Dear AIS Community,
Over the weekend, some of our former and current Black students and parents shared their painful truths about their experiences at AIS on social media. The Black@ movement is a national movement across many independent schools and universities that highlights the experiences of Black students and families and demands concrete anti-racist actions.
The fact that our school has not yet lived up to our aspirations has been brought into sharp focus. The posts and comments have told us we have much work to do to create a community where Black students and families feel like they also matter and belong. I want to thank our Black alumni, families and current students for their activism, for using their voices and for demanding positive change in the school and community we all love. As the head of a school that aspires to be intentionally inclusive, it is especially painful to hear these stories, particularly when the allegations involve adults in our community.
AIS as a community needs to do better and move more quickly to ensure that we are creating and sustaining a school environment that allows each student and family to feel seen, heard, treated fairly, protected and included. This is work we must do as a school, a city, a nation and a global community.
I want to ask for your help and active support in the work we commit to doing now, in this place, in our school. If we want the lived experience of all of our students to truly reflect the mission and core values of our school, we need to accelerate our equity and inclusion work, so that it becomes integral to all we do; our education, our curriculum, our systems, our policies, practices, how we interact with one another--part of the very fabric of AIS, the story of us.
The structures, procedures, attitudes, and behaviors that perpetuate racial bias and racism, are not as susceptible to overnight transformations as we would hope and want. But we must not overlook the emotional harm they are inflicting on our young people and their families. These biases are embedded in our culture and are invisible to many whose lives are not diminished by them. We must make them visible in both our consciousness and our structures and combat them here at AIS.
As I shared in my post to social media on Sunday, I have read every single comment and am in the process of following up with leaders across the school. In addition, I have started to reach out to our African-American/Black families to hear more directly about your experiences at AIS and will continue to do so. I welcome the opportunity to talk to each of you. If you have any reservations speaking with me directly, please reach out to our Head of Equity and Inclusion, Jacinta Williams for a confidential conversation.
We have been formally working on this issue for ten years and we have made some strides, but it is not enough. We will move with a greater sense of urgency. Our work has been focused on the Board, leadership, and employee development yet we have not put enough emphasis into action that translates to the lived student experience in our community.
There will be some immediate actions and long-term goals that will help us move our work forward in this area. While these comments of actions and behaviors have been expressed by our Black students, we are fully aware that many students of color suffer because of their identity in a biased world and we must do everything we can to make sure this does not happen to them at AIS.
Despite this unique moment in time, we want to be in dialogue with all of you regarding the experience of black students and families in our school as we move forward in this work together. We believe this dialogue and this work will strengthen our ability to ensure all students feel seen, heard, treated fairly, protected and valued.
Here is what we commit to:
We will have the following Community Town Hall webinars during the week of June 22 to give us the opportunity to hear more from you and give you the opportunity to hear more from us:
Employee Town Hall: Tuesday, June 23 (5:30pm)
Community Town Hall Option 1: Wednesday, June 24 (8:30am)
Community Town Hall Option 2: Wednesday, June 24 (5:30pm)
Internal investigation related to specific concerns of racial bias by employees completed by the start of school
Survey current students and families of color by June 30
Review demands from our community by June 30
Share refined strategy and action plans with the community by July 24
All leaders at all levels in the school receive a personal intercultural development inventory debrief and action plan by September 1
Schedule an initial Town Hall with our Black parents and subsequent quarterly meetings with our Black parents for next school year
Schedule grade-level listening sessions with our black students
Engage in open dialogue with all faculty of color
Anti-racism training for groups of faculty once a week during June and July
Formal anti-slur policy to be printed in student, parent, and employee handbooks for the 2020-2021 school year
Clear, explicit process for students to provide input and express concerns about students and adults created and shared with students and parents in August.
Creation of formal student diversity leadership group upon returning to school in the Fall
Launch of student affinity groups based on race for both Upper and Middle School students the week of August 24
Anti-racism, culturally responsive and inclusive teaching training for all faculty during the school year (August 10-14, September 30, October 23, January 27, February 24, April 1, April 28, May 28)
Expand the intercultural development inventory with upper school students by October 15
Implement intercultural teaching and leadership competencies and standards for all employees related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the goal setting, appraisal and performance management process by January 2022
Comprehensive curriculum audit and reviews across 3K-12 by January 2022
Design and implement student field experiences to increase the empowerment and leadership of our students to be social change agents (ongoing)
Recruit and retain underrepresented groups of students and employees (ongoing)
Extend restorative practices training to all employees (August 10-14, January 4). The Restorative practices approach is explained more in the linked plan.
This is an existential moment in the history of AIS, the history of our city, the United States and across the world.
I feel great regret that we are not yet the school we want to be. We have not listened as we should have. The work of uncovering and removing the structures and behaviors that perpetuate racial bias and racism are not the responsibility of those most impacted. It is on all of us to recognize, challenge and dismantle them.
We heard the voices over the weekend and we will continue to listen. And we will act.
Head of School