Heeding the Call to Antiracism

Dear Archer Community,
 
Across the nation, institutions are being held to account for generations of systemic racism. Independent schools, many of which were founded in response to desegregation, face their own particular reckoning as they witness through social media the painful accounts and accumulated impact of racism in their own schools. Although Archer is a young school with a commitment to diversity and inclusion in its founding mission, we are neither blameless nor exempt from criticism. We recognize that we have fallen short. To those who’ve shared their stories of experiencing racism, microaggressions, and insensitivity at Archer, I want you to know that we are listening - and we are heartbroken. Whether what you experienced happened twenty years or six months ago, we are deeply sorry that this was part of your experience at Archer and grateful for your honesty. Above all, we are committed to continuing our examination of the School’s policies, practices, and culture through an antiracist lens so that every student, family, and employee at Archer not only feels a genuine sense of belonging but has the awareness and skills to have the courageous conversations we must have when, invariably, we make mistakes.
 
This is difficult work. It is uncomfortable work. We will falter and sometimes fail. But it is precisely through difficulty, discomfort, and failure that we grow and become better human beings. We recognize that Archer exists in a broader context and in a country with a long history - a founding history - of racial injustice. Thousands of students, parents, and employees, each with their own unique identities, perspectives, and experiences make up our community. While as a school we must and will continue the work of antiracism and consciousness raising, it is also the work of our families to talk about race at home and, for those of us who are White, to consider what it means to be White in this country. Below are the resources which I shared in my May 31 letter. In addition, I include this moving and enlightening conversation, Heeding the Call to Antiracism, sponsored by Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. The presenters are my colleague and friend, Wanda Holland Greene, Head of the Hamlin School, and her husband, Robert Greene. I think it is helpful because, among other salient points, it explains why it is not enough for us to say we are “not racist.” Instead, they contend, it is our moral imperative as a nation to understand what it means to be antiracist and why our country and its institutions cannot change without that understanding. 
 
In listening to student and alumni voices, meeting with the leaders of Parents of Black Archer Students (PBAS), and our DEI Leadership Team over the past week, this is some of what I’ve heard a desire for:
  • More explicit and ongoing communication about what we are doing to promote equity and inclusion, including:
    • Transparency around curriculum development and our efforts to advance culturally responsive teaching.
    • A better understanding of the training we provide our faculty and staff.
  • An understanding of the strategies we are using to recruit and support teachers of color so that our faculty more closely reflects the diversity in our student body.
  • A clear process of addressing and resolving issues of bias and discrimination.
    • Faculty and staff who are trained to support and facilitate this process.
  • Continue to expand Diversity Conference from a one-day event to more frequent opportunities for the community to learn together.
I hear our alumni and student voices as an expression of their love for Archer and as a desire for their school to thrive. Archer was always meant to be an inclusive place, a place of joy, creativity, and love. Our founders’ mandate to reflect the face of Greater Los Angeles is a noble one. But we know that diversity is only one part of the work. In order to be more transparent about our efforts, as requested, I share some of the data points, especially for our alumni and newer community members who may not be aware of recent initiatives and progress.
  • Archer’s 6-year strategic plan, published last fall, calls for a distinct DEI strategic planning process, which will get underway this fall.
  • In the 2020-2021 school year, Archer will be 44% students of color.
  • Combined, there are 11 student affinity and alliance groups at Archer.
  • 43% of Archer’s Alumni Association Board are people of color.
  • Of our Board of Trustees’ five major committees, three are headed by women of color, two of whom are African American.
  • Next year’s vice president of the Archer Parent Association (APA) is a person of color.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion is ongoing in our faculty professional development, and summer reading necessarily includes works devoted to DEI.
    • This summer’s faculty book is Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zarretta Hammond.
  • We have engaged in unconscious bias training, and a year-long commitment with an outside DEI practitioner for faculty, staff, and students.
  • Last year we launched a student Diversity Conference Leadership Team (DCLT) to help reimagine our diversity conference as an ongoing, less formal, more frequent experience.
  • With regard to diversity recruitment of faculty and staff, I shared in my February blog post how Archer compares nationally and the ways in which we have intensified our efforts. One example is our Teacher Apprentice Program, which aims to increase the number of teachers of color at Archer.
    • Of the four new teachers and one staff member we have hired so far for next year, three are people of color.  
In this time of racial reckoning for our nation, this must be a year of rebuilding our bridges and deepening our empathy for one another - a year of healing. I’m looking forward to meeting with student and alumni leaders to ask for their partnership in this. In the meantime, as the school year begins, we will use our website as a way to keep the community informed about the DEI strategic plan and other efforts to support our entire community as we commit ourselves to antiracist practice. Archer is a place with a beautiful and important mission. It is also a community of people who care about and want to do right by one another. Of that I am certain.
 
Sincerely yours,
 
Elizabeth English
Head of School
 
 
Resources from KQED Mind/Shift:
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The Archer School for Girls admits students of any race, color, religion, national and ethnic origin, sexual orientation or other legally protected status to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national and ethnic origin, sexual orientation or other legally protected status in its hiring or in the administration of its educational policies and programs, admissions policies, financial aid programs or other school-administered programs. SBA Equal Opportunity | Title IX Facts