“We must move beyond language and into the space of doing right and taking action.”
Head of School Teri Schrader, June 2020 letter to full Watkinson Community
Equity and Social Justice Timeline
This timeline represents changes implemented at Watkinson during the designated timeframe to convey Watkinson’s progress toward becoming an anti-racist institution. As shared in the July 2020 Community Letter, our work is focused around eight commitments adopted from best practices articulated by the National Association of Independent Schools.
As of 6/30/2021
• Reviewing and revising communication patterns in regards to caring for those who have been microaggressed in our community through purposeful follow-up conversations.
• Continuing to increase the number of faculty and staff of color through focused recruitment and hiring practices.
• Core identifiers and inclusivity continuing to inform and directly influence our decision-making practices in regards to benefits and investing.
• Focusing more time and attention to developing ongoing and meaningful relationships with HBCUs for the college admissions process, seek local alum(s) to facilitate relationship building on behalf of Watkinson students.
• School leadership continuing to highlight good professional development (Nyle Fort, Ibram X. Kendi, Women of Color Need Courageous Allies, Yusef Salaam, Paul Gorski, etc.) opportunities for all to attend and carve out time to allow for participation.
• Head of School Teri Schrader participating in an outside group of Heads of School that met monthly to discuss and move toward action in regards to anti-racist school leadership and systemic injustice.
• Focusing our Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) on the 4 As — Awareness, Analysis, Action, Accountable Ally-ship — throughout the course of the year.
• ESJ Committee continuing to use All-School Meetings to share pathways toward empathy and understanding.
• Continually developing culturally-responsive and inclusive curricula across all disciplines and grade-levels in order to bring “windows and mirrors” for students to see the world around them, as well as themselves, within their academic work.
• First community letter emailed to all Watkinson’s constituents, “to acknowledge the reality of this raw and explosive moment in our nation,” share news of the June 4 community conversation, and convey Watkinson’s ongoing commitment to 1) listen to our people of color, 2) have difficult, critical conversations, 3) create a space that is safe for Black students, and 4) continue to educate all our students and employees about ways to create an equitable and just school and community.
• Held virtual community conversation for students and employees, topic/focus was the experiences of BIPOC students within our community and in the greater context of the national racial reckoning.
• School leaders met with five BIPOC students who shared their experiences at Watkinson in the form of letters.
• Second community letter emailed to all Watkinson’s constituents and shared on all our social media, conveying apology and Watkinson’s eight commitments toward becoming an anti-racist institution.
• All Juniors and Seniors read The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin, for English electives. All English electives began the year with a discussion of this text.
• Middle school teachers created an interdisciplinary humanities unit that will connect the history of the Civil Rights Era with the issues and movements of today.
• Initiated a one-to-one technology program for the entire school through purchasing Chromebooks for all students at Watkinson.
• 30+ employees, including 10 members of school leadership, participated fully in Desiree Adaway’s “Whiteness at Work” series. The 10 school leaders chose to continue in that group work to learn and grow together and to practice and act upon their understanding of anti-racist practice and leadership (ongoing).
• A group of faculty members read, worked through, and collectively processed Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad, and that book, as well as the work it entails, will be required reading for all members of the ESJ Committee and ESJ Liaisons moving forward.
• Through our relationship with the SPHERE schools, several white students participated in a series of workshops called “Whiteness, Privilege, & Allyship” with other white students from the greater Hartford area.
• Two members of Senior Leadership, Middle School Head Jenny Esposito and Upper School Head Ryan Reese, received Graduate Certificates in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from Cornell University.
• 10th Grade American Studies added the following supplemental reading requirement: The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates; America, This is Your Chance, by Michelle Alexander; or A Report from Occupied Territory, by James Baldwin.
• Global Studies Seminar and Presidential Politics elective examined Voting Rights and Voter Suppression and includes outside speakers educating our students on the impact, as well as efforts, to remedy these actions that hinder rights for all.
• 6th Grade Social Studies redesigned to focus on the Indigenous Peoples of America.
• New final assessment in African-American Studies elective redesigned to have students propose solutions to a specific aspect of systemic racism in the criminal justice, political, or education systems
• Third community letter emailed to all Watkinson’s constituents and shared on all our social media, conveying work that had been done in August and September.
• Amplified relationship with the Tembea School in Kenya through long standing collaboration with BEADS for Education, both supporting and learning about girls’ education in Kenya.
• The Governance Committee of the Board of Trustees established its central goal as increasing the diversity of the Board of Trustees through active and thoughtful recruiting.
