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From good idea to global influence: ECIS turns 50 Kevin J Ruth So, ten Heads of school, three nuns and an observer walk into a bar. Indeed, the first gathering of those who felt it prudent to pursue the formation of a group of linked schools within Europe was held at a bar in Beirut in the autumn of 1962 during the International Schools Foundation conference, an annual gathering for Heads of American and international schools. That initial seed soon took root as the putative Council of European Schools Serving American Students (CESSAS), and there was talk of formalising the organisation. Later, just one year before it was to incorporate officially, there was a meeting in Brussels at which the earliest form of the Office of Overseas Schools – then called the Overseas Schools Policies Committee – was announced as having been established by the US Department of State, and so began an affiliation between the two organisations ab initio. The historic meeting that resulted in the official formation of the association was held at the Collège du Léman in Switzerland in March 1965, and, since those earliest days, the organisation we now know as ECIS has grown from a core group of prescient schools to a worldwide organisation of almost 700 members that spans myriad cultures, curricular models, and organisational designs. ECIS owes its existence to a group of passionate and visionary educational leaders who exercised their resolve, and their names echo loudly in the halls of international education, from Mary Crist Fleming (The American School in Switzerland) to Arthur Denyer (International School of Brussels) to Francis Clivaz (Collège du Léman) to John Chapman (The American School of Paris), among others whose numbers grew rapidly in those early years. On the occasions of its significant anniversaries in the past, ECIS undertook publications of a distinctly chronological format, and they are drawn upon intentionally in this article.¹ As we prepare to celebrate our Golden Jubilee in 2015, however, it seems somehow fitting, in light of the increasing number of international educators and leaders who do not have that direct connection to the founders and earliest members, that we paint the canvas of the first 50 years by looking at those events along the journey that form part of today’s understanding of the identity of ECIS, and that serve to inform the immediate path forward as we begin to look at the next 50 years. Corporate identity and nomenclature ECIS has had four corporate identities in its first 50 years. The first incorporation was in 1966 as a Swiss non-profit; the second in 1974 as an American


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Foundation (Delaware); the third in 1983 as an American 501(c)(3) Delaware non-profit corporation; and the fourth (and current) in 2012 as a UK non-profit. Alongside incorporation is the matter of nomenclature. When it was resolved to form the organisation in 1965, it was given the name European Council of International Schools, and its core membership was international schools within Europe, although, as pointed out earlier, the idea had had its genesis in Beirut. Over the years, as membership parameters were revisited and expanded to permit membership of non-European schools, the ECIS base grew to include schools and affiliates on six continents. When ECIS relocated its offices to London in 2011 and was granted UK charitable status the following year, the name of the organisation changed to ECI Schools, as the utilisation of ‘European Council’ was not permitted on account of EU regulations on that combination. Thus, whilst the familiar ‘ECIS’ has remained for trading purposes, it no longer functions as an acronym – it is simply four letters. The moniker ‘European’ has faded away, therefore, and in many ways this development was inevitable and perhaps somewhat overdue, given the association’s truly global membership. Yet the use of ‘ECIS’ is a positive nod toward and suitable reminder of its nascent membership in Europe, which remains the organisation’s core market. Related closely to corporate identity and nomenclature is the leadership provided to ECIS by its executive directors over the years. While every executive director has served the organisation loyally and with skill, it is fitting to highlight an extraordinary leadership period of 29 years provided by Gray Mattern and his successor, Michael Maybury: two individuals of very different styles and temperaments, yet each of whom led the organisation during years of rapid growth, both in terms of schools served and programmes undertaken. To accredit or not to accredit? ECIS began to accredit schools some seven years after its inception, even though the subject had been broached in 1965, as a way to acknowledge that international schools (not just American schools, but the growing number of different kinds of international schools) differed from the kinds of schools being accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools – the primary accrediting agency at that time. The first school to be accredited was Antwerp International School in 1971, and it marked the beginning of a long and fruitful period of accreditation by ECIS. Schools that soon followed were Copenhagen International School (1972), Stavanger American School (1974), and the International School of Hamburg (1975), with many more to come after these first ten years of existence. The Collège du Léman became the first member school to undergo what we now term ‘dual accreditation’ in 1978, with the two agencies being ECIS and Middle States, although the processes were not as coordinated as they are now. In that same year, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) announced that they would begin offering accreditation services in International Schools Journal Vol XXXIV No.2 April 2015


