Building a community that lives its values of love, respect and celebration of our differences is a place we inhabit, not a job we finish. Love never finishes its work. Respect is never completed. Celebration of difference does not have an end date. It is perpetual.Pace Academy, Answering the Call for Racial Equity, June, 25, 2020
We’re now officially one month into the school year, and we’re so grateful to be back together as a community. Students—both those learning in person and via Zoom—have shared with us their sense of hope, excitement for the new year and love for each other and their teachers. We are energized and thankful to them and to our faculty and staff for breathing life into our Action Plan for Racial Equity.
The overarching goal of our plan is to ensure that all students feel welcome and loved—from the time they enter Pre-First to when they walk across the stage at commencement and beyond. We are honored to lead this effort and to carry out the action items in our plan, always keeping in mind our purpose: “To eradicate racism and its legacy, and to dismantle any racial hierarchies within our school community.” We want to invite each and every one of you to join us as we work toward our goals.
Our plan calls for regular reporting and clear communication regarding our actions and initiatives. This message is the first of many that will bring you up to speed on our progress. We understand that we, as a school, have much to do to realize the goals set forth in our plan. Know that members of our community have worked diligently over the summer and in these first weeks of school to review and begin to realize our action items, and we are incredibly encouraged by the progress we have made thus far.
Our goals in the area of Teaching & Curriculum are to support Pace’s mission by ensuring that our curriculum is antiracist and factually accurate, and that it includes multiple perspectives and inspires critical thinking. We understand that we cannot do this alone, so we have begun the process of identifying and vetting external experts and consultants to assist with curriculum and subject matter review, as well as offer training to faculty, staff and leadership throughout the year.
Pace is grounded in the core value of respect for others and their unique ideas and beliefs.
We have engaged in meaningful discussions around our school’s stated core values with our Upper School Student Council, Pace Academy Board of Diversity and other students leaders. We will facilitate similar discussions with Lower and Middle School students in an attempt to create a cohesive, school-wide set of core values and community standards.
There is no place for hate in our school community, and we are working to ensure that our written policies and community standards explicitly state our intolerance of inappropriate behaviors. In the Lower School, the code of conduct has been updated to include language regarding racial equity. In addition, this year’s Read 4 Respect initiative will focus on race. A similar review and update is underway in the Middle School, utilizing tools from Teaching Tolerance.
We have partnered with Upper School deans to begin revising the student handbook to address more specifically the use of racist and/or coded and more clearly articulate community standards regarding equity. A more consistent, transparent reporting structure has been put in place for students and faculty, and the process by which students are selected to the Honor and Discipline Committee has been reimagined to encourage a more diverse pool of candidates.
We have met regularly with division leadership to gather information that will help us better align the student experience throughout the Lower, Middle and Upper Schools, and we have worked with faculty and coaching staff to provide education around the concept of zero-indifference (defined in our Terms to Understand section) in regards to overt racism, the use of hate speech, racist paraphernalia and other forms of bigotry.
Our conversations with the leaders of the Association of Black Pace Academy Alumni continue, and we have partnered with the Office of Alumni Relations to facilitate small-group discussions regarding racial healing for alumni later this month, as well as an October conversation in which we will update alumni on our current DEI efforts.
Our goal in this area is to establish cultural competence and an antiracist culture among all school leadership, faculty, staff and students through continued training, professional development and education in antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion.
To that end, all faculty, staff and administrators kicked off pre-planning week with intensive, mandatory training around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Programming included a facilitated panel during which alumni who felt marginalized during their time at Pace shared their experiences. Their reflections, recommendations and answers to questions were incredibly impactful and guided conversations throughout the rest of the week. We also engaged in a productive training session entitled Journey to Allyship with Dr. Damon Williams, who provided national and historical context to the Black Lives Matter movement and emphasized the importance of becoming “upstanders” to Black members of our community.
Division-specific faculty workshops in the Middle and Upper Schools focused on the implementation of our plan within each division, and small-group discussions helped faculty understand how to apply the knowledge they gained to their teaching and classroom management practices. Lower School faculty also took part in a session on racial trauma and identifying the needs of younger students led by child psychologist Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, who presented to Pace parents during a virtual summer session. Faculty, staff and administrators debriefed and reflected during racial affinity group meetings.
In addition to training during the pre-planning period, faculty and staff met with members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team during set office hours to discuss questions ranging from setting classroom climate to navigating difficult conversations. During the first weeks of school, faculty and staff also took part in An Antiracist Teach-In Event Series facilitated by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
We continue to meet with teachers and coaches to help facilitate proactive conversations around racial equity and to provide robust student programming through the Office of DEI. Division-specific faculty diversity meetings resume this month. The Pace Alliance of White Anti-Racist Educators (A.W.A.R.E.) meets on a weekly basis. Since the summer, this group has done tremendous work learning and discussing what it means to be antiracist. Students have reported immediately feeling the self-awareness around race, equity and inclusion that their teachers now bring to their classrooms.
Many faculty members have set aside class time to discuss our plan. We are also utilizing assembly time to speak to students about community expectations around racial equity and our plan. With the help of our DEI coordinators and faculty, we have modified pieces of the plan for each division using age-appropriate language. It is important that our students understand our community’s commitment. We will continue to introduce the plan to students over the course of the semester.
We have also conducted initial meetings with Parents Club and Community of Change leaders and plan to address Parents Club leadership at their September board meeting. We invite parents of color to engage in upcoming listening sessions in all three divisions. Look for a schedule in the coming weeks.
Our goals in this area include supporting our human resources team in ensuring that Pace is a safe and supportive place to work, and in providing regular training in antiracism to all faculty and staff. We set the tone during our pre-planning week and will continue to present professional development programming that advances antiracist pedagogies and practices.
During the onboarding process, new hires must attend a session with our chief equity and inclusion officer regarding school culture as it pertains to diversity, equity and inclusion. Going forward, new hires who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) will participate in check-ins with BIPOC mentors to support their transition to Pace.
Prior to the hiring season, we will collaborate with our human resources team to review hiring policies and procedures through an equitable lens and to communicate our values and expectations to potential employees. Finally, we are creating a tool kit for division heads, managers and department chairs to assist in their hiring practices.
We believe that the Pace community should reflect our global community. Seven years ago, 16% of our student body identified as BIPOC. Today, students of color make up 29% of our overall student body, 38% of new enrollees and 36% of our Pre-First class. We acknowledge that we are called to do more.
We have met with members of our admissions team to discuss ways to build on these more recent strides and to continue our outreach efforts to reach historically underrepresented populations. As the admissions season begins later this fall, we will support our admissions team, as prospective families learn more about our school, visit and join our community.
As stated earlier in this message, our Action Plan for Racial Equity calls for regular reporting and clear communication regarding our actions and initiatives. This report kicks off that conversation, and we thank you for taking the time to review our progress.
In partnership with the Office of Communications, we will continue to keep you apprised of our efforts using communications channels such as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion section of our website, email and the KnightTimes magazine to provide updates and offer opportunities for feedback and involvement.
We know that listening to all members of our community is vital to our success, and we welcome your questions, suggestions or concerns. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. All voices are welcome. Thank you for your commitment to striving for excellence in diversity, equity and inclusion.