Friends Council on Education created the Leadership in Service to Friends Education Award to honor the outstanding work of people who have significantly enhanced Quaker education through service and leadership. Those who receive the award demonstrate exceptional performance, achievement, and innovation on behalf of their school communities and the wider world of Friends education. The award may be given to an individual or to a pair or group of individuals whose collaborative efforts have brought about meaningful change in their schools or in Quaker education more broadly. Recipients model a commitment to the principles and practices of Friends education in ways that touch the lives of the students served by Friends Council schools. Quaker education is filled with talented, inspiring, and vibrant individuals and partnerships. We intend for the Leadership in Service to Friends Education Award to be a celebration of all who bring Quaker principles and practices to life.
Brenda C. Crawley
Head of School, Plymouth Meeting Friends School
A Personal Perspective on the impact of Friends Council’s work
2021-22 marks another year of unknowns for school leaders. The continued global health crisis and ongoing social and political concerns transform headship from the role of school director and “chief visionary” to public health & safety coordinator, spiritual advisor, chief communicator, racial justice authority and community sustainer. All aspects of schools as both educational institutions and businesses came clear, requiring Friends school heads to constantly shift between pastoral and “parental” responsibilities while sustaining their communities. Significantly, multiple crises razed the hierarchy of experience and seniority; and school heads turned to each other for connection, guidance and fellowship. Toni Morrison stated that, “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.” Though Morrison was referring specifically to writers, her wisdom reflects the determination demonstrated by Friends school educators. Weekly Friends Council gatherings for school heads offer a space for support, collegiality and fellowship, allowing seasoned and new heads a venue for problem-solving and a shared understanding of the important work of our Quaker schools.
As a woman of color and head of school, the weight of implicit and explicit bias impacts my professional and personal well-being. There is no time at which the issues of race elude me; and I am keenly aware of the need for conversations and continuous learning about equity and justice in our school communities. Articulating the goal of being anti-racist, Friends Council engages Friends school educators and Quaker-based organizations to delve deeper in order to uproot racism. Pushing beyond equality toward equity encourages speaking truth to power and breaking barriers of privilege and entitlement. By establishing affinity spaces—whether based on job position or identity—Friends Council acknowledges and affirms the voices of individuals and groups who need dedicated times to connect. Inside these safe spaces, Friends school heads, heads of color, early childhood directors, and small or large school heads find kinship, advocates, allies and accomplices. These gatherings have proven invaluable to me, since the early days of my headship at Plymouth Meeting Friends School in 2019.
Staying grounded in Quaker faith and practice compels us to utilize the Testimonies as catalysts for change: to examine intentions versus impact. This is eternal work that Friends schools commit to through mission, philosophy and keen focus on equity, justice and belonging. It is work done best in fellowship and partnership in and between our school communities. I am encouraged by a shared willingness to bring this work more explicitly into our classrooms, curriculum and programs, as well as into the policies and practices at the heart of our schools. Making space for a diversity of voices and perspectives pushes us to lean into open discussions and the discomfort that accompanies change. I look forward to stepping into those spaces with Friends Council’s continued support and leadership for years to come.
A Message from Joe Mueller
Head of School, Friends School of Minnesota
Over the past twenty months, my school community has dealt with the ever-changing landscape of education under COVID-19 as well as the nearby murder of George Floyd, the subsequent social unrest in our city, and its direct impact on members of our school community. The pandemic forced us into isolation in our homes in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus while racial injustice brought us out into the streets in an attempt to stop the violence in our hometown.
Luckily, I haven't had to hold the weight of headship by myself. From the very first week of accepting the position at Friends School of Minnesota in 2020, the weight was distributed acrossthe many hands and hearts of Friends school heads from around the country.Last year, weekly Zoom meetings, arranged and held by Friends Council on Education, were integral to my survival. This year, we continue to meet monthly, and for that I remain grateful.
Expertly clerked by FCE staff Drew Smith and Deborra Sines Pancoe, we have built a true community while sitting in both silence and in conversation thousands of miles from each other. We celebrate each other reaching peaks, and hold each other while we walk through our personal and professional valleys.
Headship is a heavy responsibility, and perhaps never more so than over the past couple of years. Thanks to Friends Council, we are not left to navigate this alone.