I am attending the Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) directors meetings this weekend hosted by the International School of Helsinki. CEESA is one of the 8 major regional associations of international schools set up by the US State Department Office of Overseas Schools in the 1970s. 16 heads of school and the US Embassy Regional Education Officer are attending the meetings.
One of the purposes of CEESA is to provide professional development opportunities for individuals at CEESA schools. This is a link to the 2022-2023 Professional Learning Events. The highlights include middle leadership training with NoTosh Consultants, emergency evacuation protocols, global and European energy, and financial trends/risks for school boards, Diversity Equity Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ), etc.
My big takeaway from the morning session on Friday was that DEIJ initiatives and policies should be put through a child safeguarding lens. Marginalized groups of any community are at greater risk. Most of the countries in our region are not progressive and “Western” in their government policies or cultures. This creates challenges for international schools trying to safeguard students who may be discriminated against due to sexual orientation, race, gender, etc. I asked CEESA to provide aspirational DEIJ guidelines for members schools. DEIJ also applies to our employees and we discussed supporting minority hires and protecting newcomers to our respective cultures and legal systems. Several of the schools mentioned LGBTQ+ consultant Emily Meadows is working with them. I read her article, “There is a Downside to “Hearing All Voices” and it helped us frame the discussion. Families with conservative views may be a challenge to IB, Western Humanist style of education that our schools practice. The International School of Belgrade’s DEI statement is another good resource.
IS Helsinki’s head of school discussed their school’s commitment to teaching Climate Collapse. What are we as CEESA schools doing? We will be faced with migration, economic collapse, natural disasters, etc. brought to our schools by climate change. ISH is reviewing professional development travel and encouraging teachers to reflect on the ecological impact of flights. I would like to do an audit of how many flights our employees are taking annually and what is our carbon footprint.
In the late afternoon of Day 1, we discussed with the leadership of the Athletic Directors / Activities Coordinators the future of international sports and activities events. The pandemic paused international exchanges for three years and now CEESA schools are thinking about what role the organization should play in secondary school sports and activities. CEESA is unique in that the athletics (sports) and activities are implemented under the CEESA umbrella. This creates challenges for the association which include the following:
- Wide variety of school types and sizes – School sizes range from over 1000 to under 200.
- Geographic Distance – Many of the former USSR countries are included. It is almost 5,000 km from Bishkek to Helsinki
We decided to make a task force to study the situation this school year and make a plan by the Spring Educators Conference in March. The other issues to clarify are homestay students versus hotels, competitive balance and offers from other regional organizations.
This discussion does not concern us too much because Tashkent is so far away from most of the CEESA schools, they we rely on our Central Asian Federation of Activities and Athletics for most of our international tournaments and festivals.