• As part of our October PD day, the ESJ Committee and 13 members of faculty and staff began the process of benchmarking “Goal Area 2: Inclusive Community” of our Strategic Plan.
• Began making purposeful changes to curricula in regards to inclusivity and explicit coverage of systemic racism across both divisions and all departments.
• After researching in 2019, Watkinson planned to work with Pollyanna Inc., a national nonprofit that helps schools achieve their diversity, equity and inclusion goals across a broad-base of school constituencies by attending a multi-school conference in spring 2020, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. Have now engaged Pollyanna Inc. in order to develop a plan, benchmarks and process for action and implementation throughout the spring/summer 2021. This work will continue throughout the 2021-2023, including an intra-school conference in October 2021.
• Fourth community letter emailed to all Watkinson’s constituents and shared on all our social media, conveying formulation of adult AWARE group, adult group for BIPOC employees, Culturally Responsive Teaching Workshop, and the Civil War Monologues project being replaced by an assignment that focuses on marginalized voices in the American 20th century.
• ESJ Committee completed the four modules of the “Whiteness at Work” training (Nov.-Jan.).
• Adopted the practice of tiered and affinity spaces for students and faculty to more fully enter into equity and justice work during work within that program
• Curricular roundtables with students and faculty began to re-examine and shine a light on the reasons behind curricular choices across the school.
• Initiated the AthleticMind Speaker Series that brings elite athletes and activists virtually to campus to interface with any and all students who choose to attend.
• Expanded the number of affinity groups offered at Watkinson for both students and faculty. We now have regularly convened AWARE groups for both students and faculty.
• Redesigned 11/12 History electives announced, encompassing a larger, more inclusive picture of our world and its past.
• Held half-day celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where all students and faculty explored what it means to be an ally.
• Enhanced work in 9th-grade English to compare systems of Belgian Imperialist oppression in Congo to parallel oppressive systems in the US (Winter 2021).
• English electives set to run in the 2021/22 school year: Black Voices in American Literature, Assimilation and Identity (in American Literature), and Postcolonial Literature.
• Division Heads incorporated more questions about the faculty’s focus on DEI topics throughout the Review and Assessment process. All faculty members were required to reflect on their work and practice to respond to these questions in writing and conversation.
• Each member of the Administrative White Affinity Group identified a professional practice to examine and change.
• ESJ Committee led the creation of a community-wide zine in celebration of Black History Month.
• Dean of Students Andy Rees presented research about disciplinary procedures and policies about best school practices. Next steps include:
- Create transparency about current disciplinary practices; distribute summary about Restorative Practices to parents and students
- Improve and systematize disciplinary communication, including a higher level of care to the aggressed
- Professional development about deepening our skill level and commitment to Restorative Practices
- Implement stronger and consistently applied response for repeat offenses
• Convened special meeting of the board of trustees regarding the school’s ESJ efforts.
• ESJ Committee held first-ever movie night (virtually) with opening remarks given by students.
• Began planning a multi-session professional development engagement with Pollyanna Inc. for faculty and staff, likely to take place before the end of the school year.
• Fifth community letter emailed to all Watkinson’s constituents and shared on all our social media, conveying retention of Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harris and the plan for our work with Pollyanna Inc.
• Created and shared a document about best practices around vocabulary and terminology in relation to identity and core identifiers.
• 14 members of the school community, including members of Senior Leadership, the ESJ Committee, the Board of Trustees, faculty, students, and alumni, attended a conference with Dr. Bettina Love regarding a Culture of Belonging (Pollyanna Interschool Conference) in order to begin to create a unified vision of where we will go next with our work together.
• Collaborative planning between senior leadership and ESJ Committee set for school events, such as MLK Day and Social Justice Day, began to bring these groups together.
• Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harris led three trainings on implicit bias, first for senior leadership, then for program and department heads, and lastly at the April PD day for full faculty and staff.
• Five One-Hour Professional Development Series began. BIPOC employees worked with Dr. Martha Brackeen-Harries and white employees work with Pollyanna using their “Showing Up, Standing Up: A Journey Toward Anti-Racism” curriculum.
• New Director of Community, Equity and Inclusion begins work at Watkinson.
• Intraschool Conference with Pollyanna Inc., scheduled for October 23, 2021. This will be Watkinson’s first Day of Community & Belonging. ALL Students, Alumni, Employees, Parents, Parents of Alumni to be invited.
• Implement microaggression training for students.
• Continue benchmarking the strategic plan, summer of 2021.