During the summer I shared a message with you about the work we are engaged in as a school in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and I wanted to update you on our progress over the first few weeks of school.
Why do we have such a focus around DEI? There are many reasons.
First, for us to be a school where every student is truly able to realize their potential, it is essential that each and every student at SAS feels fully welcome and included. Likewise, such inclusion is essential to our building the kind of warm, caring community that we all aspire to build, consistent with our shared core values of compassion, fairness, and respect. We know that children’s social and emotional well being is foundational to their learning, and inclusion is a vital part of that social and emotional well-being. As I shared with you in January, I heard time and again during my listening tour on how important issues around DEI are to our students, educators and parents at SAS.
Second, we have heard clearly from our alumni that we need to better prepare our students in the areas of DEI for the universities and world they will graduate into. To do that, our alumni have stressed that we need to do a better job in developing in our students a deeper understanding of bias and prejudice, and of the history and current context around issues of race and racism in the US and globally.
And, third, we know that educators and families are increasingly placing greater emphasis on our commitment to DEI as a critical factor in making their decisions of whether to come work at SAS or send their children to SAS. This emphasis is very likely to increase over time.
So, what have we been doing?
Before the start of the school year, our senior leadership team and our entire staff made it a priority to take time to learn together as a community of educators how we can deepen our work around DEI at SAS. This past weekend, our school board met in its annual retreat and expressed unanimous interest in making this an ongoing priority for the school. The board agreed to develop a guiding statement around our DEI work, which will also serve as a visible public commitment. As we go forward with developing our schoolwide strategic plan for the next phase of our work here at SAS, DEI will be a key priority in that plan.
In the first week of school in the high school, we spent an afternoon in the year’s first extended advisory classes to engage with students. The students watched a video made by several SAS alumni speaking about their experiences at SAS in relation to the topic of inclusivity. During that same advisory, I shared this video with students. I heard from many students that the discussions in the extended advisory were some of the most meaningful they have had at SAS.
We have a DEI Planning Team of SAS educators that we formed last spring, and they are helping us look at next steps. We will be looking at key areas including curriculum, pedagogy, professional learning, school culture, and recruitment. We want to make sure that students, parents and alumni have good opportunities to participate in these discussions and are discussing the best way to do that.
We will continue to update you as these discussions evolve and want to partner with you as we work together. Thank you.