An Important Message from The Agnes Irwin School

The letter below was shared with the Agnes Irwin community on June 10.
 
An Important Message from The Agnes Irwin School
June 10, 2020

 

Dear Agnes Irwin Community,

Last Monday, we shared a letter in which we spoke to the current unrest in the wake of the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many others who have lost their lives as a result of police violence and systemic racism. In this letter, we called on our community to live into our core values of community and respect. Since then, we have heard from many of you who have challenged us to do better: to learn from, empathize with, and publicly stand with our Black students and their families, alumnae, faculty, and staff.

We want to be clear: Black lives matter. We see you, we hear you, we stand with you, and we commit to being better allies for you. For the love and lives of our community, we must do better to become a place that affirms the experiences and importance of our Black students, faculty, staff, families, and alumnae.

We are in the process of contacting every community member who responded to our initial letter to invite you into conversation with us about your experiences at AIS. Thank you for raising your voices and sharing your stories with us. We are striving to be a place where every student truly feels like she has experienced the fullness of an Agnes Irwin education, and where all members of our community feel affirmed and celebrated. This has not yet happened the way it should.

Together with the AIS faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees, we recommit to making The Agnes Irwin School an anti-racist institution and a safe, equitable, and inclusive place for the Black and Brown members of our community. That work begins with reconciling the role we have played in your experiences. We commit to examining our own biases and privilege, systems of oppression, and actively striving to dismantle them — teaching our students, faculty, staff, and administrators to do the same.

We recognize that words are not enough, and true commitment is demonstrated by our deeds and actions. This past year, we took direct steps towards amplifying diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, most of which are targeted at improving the systems and processes within our school. These included restructuring our Assistant Head of School position to have oversight and leadership of DEI and ensure a higher level implementation of equity and inclusion practices across our school; evolving our teacher evaluation system to incorporate measurements for inclusive and culturally competent practice; providing anti-racist training for our faculty; and evolving our hiring process to include a cultural competency assessment, conducted by one of our DEI coordinators.

We pledge to continue these efforts. This summer, to further this work, every member of our faculty, staff, administration, and Board will read one of four books (Between The World and Me by Ta'Nehisi Coates, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, Dignity by Donna Hicks, Waking Up White by Debbie Irving) to be followed by discussion groups this fall. Furthermore, each of our departments will begin a curricular audit, a process our department chairs began preparing for this year by studying Gloria Ladson-Billings' work about culturally responsive teaching practice. This fall, among other initiatives, we plan to launch year three of our Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) program for parents, as well as ongoing DEI training for our Board of Trustees.

We know that more is required of us as we strive to become the community we want to be, and we will answer the clarion call to do more. To all members of our community, we hope that you will accept our invitation to partner with you to build systemic solutions that will make our school a better place for the next 150 years. Throughout the summer, our school administrators and alumnae relations office will be working together to create opportunities for meaningful dialogue for alumnae, parents, and current students to share their experiences and feedback with us. We will be in touch with you as these details are solidified and provide information about how you can participate. Should you wish to reach out in the meantime, please email dei@agnesirwin.org.

Thank you for your honesty and courage — and for your support of the work that lies ahead. We are proud of our community for using your voices to hold us to a higher standard, and helping us work to become a better school for each of you and for all future Agnes Irwin students, families, faculty, staff, and alumnae.

Sincerely,

Wendy Hill, Head of School
Ginny Sharp Williams '88, Chair, Board of Trustees

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