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.
In April, Friends Council on Education’s ninetieth anniversary celebration brought those in Friends education together for conversation and connection at Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, Pa. A tribute to Friends Council’s founders, Morris E. and Hadassah M. Leeds, preceded the graduation of the ninth cohort of the Institute for Engaging Leadership in Friends Schools.
Friends Council continues to work toward racial and social justice. Going into its fifth year, Community Conversations on Race brings together people to share tools to combat racism in their communities. The new heads of color affinity group meets monthly. In August, the Educators New to Quakerism workshop at Friends School of Atlanta in Georgia incorporated equity and justice—a newly added pillar to Principles of Good Practice in Friends Schools.
Peer Networks bring educators working in different Friends schools together. In the spring, learning specialists explored using the context of Quaker school missions to frame their work, including using the testimonies of equity and equality in learning support. Quaker Life educators focused on re-centering Quaker practices and ideas that have been interrupted during the past two years of the pandemic. School counselors and psychologists shared trends in meeting the needs of students and faculty given the current climate of our world and emphasized the importance of staying attuned to the many ways young people are experiencing challenges.
Friends Council on Education celebrates its 90th anniversary with Sources of Light QuakerEd Talks. In September, Friends Council presented “An Evening of Poetry, Music, and Thought” featuring Darryl J. Ford, the head of William Penn Charter School; Keisha Hutchins, an award-winning singer-songwriter; and Cydney Brown, the 2020 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate. In February, they convened climate activists Ingrid Lakey and Eileen Flanagan, environmental experts Eric Toensmeier and Laura Jackson, and Friends school student leaders Elson Bankoff and Corey Becker for “Climate Activists: Letting Their Lives Speak.” Community Conversations on Race is in year five continuing Friends Council’s focus on antiracism work. A highlight this year was award-winning film producer/director André Robert Lee’s discussion of his recent documentary The Road to Justice. Friends Council issued a statement, “Diversity, Equity, and Justice Belong in Friends Schools,” along with tips and considerations for responding to inquiries about the statement. Workshops such as Educators New to Quakerism have resumed in person, with executive director Drew Smith taking the program to individual school communities. Peer network professional development continues in virtual format, enabling Friends Council to meet the needs of small Friends schools and those at a distance from Philadelphia. Friends Council continues to administer and fundraise for the National Friends Education Fund. This year, tuition aid grants were distributed to 184 Friends students in 33 Friends schools across the country.
Friends Council on Education is celebrating its ninetieth anniversary this year with the QuakerEd Talks speaker series, a set of virtual events that started in April with a conversation on COVID-19, healthcare, and social justice featuring Dr. Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, and Crissy Cáceres, head of Brooklyn Friends School. The celebration kick-off continued at the spring annual meeting, which featured a panel of heads of color reflecting on their leadership journeys and the future of Friends education; and the gathering for heads of schools included a conversation between nationally known author Anand Giridharadas and Bryan Garman, head of Sidwell Friends School.
Also this past spring, Friends Council launched a new peer network for educators supporting LGBTQIA+ students in Friends schools. In addition, staff is supporting a new student group—Student Environmental and Sustainability Network (SEASN)—for cross school networking on climate change and eco-justice.
Friends Council is collaborating with Rationale Partners on a research project to investigate the financial implications and performance of multi-campus schools and to provide school leaders with a comprehensive resource for use in decision-making in this area. This important data, which is currently lacking in the independent school sector, will be a potential resource for Quaker schools. The project is funded by grants from the Edward E. Ford Foundation and the BLBB Charitable foundation
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.