As we head into the heart of February, I continue to be grateful for the strength of our community along with the individual and collective efforts to remain healthy. Seeing our students involved in interscholastic sports is a pleasant reward for their hard work. I also enjoy seeing so many students outside sledding and playing pond hockey on our, now cleared, upper pond. Time to play is increasingly important during COVID and a central part of our effort to support both wonder and well-being.
Of importance this month is recognizing February as Black History Month. This is a time for me to reflect on my efforts to educate myself, to advance inclusion within our community, and to share what we have learned and how we are proceeding.
I am proud of how our students and adults have responded to a renewed commitment to equity and inclusion. We have collaborated to achieve solutions and progress, carrying a sense of optimism and pride throughout our dialogue. You may have noticed that I did not include the word “diversity” alongside equity and inclusion. That was intentional, as every member of our community is different and contributes to us being a diverse community. We aim to increase the level of connection each member has to our community and allow people to feel comfortable being themselves. We know we have work to do so that our Black students feel this way, along with other underrepresented members of the New Hampton School community.
A fundamental starting point is to define the language we use so there is a shared understanding of what we mean. Each year a portion of our community turns over through graduation and new enrollment, so there is an annual requirement to make sure we are all in sync. This is a critical foundation to establish before entering into an important climate survey that will identify needs and allow for benchmark data to monitor progress.
We are fortunate that there is consistent, ongoing student and adult work with a measured plan of progression before us. Mr. Parker, Assistant Head of School, has a specific job responsibility to advance equity and inclusivity work. He provides a voice for this important effort with me and the senior administrative team. We are fortunate to have a faculty Equity and Inclusivity Committee, a student club, and important affinity groups developing to properly support our student body. Late this fall we launched a young alumni of color support group, providing an avenue for dialogue between our students and alumni who have shared experiences. This group is also assisting me with policy review, hiring, and admission outreach efforts.
Black History Month provides a time for reflection and acknowledgment of work that must continue. It is an opportunity for us to continue to educate and build awareness. We are using school meetings to share profiles of advocates in action, have movie screenings scheduled, and planned a community event on February 15 that will be our formal Black History Month presentation.
One of the special qualities of this community is the willingness to evolve and grow. I am encouraged by some of the important steps we have taken this year to enhance our inclusivity and value the ongoing dialogue with students. This reminds me of our school theme from 2016-2017, Better Together. That sentiment will always ring true for New Hampton School.