Europe and would be prepared to conduct dual accreditation with ECIS. The International School of Belgrade and the Anglo-American School of Moscow were the first schools to complete this joint process in 1981. Accreditation carried on in this fashion until the start of the new millennium, when a decision was reached to separate the accreditation portfolio from that of professional development conferences and programming, awards, fellowships, and consultancy. The legal separation occurred in 2003, with the birth of the Council of International Schools (CIS) as the entity to handle accreditation as well as recruitment services. Conferences The annual conferences in November and April that we now take for granted grew from a combination of regular meetings and serendipity. From the inception of the idea in Beirut through the earliest days of ECIS, there were springtime meetings. The spring of 1967 saw a more formalised structure offered, and what we now know as the April conference ensued. As for the November conference, it developed from a serendipitous event that occurred in 1967. International School Services (ISS) had planned an autumn conference for schools in Europe and the Near East; however, at the last minute, funding fell through. Within three days ECIS proposed a conference in Zurich, and the rest is history. It should be noted, though, that the first ten years of ECIS conferences were attended largely by directors and administrators, most notably college counsellors, even at the autumnal gathering. As the organisation began its second decade, however, it was recognised that the needs of teachers could be met by ECIS, specifically by means of offering a conference where ideas could be shared and networks created or expanded – and so the November conference became the event most associated with professional development opportunities for teachers, an ethos which remains in evidence to this day. Consulting ECIS has offered consultancy services for most of its existence, though that fact may not be recognised by many today. Indeed, the organisation was experiencing growing pains in 1981 (in its 16th year) partially because the then Executive Secretary, Gray Mattern, needed more time for his growing responsibilities, among them a general availability for consultations and a specific availability for Head searches all over the world.² For many years, ECIS also offered placement services, a feature traditionally associated with a search consultancy, until the birth of CIS in 2003, at which time CIS continued with placement services. ECIS has continued to offer – and expand – its consultancy services. Programme offerings ECIS had run conferences from its early years and, as schools grew and more staff had more need of professional development opportunities, it made sense to


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carve out an area within the organisation that would devote itself to discovery and implementation of programmes of action to enhance the performance of professional staff in member schools; thus was launched School Services.³ At the base of these services was a vibrant group of committees comprising teachers focused on specific subjects from English to school libraries. That structure exists to this very day, with over 30 Interest Area and Leadership Groups that produce ideas for conference strands and speakers, as well as promote research. By the summer of 1982, ECIS was organising training workshops for teachers dealing with the International Baccalaureate programme, and a strong relationship with the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate – now known as CIE (Cambridge International Examinations) – soon blossomed as well. The outgrowth of these workshops can be seen in today’s offering of ECIS programmes, comprising the International Teacher Certificate (ITC, offered with the partnership of CIE), the Teaching Assistant Certificate (TAC), and, from a governance angle, the Sustainable International School Governance (SISG) diploma programme. In many ways, ‘school services’ are very much alive and well, and they continue to evolve to meet the times and needs of member schools. ‘The split’ When accreditation and placement services were separated from professional development and consultancy services as of July 2003, an event often referred to as ‘the split,’ a new era began. Two organisations with a shared past began to shape new identities around their stack of activities. Given their shared past and their similarly-structured names, there is sometimes confusion regarding the two, even to this day, when some schools state on their website that they are accredited by ECIS. They are not. Though distinct entities, ECIS and CIS continued to share accommodation until 2011, when ECIS moved to London. At that same time, CIS undertook a move to Leiden, The Netherlands, where they became incorporated as a Dutch non-profit in 2012, the same year in which ECIS became incorporated as a UK non-profit. The two organisations remain in on-going and amiable professional contact, as both serve international schools in important ways. The move to London Although ECIS had moved from Switzerland in the 1970s to be housed in London at the newly-built American School of London, its growth soon required a move to larger office spaces, which the organisation found in Surrey, in the southern suburbs of London. ECIS continued to grow in membership and in staff and, just several years later, the offices were moved again, this time to more spacious accommodation in Petersfield, a market town just north of Portsmouth. Petersfield proved a beneficial location for some time, and, even when ECIS and CIS were distinctly separate from 2003, it remained the home of both until 2011. It was in that year that ECIS moved its headquarters to London, some 100 meters from Victoria Station on Buckingham Palace Road, where it still resides. International Schools Journal Vol XXXIV No.2 April 2015


