Looking Back at DEI Progress

in Uncategorized by

As I sit down to write about the past academic year, my reflections are bookended by my New Employee Orientation experience. Last year, I sat in the library chairs as a new member of our Park community. This year, I co-organized the experience to welcome the newest employees to our Park community. 

At Park, we deeply value diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It was Park’s long-standing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion that drew me to 171 Goddard. The cornerstone of Park’s program is academic excellence, affirming high standards of scholarship while encouraging each child to develop to their greatest potential. We know that students learn most effectively when they feel a deep sense of belonging, when they feel safe, known, and respected in their environment, and when they learn from the differences in backgrounds and perspectives shared within their learning community as curious critical thinkers. 

Similarly, we know that employees will be most impactful when they feel a deep sense of belonging in our community. In my first year at Park, as a participant in the hiring process for every role, I had the opportunity to interview all finalist candidates for open positions. Ensuring our incoming employees meet our expectations and institutional DEI values is one example of how Park is authentically living its values.

What feels paramount, from my perspective as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, is the day-to-day lived experiences of the members of our community. I began last year with a key priority of getting to know the members of the Park community. I work closely with students, families, employees, alumni, trustees, and prospective community members. I began last year striving to build upon a strong foundation while also listening, watching, and observing the expressed emerging DEI needs of the community. In the fall, two DEI Liaisons joined the team to round out the office. Naomi Austin, Grade 2 Teacher, and Courtney Stanley, Kindergarten Assistant Teacher, worked with me regularly throughout the year to support DEI initiatives. 

In this year of transition amid ongoing pandemic management, we worked to reimagine Park’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Implementation Plan (DEIIP) to prioritize the ongoing work underway to more accurately reflect the day-to-day lived experience at Park. The DEIIP, established in 2020, is an active, living document, serving as an accountability measure as our DEI goals continue to move from aspiration to reality.  The DEIIP’s ongoing work stretches out over current and upcoming academic years. “Immediate,” “Rising,” and “Future” priorities are sequenced based on the priorities that demand the most urgent attention. Through this action-based plan, we strive to demonstrate our commitment through our leadership, curriculum, programs, practices, and in every aspect of our community and culture. Together, we will work to ensure that all members of the Park community—students, families, employees, alumni, and trustees—feel a deep sense of belonging. 

In the spring, a team of eight faculty and staff came together with the creation of the DEI Council. The Council, which further supports the work of the DEI Office, convened to collaborate on a focused project that supports our goal of institutionalizing cultural and heritage practices and observances at Park. Going forward, the DEI Council will operate in a year-long format, meeting regularly to advance Park’s goal of creating consistent institutional practices and policies related to Park’s DEI initiatives set forward in the DEIIP.

Together, we will work to ensure that all members of the Park community—students, families, employees, alumni, and trustees—feel a deep sense of belonging. 

Over the course of the 2021–22 school year, the DEI Office worked closely with the Parents’ Association (PA) leadership and the DEI subcommittee of the PA, partnerships that are essential to moving our work forward. We continued to support the community’s learning and growth through SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) workshops for faculty and staff as well as parents and guardians. The Affinity & Working Groups ran for a second successful year, despite a mostly virtual format. BIPOC meet-up opportunities for both students and faculty and staff were launched and supported by the DEI Office, and student-driven Upper Division clubs, including ASAA (Asian Student Affinity Alliance) and GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance), operated with the support of Upper Division faculty. Partnership with the Development Office in the work of the Development Anti-Racism Task Force (DARTF) continued to build on its strong foundational year.  The DARTF reviews and examines all aspects of Park’s advancement program including volunteer recruitment, events, new parent cultivation, alumni relations, and stewardship to deepen inclusive practices. As the year came to a close, members of the Park community came together at Boston’s Pop-up Pride festival, to celebrate, support, and recognize the rich history of the LGBTQ+ community and liberation movement.

Among the new initiatives that excite me is the newly-formed Program Leadership Team (PLT) of which I am a member. I am energized by the opportunity to work alongside Lower Division Head Tina Fox, Director of Instructional Practice Pamela Penna, Upper Division Head Ken Rogers, and Head of School Scott Young as we collaborate to set institutional priorities and establish a pathway for programmatic change. This increased level of partnership across the School is already positively impacting the momentum of our DEI initiatives.

I am particularly grateful for the way in which the community came together on Giving Day in the spring, focused on raising funds for the The SPARK Match for Community & Belonging. Park more than doubled previous Giving Day totals, an unprecedented level of support. DEI is the work of the entire Park community, and on Giving Day, the community’s generosity underscored the value, priority, and commitment we place on this important collective work. The increased operational DEI budget these funds make possible will ensure that programming will continue to grow consistently over time. Already, plans are in place to bring esteemed consultant, educator, and activist Rosetta Lee to campus to facilitate a workshop for faculty and staff in January, and Park will deepen the partnership with the “Critical Conversations” speaker series out of the New Roads School in Santa Monica, California as a National Partner of the program. 

As we transition into a new academic year, key priorities include increasing DEI-related programming for students, and regular communication on the progress of DEI at Park—including updates on the impact of funds raised in the The SPARK Match for Community & Belonging. We will continue our work to make DEI aspirations a reality, more closely mirroring the day-to-day lived experience of our community.

At Park, we strive to enact meaningful, transformational change that sustains over time. The 2022–2023 academic year is full of anticipation and excitement for all the possibilities ahead.