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Building the Future: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

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

As much as we’ve been planning how to reopen our doors - physically and virtually - we’ve also been thinking about who we are as a school community and who we want to be. More than ever, we want to live up to our ideal of being a diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning community, and we believe deeply that the representation and full engagement of the diverse points of view of individuals with varied life experiences is a source of strength and wisdom. 

To support this goal, HB created my role: Director of Diversity, Equity, and Student Life, a role in which I am excited to serve in this 2020-2021 school year. I get to continue the work that I did as a diversity liaison while teaching over the past 11 years in the Middle School, but now I am a senior administrator and will work on an institutional level to promote diversity, equity, and an inclusive community for every member of my community, including faculty, staff, students, and families. As part of my role, I will also work directly with Hallie Ritzman, the Upper School Director, in supporting our students as they learn in those final four formative years before college and beyond in the capacity of the dean of students.   

Diversity Liaisons

Regarding DEI work, it takes a team to do all the work that we do, and I am so thankful for the diversity liaisons. The diversity liaison structure has existed at HB since I began teaching in 2009, and it provides our community with a greater degree of expertise and knowledge of the developmental and cultural needs of the constituents in each division. This school-wide task force allows for individualized support within divisions while the team structure allows liaisons to work together to meet the needs of the entire HB community. Liaisons are full-time faculty members who develop programming, presentations, and ongoing professional development for faculty. They are also a daily resource for students and families. 

For the 2020-2021 school year, HB’s diversity liaisons are:

The liaisons meet regularly with the division directors and are also at the table during the admissions process and interview every hire at HB. They are also here for you should you need them, and they each welcome connection and conversation.

Our DEI Work

This has been a summer of reckoning and change in our country, and Hathaway Brown is but a microcosm of our nation. After listening to alumnae and students' voices that have helped remind us of who we are, we have intensified and expanded our antiracism work. I am proud to let you know of a few things we are doing and will continue to prioritize throughout the school year:

  • As part of our professional development week, all employees engaged in anti-bias training as informed by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. We will then follow up with a year-long deep dive into race and its pernicious effects as we work through The Racial Healing Handbook, a practical guide that will help us  “navigate racism, challenge privilege, manage stress and trauma.” The diversity liaison team will lead the faculty in monthly dialogue as guided by the book throughout the entirety of the school year. 

  • As part of our ISACS accreditation process, HB engaged in a comprehensive mapping of our EC-12 curriculum in order to scaffold and develop clear throughlines across disciplines and between grades. Teachers have had and will continue the conversations by reflecting on how we present to students a diversity of ideas, historical perspectives, and voices; knowing it is of critical importance to make sure students have the opportunity to see their identity in an empowered way, beyond trauma.

  • TRUST, which stands for Transforming Relationships to Unite Students Together, began as a Strnad Fellowship in Creativity and became an option identity-based course nestled within the Upper School Center for Multicultural Affairs. It is now a required course for all ninth graders as part of the ninth grade Fellowship Seminar.

    TRUST is a course designed to provide students with the introductory and foundational knowledge necessary to better understand identity. We will begin by exploring various cultural identifiers and will engage in a number of exercises and activities that help build a community of trust and that also equip students with the tools necessary to better understand themselves and the lenses they have. 

  • For those students particularly interested in social justice and equity work, we have a new program, Fellowships in Equity and Action, wherein students apply their knowledge to real-life problems and gain experience in the nonprofit sector, the teaching profession via the Aspire Program, and/or community organizing. 

  • Our Middle School and Upper School student experience includes opportunities to engage in interest-based and affinity groups that span the gamut; from race to religion to social activism, we are committed to providing opportunities for authentic connection and sisterhood. For example, our oldest on-campus affinity group is the Upper School Black Cultural Awareness club, which has existed for over 40 years. Per conversations in the alumnae listening sessions, we have also partnered with the HBPA and are excited to expand affinity groups to parents later this fall.   

  • Powers are uniting! The work of diversity, equity, and inclusion will combine with the work of the school counselors and our social-emotional learning initiatives to integrate, inform, and expand mutual, coordinated programming and services, ensuring the health and well-being of all our students. We have already created a DEI/SEL mentor toolkit and professional development, of which all Upper School mentors attended, to help students process all that we have lived through the past few months. 

Dismantling the effects of systemic oppression takes a systemic approach. There is so much more to our plan, as DEI work impacts every facet of our school. I invite you to read more about where the school is headed.

Our Community

Finally, it takes support from all constituents to effectively grow. If you are reading this and you are a current HB family, I encourage you to review and agree to embody our statement of diversity, equity, and inclusion and our Community Agreement. As we move towards election season, these documents are particularly important as we seek to set an intentional safe and courageous space in our classrooms. HB works to be an inclusive space for all of our students to learn about and engage with broader societal issues and develop and refine their own points of view and value systems, especially as they grow into informed and engaged citizens of our democracy. 

With this moment of reckoning, we need to make sure that who we are today helps to shape our vision ahead, while still recognizing the past as our foundation. We have been tasked by our students and alums to earn the title of alma mater, Latin for nourishing mother. We want to be sure that you know we are listening. We are thankful for all that was shared this summer, and we are excited to dig into the work of becoming a community where all feel welcome, and all can thrive. 

Toni Cross
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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