In a June 2020 message to the entire Hewitt community, Head of School Dr. Tara Christie Kinsey and Board of Trustees Co-Chairs Suzanne Baillie and Juan Sabater wrote that they had been “...engaging in painful but honest, productive, and necessary conversations about the structural changes necessary for The Hewitt School to confront systemic racism and put the words of our diversity and inclusivity statement and our mission into action.” In addition to engaging in discussions with faculty and staff, parents and guardians, and alumnae, they also noted the powerful voices of current Hewitt students who were eager to share their experiences, amplify the voices of their peers, and engage in the work of making our school a more equitable and joyous community.
In response to our community’s call to action, Hewitt announced a new Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) charged with evaluating and recommending schoolwide protocols, policies, systems, and infrastructure to ensure that Hewitt becomes an actively anti-racist school. Representing current students, alumnae, parents, faculty, staff, and trustees, the members of the ARTF bring diverse backgrounds, thinking, and experiences to the important work of developing anti-racism actions to recommend to Hewitt’s Board of Trustees.
The ARTF began its work this August. After an initial full group meeting that focused on developing a shared understanding of what it means to work toward being an anti-racist community, the ARTF subcommittees began meeting with members of our school’s leadership team to review data, resources, and general information about the diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) and anti-racism work already in motion at Hewitt.
Below, I share a brief overview of each subcommittee’s work thus far.
Community and Care
After learning about Hewitt’s current efforts to recruit and retain diverse students, families, faculty, and staff, the Community and Care Subcommittee has begun drafting recommendations for how we can increase the proportional diversity of our student and professional communities.
Pedagogy and Curriculum
The Pedagogy and Curriculum Subcommittee began by reviewing Hewitt’s efforts to provide DEI and anti-racism training for faculty and to incorporate anti-bias standards from Teaching Tolerance, an organization that encourages students to challenge prejudice and learn how to be agents of change in their own lives, into the middle and upper school curricula. The subcommittee’s recommendations for how we can engage families in discussions about Hewitt’s DEI work were successfully incorporated into this fall’s lower, middle, and upper school curriculum nights, and they are currently drafting recommendations for how we can promote racial literacy, encourage greater empathy and perspective-taking, and broaden our understanding of life in New York City to provide diverse experiences for all of our students.
Leadership and Governance
In addition to focusing on Hewitt’s ongoing efforts to diversify our Board of Trustees, Parents’ Association Board, and the Hewitt Alumnae Council, the Leadership and Governance Subcommittee is working on recommendations to make the recruitment and selection process for the aforementioned bodies more inclusive and equitable. They are also discussing how best to create a culture at Hewitt that encourages all constituents to view DEI and anti-racism work as both valuable and critical to our school community.
The Anti-Racism Task Force will continue meeting as a full group and in subcommittees and we will continue to keep our community apprised of our progress. This November, the Task Force looks forward to presenting a set of recommendations to the Board of Trustees outlining work for us to undertake as a school in the immediate future and over the course of the next few years. In the words of Dr. Tara Christie Kinsey, Suzanne Baillie, and Juan Sabater, “We look forward to working together to bring about the change we seek, for our school and our world. Together, with everyone’s commitment, we will build a Hewitt--and a world--that works better for all, not just some.”