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Building a Community of Belonging

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Authored by Director of Diversity, Equity, and Student Life Toni Cross 

December is a time to reflect over the year, and hopefully, remember those moments of joy and peace that we hold close as we set intentions for the upcoming year. Our 145th school year has been challenging, for sure, but it has provided Hathaway Brown a moment to stop and reflect on who we are, who we want to be, and how we can be a space of inclusion and belonging. I am also heartened that as a school, we have survived challenging times in the past. 

Since my last update in the fall, we have worked to articulate our focus into a roadmap of intersectional work happening throughout the school. The reason for our roadmap is twofold: 

  1. We believe as an administrative team that the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging cannot be siloed in an individual position; it is up to each community member to embrace this work if it is going to be successful. 
  2. Second, we recognize that this work needs to be systematic and wide-reaching, far beyond simply being reactionary, and I am thankful for our partnership with the board of trustees for their guidance and support. 

Here’s what we’ve been up to: 

Admissions

Our community agreement continues to set the community norms of the school, articulating clear expectations around behaviors that encourage a sense of inclusion and belonging. We aim to also infuse this language into our enrollment contracts to instill in our newest members the behaviors and expectations of what it means to be a Blazer. 

Hiring Practices & Leadership Recruitment

With 44 percent of our students identifying as students of color, seven affinity groups in the Upper School, and five affinity groups in the Middle School, we recognize that students need to see themselves in the adults who are around them.

We have identified common impediments in independent schools to hiring and retaining representational faculty and staff, and are hard at work to implement practices in our hiring process and policies in our employee handbook and contracts that solidify our position as a school of inclusion and belonging. We would love your support to attract and retain the very best talent, so while we continue to network, please share our postings in your networks as well!

Professional Development

Every member of the teaching staff and those in other departments throughout the school continue to work through conversations of identity and becoming more culturally aware via our shared read, navigating chapter by chapter with their divisional liaisons.  We have also added a member of the non-teaching staff to the diversity liaison team, which increases our perspective and lens of the impact of our work.  All members of the school have completed anti-bias training and were trained in November in how to use the Courageous Conversations about Race compass. We will continue this work in January and, looking ahead, will embark on an analysis of our curriculum in the summer. 

School Culture

Our professional development work, DEI Statement, and Community Agreement lay a foundation of shared language, which we will continue to develop and articulate over the next few months.  

Concurrently, we believe that our statement on DEI-B and behavioral expectations as outlined in the community agreement are supported in our current honor code, bullying, and harassment policies. However, we are in the process of updating the language to more clearly articulate our expectations and consequences for racist, oppressive, and bigoted behavior. We have also completed the first steps of auditing our discipline process to identify and mitigate unconscious racial bias while still working to offer support and education to our students when their behaviors fall short of our community norms. 

Lastly, our diversity liaison network and school counselors are furthering their collaboration to integrate, inform, and expand mutual, coordinated programming and services, ensuring the health and wellbeing of all of our students. 

We are so thankful to each and every one of you... 

I look forward to another year in this community with you, but until then Chag Sameach, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri, Blessed Yule, Feliz día de Reyes, and blessed Bodhi Day to those who acknowledge.

Sincerely, 

Toni Cross
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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