Equity and inclusion are core values of the Calhoun community. We acknowledge that in ways large and small, Calhoun has not always lived up to those values. In particular, we acknowledge with sorrow that past and present students of color and their family members have suffered from the effects of racism at Calhoun, and for that we are truly sorry.
Apologies are insufficient without concrete plans to ensure that going forward Calhoun lives up to its values as an anti-racist institution. We are grateful to community members who have shared perspectives with us and to those who have contributed to the @blackatcalhoun Instagram account. The powerful narratives presented there remind us how far we have to go, and point out the difficult and vital work to be done.
We appreciate the list of demands offered by the organizers of the @blackatcalhoun account, and recognize the care that went into creating them. In response, we feel it is essential to describe the school's action plan for the period ahead, and we commit ourselves to completing it in collaboration with those in the community who may in the past have felt they lacked a voice in charting the future of the school.
Short Term Steps
By this fall (i.e., Sept 2020), we commit to the following:
- We will support the arrival of our new DEI Director John Gentile, with events to introduce him to all segments of the community. John's office will be in Big Calhoun, and when at Little Calhoun he will also have access to space to facilitate meetings.
- Beginning in July, we will create forums for current students and alumni of color to engage with administrators and Trustees to discuss experiences at Calhoun and ideas for constructive change moving forward.
- We will create mechanisms for students to help shape our anti-racist agenda and hold us accountable to it. In June, a group of Upper School students, with the support of administrators, founded the Diversity and Accountability Board (DAB) to amplify student voices and work to create an equitable environment in and out of the classroom. Administrators will continue to empower and partner with DAB, and we will work to support appropriate channels for student input in other divisions as well.
- We will review English and social studies curricula in grades 3-12 and take concrete steps to diversify reading lists — including authors from and perspectives on groups currently under-represented in our curriculum. That review will be the first step of a broader curriculum review across all four divisions and all subject areas to extend over the coming year and beyond (see below).
- We will strengthen our structure, support for and messaging about affinity spaces for students, families, faculty/staff and administrators.
Medium Term Steps
Over the next two years, we commit to taking the following steps, all to be taken in collaboration with faculty and students. We will report to the community on our progress by the spring of 2021.
- We will launch an ongoing review of our curriculum across all divisions to ensure thorough and critical engagement with diverse voices and viewpoints in all academic subject areas. This review will include but not be limited to our approach to Black History Month (and other Heritage Months), how we center marginalized identities in our curriculum, representation of authors of color, and age-appropriate presentation of issues like racism, oppression and cultural hegemony.
- We will review our anti-racism curriculum and programs to ensure a coherent and cumulative approach from pre-K through 12th grade, including opportunities for cross-divisional cooperation. These initiatives are already aligned with the third initiative in our current strategic plan: Learners with Purpose - Incorporating Social Justice Competencies into our Educational Framework.
- We will begin a comprehensive review of our disciplinary framework with the goal of creating a coherent system to prioritize accountability, individual responsibility, developmental growth and healing for both the impacted individual(s) and the community at-large. This will include discussion and completion of a policy on hate speech, to be included in student and family handbooks.
- We will improve our mechanisms for reporting and responding to microaggressions, to reinforce our anti-racism work and to ensure that the legacy of narratives presented on @blackatcalhoun does not describe the experiences of future students.
- We will incorporate specific goals and expectations related to racial literacy into our faculty and staff evaluation processes to ensure that individuals and the school as a whole are held accountable for prioritizing this work.
- We will expand our current anti-bias and racial literacy training to cover all employees on an ongoing basis, with mandated trainings at least annually, and develop a parallel program for all Trustees. For example, we have designated common reading for faculty and staff across all divisions for this summer — Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing by Joy DeGruy for all as well as White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo for white faculty and staff. These readings will be accompanied by facilitated discussions in both cross-racial and racial affinity spaces in the fall.
- We will expand our current programming for families to include more talks, book clubs, interactive forums and other opportunities aimed at specific constituencies in all divisions. Once in-person events are again possible at Calhoun, we will seek to make them more broadly accessible to all members of the community, by offering varied times, geographic locales and remote access.
- We will restructure our admission and financial aid procedures to enhance our efforts to recruit and retain students of color across all divisions. That process has already begun with the recent hire of Jessy Trejo to the newly created role of Director of Admissions, responsible for consolidating our admission and financial aid strategies and procedures across all divisions.
Ultimately, sustaining Calhoun's commitment to being an anti-racist community depends critically on its ability to attract and retain a diverse community of learners, teachers and leaders. In recent years, we have made important strides in recruiting administrators of color to senior administrative roles, including the Associate Head of School, Director of Lower School—Elementary, US-MS Academic Dean, MS Dean of Students, Human Resources Director and Director of Auxiliary Programs. In addition, more than half the faculty hired school-wide in the last two years have been people of color.
We have expanded our dissemination of job listings to widen and diversify the pool of applicants for all positions, and we have standardized and formalized our hiring processes for teachers and staff. These new procedures include specific consideration of all candidates' experience and competencies related to DEI work.
At the same time, we acknowledge that our efforts to recruit Black-identifying faculty have fallen short. Personnel change is a complex multi-year effort. We commit to continuing that effort in the coming years, in order to attain the following goals:
- Sustaining and expanding the progress we have made in building a diverse administrative team;
- Redoubling our efforts to hire faculty of color across all divisions;
- Expanding efforts to recruit Trustees of color (currently, approx. 20% of all Board members are people of color).
This action plan represents our commitment to take specific steps to make change at Calhoun. It signals not the end of a conversation but our renewed commitment to ongoing dialogue. We are proud that the catalysts for change at Calhoun have been Calhoun students and alumni. By calling on us to live up to the mission and values of the school, our students honor that mission and those values. The administration and Board look forward to working with students, families, faculty, staff and alumni to elaborate on this action plan and to hold ourselves accountable to it — for the sake of past, current and future generations of Calhoun students.
Steven Solnick, Head of School
Jon Brayshaw, Chair of the Board of Trustees