Anne E. Stavney, Ph.D.
In the weeks following George Floyd’s murder, I have heard from families, students and alumni who have reached out to ask about the specific steps that Blake is taking to dismantle systemic racism in our own organization and to educate about its history in American culture. I’d like to share some of the ways we have been taking on this work over the past few years, in accordance with our mission, Commitment to Pluralism and core values.
Curriculum and Professional Development
- Over the last three years, all Blake lead administrators, academic department chairs, College Counseling and the Student Services departments have participated in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a process that includes individual coaching, self-reflection and action steps. We will continue to extend this opportunity to more groups within the school community.
- Blake teachers who identify as white have engaged in a “Building Anti-Racist White Educators” inquiry series in connection with thousands of teachers from a national BARWE organization.
- All employees were called to participate in an annual day of professional development to explore intercultural competence through the lenses of our community partners from, among others, the Hmong, Somali, Black, and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux communities.
- We have incorporated expectations for intercultural competence in our teaching evaluation framework, and all faculty members set a specific, actionable goal to deepen intercultural competence in their curriculum design or classroom practice. Administrators write an annual goal related to incorporating Blake’s Commitment to Pluralism into their leadership practice, and these goals inform their annual performance evaluations.
- In every division, we continue to develop and refine curricula that reflects a commitment to intercultural competence. These include: Positive Racial Identity Development in second grade; sixth grade’s Project Cirklo: student inquiry projects about global issues; and the eighth grade Influential, in which students make a persuasive presentation to peers and families about contemporary issues that matter to them.
- Upper School students choose from course offerings in African-American Literature; Native American Literature; Gender Studies; Class and Race; and Global Theories, Local Realities. All of these courses explore issues of racial identity, privilege and systemic oppression. They also maintain space for students to consider how to dismantle systems that assign privilege to one identity over another.
- Blake recently joined the School Participatory Action Research Collaborative (SPARC), a program through the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Through their empirical research and strategic proposals to Blake’s administration, students have the framework and vehicle for leading meaningful change in school culture, policy and practice.
- This summer, faculty in each division will read “Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds or “We Want To Do More Than Survive” by Bettina Love. These shared texts will be springboards for divisional conversations to further develop our collective anti-racism culture.
Beyond the Classroom
- Last year, we conducted the Assessment of Inclusion and Multiculturalism, a nationally benchmarked community survey designed by the National Association of Independent Schools. The survey went to all current parents and guardians, employees, the Board of Trustees, alumni from the classes of 2013-2018 and all fourth through twelfth grade students. We will continue to use the data to benchmark our work in the areas of diversity, inclusion and equity in the years to come.
- We have continued our commitment to hire Blake employees who represent the broadest range of identities and lived experiences by lengthening the timeline of our job postings, collaborating with minority-run recruiting firms, and expanding our local and national employment networks, both formally and informally.
- We have worked to expand representation of historically underrepresented groups among our leadership for the Parent Association Executive Committee, Alumni Association Board and Blake Board of Trustees.
- Last year, Upper School students formed the inaugural Student Diversity Leadership Council (SDLC) and underwent a year of equity and inclusion training. This coming fall, SDLC will begin to fulfill its mission of active allyship, promoting the celebration of diversity to Blake students, staff and faculty.
- A committee of faculty, staff and parents created Blake’s lexicon for pluralism to provide a shared and common understanding of the concepts and terms essential to a pluralistic community.
While these are a few specifics, please know that we are committed to this work for the long term. No single workshop, curriculum unit or hiring decision will erase the historical realities of explicit and implicit racism at Blake and in our communities. We continue to dig deeper into what it means to become anti-racist educators in an anti-racist school and to put those two goals into practice.