Friends Council on Education provides leadership in drawing Friends schools together in unity of spirit and cooperative endeavors. Friends Council’s work nurtures the Quaker life of schools, strengthens the network of support across schools, promotes Friends education through consultations, programs, and publications, and assists in the establishment of new Friends schools. Website: friendscouncil.org.
This year marks the ninetieth anniversary of Friends Council on Education. In 1931, two Friends, Morris E. and Hadassah M. Leeds, invited 90 educators to form a council on Quaker education. Today it continues as the only national association of Friends schools, serving over 6,000 educators, staff, and trustees. This April Friends Council will kick off a celebration with board members and educators, past and present.
Friends Council provides responsive and interactive virtual professional development for Friends school educators from all parts of the United States and the world.
Friends Council is committed to furthering social justice in every aspect of its work, including by dismantling racism, oppression, and White supremacy. In its fourth year, Community Conversations on Race is a regular event that invites educators and community members to examine structural racism and to practice having the conversations that are needed to dismantle systemic racism. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practitioners from Friends schools gather regularly for connection and conversation; the most recent program focused on trauma-informed approaches to supporting students during the pandemic.
Friends Council is a resource for the broader Friends school network and serves as the national voice of Quaker education. A January 2021 statement, “Insurgency, Inauguration, and Our Children,” signed by 55 heads of Friends schools plus FCE staff, was issued nationally and shared on social media.
As the pandemic dramatically impacts education, Friends Council amplified its professional development for educators, keeping focus on Quaker principles and practices. Thirty gatherings were held this spring, more offerings than Friends Council usually has in an entire year. Through virtual programs, educators explored teaching students remotely in ways that remain true to Quaker pedagogy and testimonies. For example, Quaker and religious life educators shared tips for holding virtual meeting for worship, and lower school teachers discussed how to incorporate Quakerism into distance learning.
One of Friends Council’s functions is connectivity, and the shift to online has opened new opportunities. Virtual meeting for worship is offered each Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. EST for those affiliated with Quaker education to connect and reflect. The first-ever virtual Friends Council annual meeting brought together friends of Friends education from across the country.
Friends Council also continued to offer counsel to heads of schools and trustees. Through the pandemic and calls for racial justice, Friends Council convened Friends school heads weekly for virtual conversations about how to lead with integrity and stay true to Quaker principles and practice.
As part of its own commitment to racial justice work, FCE is offering diversity, equity, and inclusion forums and community conversations on race on a regular basis.