre campus in Bellevue, Wash. Students—half native Mandarin speakers, half native English speakers—are instructed in Mandarin and English, with the goal of literacy in both languages by eighth grade. IFS also offers opportunities for students to develop listening and speaking skills in Spanish.

IFS co-founder and lead teacher Sue Brooks says both the Quaker and bilingual commitments of the school guide the students they are trying to serve. “The biliteracy program means that children see themselves as world citizens who can communicate with others. Plus it’s great to learn a new language in the first five years of life. The Friends school piece means that these children develop strong skills of compassion, tolerance, integrity, and peacemaking to aid them as they face a new, complex, and information-driven future.”

Brooks founded the school with Alli Frank after moving from Shanghai in 2016. In 2006 in Shanghai, Brooks had created an early childhood education center.

IFS is also one of the first independent schools to offer a balanced-year calendar. Summer break is reduced to six weeks or less with one- to three-week breaks in fall, winter, and spring. This allows for a less-restrained curriculum and less learning loss over the summer.

One of the challenges Brooks says IFS faces is raising money for a tuition relief program to serve the testimony of equality. “It’s challenging because we are selective of our parents based on our mission statement. We are enrolling families not because they are creating revenue for the school but because they help to fulfill our mission.” Brooks also notes that Friends education is also much less known in the Pacific Northwest.

With eight current pre-K students, the school aims to start kindergarten in fall 2020 and then add a grade per year up to eighth grade, with capacity for up to 360 students.

Matthew Hisrich named Earlham School of Religion Dean

© Earlham College

On March 7, Matthew Hisrich was named dean of Earlham School of Religion (ESR) and vice president of Earlham College by interim president Avis Stewart. Hisrich had been serving as ESR’s director of recruitment and admissions since 2012 and acting ESR dean since July 1, 2018. He was hired as acting dean following a search that attracted several strong candidates. Input was sought from students, faculty, and alumni of ESR.

“Matt is passionate about ESR, and he has done an exceptional job in this interim role at a time that has been challenging for ESR and the college,” says Stewart.

Hisrich is a non-traditional choice for dean. He earned his master of divinity at ESR in 2008, and his doctorate is in management from the University of Maryland University College. “Positions like this are normally filled by deans who came from the teaching faculty,” Hisrich says. “This sets up a glass ceiling for people from the administrative side. This appointment speaks to our testimony of equality.”

The teaching faculty have been enthusiastic about the appointment. ESR professor of Quaker studies Steve Angell says, “Matt Hisrich brings together great wisdom, a profound experiential knowledge of ESR from a number of different angles, a wonderful sense of humor, and a new energy, freshness, and forward vision which will help to keep ESR on the cutting edge of innovation in educating Quaker and other ministers for years to come. We are thrilled to be moving forward under Matt’s leadership as dean.”

Hisrich and his family are all members of First Friends Meeting in Richmond, Ind. He is also a recorded minister in the New Association of Friends.

Hisrich was raised in an Evangelical Friends church. But when he came as a student to ESR he says he “experienced the real breadth of Quakerism. . . . This is a good meeting place for Friends across the spectrum. Without eroding our identities there is value in knowing one another.”

Going forward, Hisrich looks to make decisions collaboratively. “We don’t make decisions in isolation. The teaching faculty, administrators, and students all inform the decisions that we make. This grows out of our desire to both acknowledge and cultivate Quaker community.”

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