Recent national events have prompted a significant number of Albany Academies students, alumni, alumnae, parents, and members of our professional community to reflect on their experiences with race at school and to call on us to do a better job creating a more inclusive culture.
We are proud of their advocacy and grateful for their feedback, which most often begins with praise for the Academies’ high academic standards and ends with requests to develop the same high standards for our diversity, equity, and inclusion practices. Here’s a representative sample:
Some of these stories also suggest more caustic interactions around race, which we are learning more about and will address directly. All of this is unacceptable for a modern school of our caliber, and we must do a better job exploring and understanding the role that race plays in our culture as part of a set of deliberate, inclusive practices. Here’s how we are doing this:
A STRATEGIC VISION
In October 2019, the Board of Trustees adopted a strategic goal envisioning a culture that, “Nurture(s) an intentionally diverse, inclusive, and equitable learning community that promotes academic excellence, enriches the school, and enhances the experience of every learner.”
To make this vision a reality, the Board of Trustees created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee that is responsible for leading organizational growth in this area over the next five years. This Committee is composed of board members, students, faculty, school leaders, parents, past parents, alumni, and alumnae. It meets monthly, with members attending either in person or virtually, and regularly reports to the Board.
In January 2020, this committee developed the following organizational growth plan for DEI:
- Understand our current state and possible headwinds to change, including our history and culture.
- Focus on inclusive excellence as the driver of our work.
- Create a mechanism to bring families into DEI work.
Use the National Association of Independent Schools’ Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism survey to gather data from all school stakeholders, and use it to understand our
areas of need and to track progress over time.
Partner with the Anti Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program as a way of providing students a platform for creating change.
Continuously educate school leadership teams and the Board of Trustees about current best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Identify and hire a consulting partner that is an expert in organizational growth and DEI work.
Develop policies and procedures that include considerations of cross-cultural competencies in our hiring practices.
Prioritize attracting, hiring, and retaining a more diverse faculty.
Once DEI capacity has increased, hire a Director of Inclusion who can institutionalize this work.
While we are on pace to complete this plan within the next three years, we know that it is merely creating baseline expectations. Genuinely transforming the School’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion
from this foundation will be a longer and more nuanced process that can never truly be “done.” Growth in this area will continue to be one of the School’s top priorities for the foreseeable future, and we will provide regular updates on our progress.
We believe this long-term approach is necessary, but also understand that this moment in history demands immediate action. This summer, we are committed to:
- Providing opportunities to listen, learn, and understand the experiences of our current students and families of color, as well as alumni and alumnae.
- Responding in a restorative way to past events and harms, and learning from them to prevent future harms.
- Hiring an expert consulting partner to provide intrinsic bias and structural racism education for school leadership, board members, and our professional community.
- Benchmarking our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts against those of other elite independent schools.
- Building our capacities through summer professional development, with each member of our professional community reading and reflecting on works from a curated list of DEI texts, including explorations of anti-racism.
- Creating formal opportunities for our students and families to regularly come together this fall in support of one another and this work.
We know that there is an urgency to change faster, a concern that we won’t, and a feeling that this is happening “behind the scenes.” We hope this letter rectifies these impressions, and invite all interested stakeholders to get involved.
We are excited for the opportunity to partner with those who are committed to moving this work forward. Together, we will make a difference.