Introducing the Office of Equity and Community Engagement
In April 2010, The Blake School Board of Trustees charged the School's administration "with envisioning and implementing a pluralism plan and organizational structure that establishes synergy, avoids redundancy, maximizes existing resources, achieves PK-12 impact, and reflects the priority of our commitment to pluralism at Blake." To meet this commitment, we recognize that a diverse student body and workforce at Blake are essential to build a courageous, inclusive learning community that values different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. When Blake is successful, all students will understand dominant and non-dominant group dynamics, appreciate multiple perspectives, demonstrate empathy, develop intercultural skills and relationships, and be ready to thrive in college and in the global community.
In order to meet the Board's charge, the administration has begun implementing the following initiatives, which will work together to center diversity in every relationship we build and every program we offer under the auspices of the newly formed Office of Equity and Community Engagement.
1. Expand, strengthen and refine Blake's existing student and family support initiatives.
We will expand, strengthen and refine Blake's existing student support initiatives such as Cornerstone, GSA/GLBT groups and Donna Albro's work in the Center for Diversity, which are essential to eliminating barriers that prevent students from fully participating in the Blake community and achieving academic excellence.
A critical first step is to expand the successful Cornerstone program at the Upper School to students and families of color at all three divisions. The mission of Cornerstone will be to create a developmentally appropriate, PK-12 support system that will deepen and strengthen the engagement of students and families of color with each other and the Blake community in pursuit of academic excellence. We are delighted to announce that faculty member Marie Michael has agreed to lead this initiative. Over the past six years, Marie has built Cornerstone into a program that is indeed a cornerstone of the Upper School. Marie will continue to lead Cornerstone at the Upper School, and she will develop Cornerstone in the Lower School this fall. Joining Marie in this effort will be new faculty member Natalie Rasmussen, who will establish Cornerstone at Middle School in addition to teaching science.
2. Prepare all Blake students to thrive in a diverse, multicultural world
Preparing all students to participate in a pluralistic community, recognize and value multiple, non-dominant perspectives and build empathy requires both curricular focus and engagement with the community beyond the walls of the classroom. Over the past 10 years, Blake has established a series of successful programs: service learning, international programs and LearningWorks, which have significantly strengthened Blake's engagement with the larger community. In an effort to optimize their effectiveness and allow them to play a lead role in helping Blake achieve its ambitious pluralism goals, these critical functions will work together in a much more coordinated way.
Scott Flemming, former LearningWorks executive director, has been tapped to lead the Office of Equity and Community Engagement. In addition to leading LearningWorks for the past three years, Scott taught Comparative Religion at the Upper School, where he also led service learning in 2007-2008.
More details on next steps and 2010-11 staffing coming later this fall. Questions or suggestions? Please contact Scott Flemming, director of the Office of Equity and Community Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org.