Whither ECIS at 50? Firmly ensconced in London, we now celebrate our Golden Jubilee as a membership organisation serving hundreds of schools across the world, and we look forward with optimism and a genuine sense of self. To be in international education is to be in a continual state of reflection accompanied by adjustment, and the next 50 years will be no exception. ECIS recently completed a branding and identity study, in which we appealed to a number of member schools, past and present, to assist us in blue-sky thinking that was consonant with our identity, and most importantly, that highlighted ways in which we might increase our impact. The study highlighted three interconnected areas for us: network, consultancy, and innovation. Our network of international education professionals is a key strength, and it is the result of many years of conferences, programmes, school visits, special events, and consulting engagements. The ECIS network is poised to grow in number, location, and quality of interaction, and we will do so by keeping at the forefront of our minds the question: ‘what skills will international educational professionals need in order to remain not only competitive, but cutting edge?’ Our consultancy is a natural partner in that effort, as it too benefits from and contributes to the overall network. We have built a reputation in the areas of finance and governance in particular, in addition to other areas of need for schools, and in recent years we have had frequent consulting engagements with schools in either the start-up or early-years phases of their evolution. It is often through our consultancy work that new needs come to light, and that in turn forms discussions on how ECIS might facilitate innovation and creativity in international schools. This third area will become an increasingly evident part of our identity, moving forward, as it is in keeping with the notion of education as a profoundly trans-formative experience, for students and families as well as for education professionals in our international schools. ECIS will begin its next 50 years much as it began its first 50 years – as a catalyst for international education and all that that particular vocation entails. In the midst of what may seem a maelstrom of a modern world, ECIS can be counted on to serve the international education community as a beacon of learning and transformation.


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Executive Directors Arthur Denyer

1963 to 1966 *part-time

William Lovegrove

1969 to 1970 *part-time

Donald Phillips

1970 to 1973

Gray Mattern

1974 to 1989

Michael Maybury

1989 to 2003

Dixie McKay

2003 to 2008

Pilar Cabeza de Vaca

2008 to 2009

Jean Vahey

2009 to 2014

Kevin J. Ruth

2014 to present

Board Chairs John Mattern

1965 to 1968

Jack Deniston


Jack Bruce

1969 to 1970

Brian Howes

1970 to 1971

John Paterson

1971 to 1972

Stanley Haas

1973 to 1978

Lewis Grell

1978 to 1980

Alan Humphries

980 to 1981

John Parkes

1981 to 1986

Gail Schoppert

1986 to 1989

Peter Stokes

1989 to 1993

George Hoffmeier

1993 to 1994

Margaret Amstrong-Law

1994 to 1996

Robert Schaecher

1996 to 1999

Terry Haywood

1999 to 2001

Linda Duevel

2001 to 2004

Chris Bowman

2004 to 2005

Robert Landau

2005 to 2009

Arnie Bieber

2009 to 2011

Edward Greene

2011 to present

Bibliography 1.

European Council of International Schools 40th Anniversary: Celebrating the Past (Borcombe SP, 1965). There are two parts to this compilation, with the first part (focus on 1962 to 1990) compiled by John Paterson (former ECIS board chair), and the second part (focus on 1990 to 2005) compiled by Jane Meredith (ECIS Executive Assistant). John

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Paterson had compiled his section at the 25th Jubilee of ECIS, published as International Endeavour: A History of the European Council of International Schools 1965-1990, and it serves as an important inclusion in the 40th anniversary booklet. Additionally, there exists a separate, unpublished profile of the tenure of executive director Mike Maybury (1989 to 2003). PDFs of the 40th anniversary booklet and the profile of Mike Maybury’s tenure can be found on the ECIS website at www.ecis.org. 2.

Celebrating the Past, 18.


Celebrating the Past, 26.

Dr Kevin J Ruth is Executive Director of ECIS.


International Schools Journal Vol XXXIV No.2 April 2015

Profile for ECI Schools

From Good Idea to Global Influence: ECIS Turns 50  

Article published in International Schools Journal in April 2015, detailing the history of ECIS.

From Good Idea to Global Influence: ECIS Turns 50  

Article published in International Schools Journal in April 2015, detailing the history of ECIS.