FCE Launches 90th Anniversary Celebration: The Road We are Traveling

Friends Council on Education is celebrating our 90th Anniversary! We kicked off what will be a yearlong celebration on Thursday April 22, 2021 at our virtual spring annual meeting.  With over 100 friends of Friends Council in attendance, this celebration included a report from Executive Director Drew Smith reflecting on the past, present and future of Quaker education, recognition of past executive directors in attendance, and expressions of gratitude as we said farewell to outgoing Board members. The annual meeting is a time to acknowledge members of our Evergreen Circle planned giving group and approve the slate of for our FCE nominating committee. This year’s meeting featured a panel of heads of schools talking about their journey in Friends school leadership.

How far we’ve come

Friends Council was founded 90 years ago by two Friends, Morris and Hadassah Leeds, who brought together 90 educators to form a Council on Friends Education. “We’ve come a long way in 90 years,” says Executive Director Drew Smith. “Friends Council now consists of 76 schools serving 20,000 students, 5,000 faculty and staff and just over 1,000 school trustees.”
Smith shared an overview of the many programs and resources that are now available to Friends schools and Friends school educators thanks to Friends Council on Education. These include: 

  • Membership Renewal Process (MRP) for Friends schools
  • Institute for Engaging Leadership in Friends Schools now in its 9th cohort
  • Spirited Practice and Renewed Courage (SPARC) program
  • National Friends Education Fund, continuing efforts to increase tuition aid grants supporting Quaker students in Friends schools across the country.

Since the 85th Anniversary in 2016, Friends Council has launched and expanded a number of initiatives. Among these milestones are:

  • Growing the National Friends Education Fund (NFEF) tuition aid program to a total of $3.5 million to assist Quaker students in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting region as well as across the country in attending Friends schools. This is largely due to the efforts and generosity of the Evans family along with support from many donors.  
  • Continuing our focus on racial and social justice through our Community Conversations on Race gatherings, UnColumbus Day workshops and DEI forums
  • Expanding our Educators New to Quakerism (ENTQ) program to reach a wide range of geographic regions
  • Serving as a sponsor for the Friend Education Equity Collaborative (FEEC), a PA state tax credit program that funds tuition aid in Friends Schools to the tune of $9M
  • Engaging in an extensive strategic visioning process
  • Launching a newly designed Friends Council website and two e-newsletters QuakerEd News and Quaker Ed Reads 

Where we are in 2020-21

Reflecting on Friends Council’s work this year, Smith shared that living through the pandemic and the increased calls for racial justice have stretched the organization to grow in new ways. Friends Council has expanded our programmatic offerings through the pandemic and will continue to do so. We’ve also run an experiment offering programs to a wider network, says Smith, citing FCE’s Inauguration Day program led by Dr. Rodney Glasgow which engaged  students and faculty from schools across the country, and the very recent April 19 virtual event where Crissy Caceres interviewed Dr. Wayne Frederick about COVID, health care and social justice.
“We found these two events so successful; we anticipate offering more programs to a wider constituency in the future and are happy to receive suggestions,” says Smith.

The Road ahead

Smith informed annual meeting attendees about what is forthcoming on the road ahead for Friends Council. Smith has been consulting with and supporting two new schools which are now in provisional membership; one is Lancaster Friends School in Pennsylvania and the other is Phoenix Friends School in Arizona.  Friends Council is also revising our Membership Renewal Process so that it will encompass racial justice. And, Friends Council is currently engaged in a research project along with Rationale Partners to study multi-campus schools; the project is funded by E. E. Ford and BLBB Foundation and will provide Friends schools with data about mergers and consolidating campuses. 

In closing, Smith highlighted the Quaker principle of continuing revelation. “In Quaker schools this is the principle we exercise least well; this is because we are human beings, we resist change. As we think of racial justice and who we have been as Quaker schools, continuing revelation is where we will find the practice to transform our organizations.”

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