A Message from the Head of School


Note: A follow-up to this letter was shared with the Agnes Irwin community on June 10. View the letter here. 

Please see a follow-up to this letter below the original post.  

A Message from the Head of School
June 1, 2020

Dear Parents,

I am sure, like me, you have been saddened and troubled by the recent tragic events in Minnesota, and are watching as demonstrations to highlight social injustices have grown in number and intensity in cities and regions throughout our nation, including the Philadelphia area. The past week has been difficult, especially for those who are Black and Brown, for those who are responsible for keeping peace in the face of civil unrest, and for those whose businesses have been vandalized. As adults we can feel overwhelmed, but it can be particularly challenging for young people to understand the historical context and complexities of these events, as they seek to reconcile what they see and hear on the news, and for some, in their own streets and neighborhoods.

In times like these, it is important to remember who we are at Agnes Irwin and what we value. We believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and understanding and strive each day to live out our core values, which center on excellence, character, community, and respect. Our mission and core values ground us as a school that responds to challenges with a dedication to learning, leading, and living a legacy, and to being a community where every individual is valued, celebrated, and cherished.

I would ask that, now more than ever, we lean into our core value of community and reach out to others within our school community who may be particularly impacted by the recent events. In these moments, we depend on the strength of the partnership between school and home and recognize that being leaders in the work of equity and inclusion is a goal we will reach when we commit to doing it together.

As you know, this week is one full of end-of-year celebrations. Unfortunately, the curfews and other restrictions may interfere with some of the scheduled plans. As of this writing, for instance, the caravan of teachers and administrators traveling to the homes of 8th graders to celebrate their completion of Middle School may need to make alternate plans with some families due to the National Guard presence in our region. It is our full intention to honor these important milestones for all of our students. 

Although classes have officially ended, please know that we are here for you and your daughters, should you need anything. Our counseling staff and diversity, equity and inclusion coordinators are available to you should you need support processing the events that are unfolding or simply wish to connect with someone in the community.

As we all look to understand this challenging time, we offer the following resources which may be helpful for you:

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children? 
Interview with Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

Talking to Children After Racial Incidents Penn Graduate School of Education
Interview with Howard Stevenson, Ph.D. 

How to Cope With Race-Based Trauma
By Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC

Helping Children Cope With Frightening News
By Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz 

Be well and stay safe.

Wendy Hill
Head of School

We’ve heard from many of you in response to the message above. This letter was not intended to minimize the systemic injustice African Americans face every day, but we recognize and acknowledge that it came across that way to many of you, and we’re sorry for a response that felt tone deaf.

We, too, are outraged at the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so, so many others and we stand with those in our community and around the country who continue to be victims of oppression.

We want to be clear: The Agnes Irwin School does not condone racism, bigotry, or hatred, and we actively work to educate our faculty, administrators, and students to be leaders in this work. We know that black lives matter. We know that we — as a school, as a community, and as a nation — have a lot of work to do.

This is a responsibility we take seriously as educators. On Monday, as part of our planned professional development week for faculty and staff, Assistant Head of School for Academics & Inclusive Excellence Camille Seals hosted a training focused on action steps we can take as a school to engage in stronger culturally competent and anti-racist teaching practices; we’re also offering this session during several additional time slots this week. We know this work is ongoing, and more must be done.

We want to listen. If you would like to offer your ideas or share your experiences with us, we welcome you to reach out to Camille Seals, Assistant Head of School for Academics & Inclusive Excellence, or Brooke Corr, Director of Alumnae Relations, to start the conversation


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