During the 1960’s the role of private secondary education in the United States was being debated in many quarters in light of the considerable social upheaval then taking place. Similarly, during the time of Vatican Council II and afterwards, many within the Society of Jesus began to question the effectiveness of its traditional apostolates, particularly parishes and schools. Some members of the Society advocated and opted for direct social service in the inner cities where poverty and racism seemed obvious manifestations of societal injustice. The Society’s commitment, moreover, to the mission of faith and justice left many in the institutional apostolates wondering about their role and future.
In 1964, a serious study was undertaken to determine just how effective Jesuit high schools had been in the Christian formation of its students. The findings of the research, known as “The Fichter Study,” gave impetus to the establishment of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA) as an entity in its own right (separate from a similar organization for Jesuit colleges and universities) that would provide services for Jesuit high schools in order to further the specifically Jesuit character of their educational efforts. The Preamble to the Constitutions of JSEA, drawn up in response to the context in which Jesuit educators found themselves, set forth a challenging vision and sent out a powerful call to action which ultimately would inspire those working in the secondary education apostolate to a dynamic sense of mission and purpose, deeply rooted in Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit tradition.
Early Years (1970's and 1980's)
The Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA) was founded in 1970 upon the dissolution of the Jesuit Educational Association (JEA) in order to care for the particular needs of the Jesuit secondary school apostolate in the United States. At the same time the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) came into existence to serve the particular needs of Jesuit higher education.
In its early years, JSEA functioned with a President and a Board of Directors which represented the ten Jesuit provinces and the different functions within the schools (i.e., president, principal, teacher). In addition, the Association addressed strategic issues and developed programs and workshops through its Commissions (standing committees) which addressed religious education (CORE), staff development and curriculum improvement (CORD), strategic planning and development (COPAD), and the role of Jesuit governance (CAPE) in furthering the apostolate of Jesuit secondary education in the United States.
The Commissions of JSEA were composed of men and women from the schools with the exception of CAPE, whose membership consisted of the ten Jesuit provincial delegates for education. In 1976, CORD was restructured to include a full-time staff with offices in the Graduate School of Education of Fordham University at Lincoln Center in New York City. As a result of an educational project initiated by the Jesuit Provincials, who constitute the board of the Jesuit Conference of the United States, CORD was given a mandate to provide training for potential presidents and principals of Jesuit high schools, to assist schools in developing curriculum consistent with the ideals of the JSEA Preamble and the principles of the Society’s 31st and 32nd General Congregations, and to conduct research as well as to offer consultation services as appropriate. All of the Commissions continued with minor modifications until JSEA reorganized its structures in 1995.
Since 1970 JSEA has sponsored national and regional workshops, conferences, seminars and symposia on various issues. In addition to books it has published over the years, JSEA has produced a series of monographs and documents which were compiled and published in 1994 in a single volume entitled Foundations. That compendium provides a comprehensive background for understanding the context in which the Association operated from its inception to 1994.
Looking forward to observing its 25th Anniversary during the 1995-96 academic year, JSEA initiated a process of self-evaluation in 1993 that would examine JSEA structures, programs and services to member schools. The Board asked members of the Commission of Assistants to the Provincials for Education (CAPE) to engage the member schools of their provinces in the evaluation during the fall of 1993. In spring 1994, CAPE presented its findings to the JSEA Board after which the Board established task forces to examine the Board structure, the roles of the Commissions, staffing needs and future directions of the Association. Proposals and recommendations, adopted at the November 1994 meeting of the JSEA Board, were subsequently circulated to the membership for comment. At its meeting in March 1995, the JSEA Board finalized decisions concerning JSEA’s future directions, staffing and organizational structure. As direct follow up to that meeting, a teleconference was held in May 1995 at which the Board formally approved its revised Bylaws which went into effect July 1, 1995. Meanwhile, in December 1994, JSEA was fully incorporated in the District of Columbia as a not-for-profit corporation.
As a result of the extensive evaluation process, the JSEA Board:
- eliminated the Commission structure
- mandated a central staff in Washington, DC
- modified the representational nature of the Board
- defined itself as a policy making body with all programming delegated to the staff
- established as the overarching goal of the Association “to promote the Ignatian vision of education in interactive partnership with and among the member schools.”
The Board agreed that the context in which the goal, focus and programs of JSEA would be carried out should always be one of consciously modeling collaboration, networking among people and institutions, integration of Ignatian spirituality, effective use of technological resources, and a faith-justice commitment that emphasizes the Church’s and the Society of Jesus’ option for youth and the poor. The Board gave to JSEA staff the responsibility to develop programming and services relating to the implementation of the Ignatian vision in Jesuit education for the following four areas:
- leadership formation and support
- teacher formation and support
- school planning and curriculum development
- research in Ignatian education
After extensive consultation with the membership during the 1997-1998 academic year, JSEA’s Board of Directors, in November 1998, adopted a five-year plan (1999-2004) with specific objectives in four goal areas
- resource development
- leadership development
- network development and
- research development
all with the ultimate aim of helping member schools deepen their Ignatian culture.
Eight Jesuits have led the Association as its President since 1970:
- Edwin J. McDermott, S.J.
- Vincent J. Duminuco, S.J.
- Charles P. Costello, S.J.
- Carl E. Meirose, S.J.
- Joseph F. O’Connell, S.J.
- Ralph E. Metts, S.J.
- Jim Stoeger, S.J.
- Bill Muller, S.J.
Each president naturally nurtured the Association within the historical context of his time in office and with his particular talents and interests. The JSEA/JSN Board of Directors, like other boards of not-for-profit organizations, has undergone development over the years. It was frequently the initiator of programs more than policy, often in response to needs which it identified in Catholic and Jesuit education.
The Network continues to be supported principally by assessment fees from its member schools and interest from a small investment portfolio. No direct fund raising has been done since 1983, when an effort was made to raise a substantial amount for “endowment” until 1995 when the Board mandated the hiring of a full time Development Director. As part of the JSEA evaluation process, the Suddes Group, a fund-raising and public-relations consultant firm which had worked with several Jesuit schools, conducted a Development Audit for the Association. Its results were presented to the JSEA Board in March 1994. Three of the Suddes Group’s principal findings found their way into the Board’s final decisions for the Association: (1) to increase public awareness of and support for JSEA’s mission and services; 2) to establish a Development Council; and (3) to hire a full time Development Director.
As a result of the Suddes Group’s recommendations, a JSEA Development Office was established in June 1995 with a full-time director who worked for over a year and a half to accomplish several goals: (1) establishment of a Development Council, (2) identification of potential donors, (3) development of an annual appeal, and (4) solicitation of support from foundations and corporations. In February 1997, the Development Council became a full-fledged committee of the Board of Directors and the functions of the Development Office were subsumed under the responsibilities of the President. In October 2001, the Board concluded that the Development Council had helped the President and the Board to look seriously at the question of how to increase sources of revenue for JSEA operations. Having acted on the Council’s recommendations and in light of the Board’s decision that the President spend less time in development, the Board decided to dissolve the Council.