Seeking Connection Through Our Diversity
Friday, February 7, 2020
In welcoming students at our annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference, I told the story of my father, Antonio, who was an Italian immigrant during a time when the ideal of becoming American was synonymous with assimilation. My grandparents did not read, write, or speak English. My grandmother, who had six children, cleaned other people’s houses, while my grandfather worked the railway. My father joined the Air Force after graduating from high school and fought in WWII. Once he returned from the war, he changed his last name from Inglesi to English. My father was extremely proud and grateful to live in this country. Like many early 20th century immigrants, he believed in the American Dream and pursued it through honest and relentless hard work.
As part of Black History Month and following our annual DEI Conference, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about Archer’s mission to support girls to develop meaningful relationships in a diverse and inclusive community rooted in empathy, integrity, and responsibility
Endeavoring to reflect the face of Greater Los Angeles has always been part of the School’s mission. Although people regard this goal as laudable, i.e. “diversity is the right thing to do,” the fact is, it’s not only the right thing to do, it leads to better outcomes. Through a plurality of perspectives, diversity increases innovation, distributes risk, and enhances organizational performance. Corporate boards with more women and people of color, for example, are proven to achieve better business results. Diversity in and of itself at Archer, however, is an incomplete goal and requires all of us, especially the adults, to work toward and model a school community that feels as equitable and inclusive as it is diverse, especially given the current spectacle of base pugilism in our national politics and media.
Following the DEI conference, parents and students shared their feedback with me. Several parents admitted that even though their daughters thought to take the day off, they ultimately attended and were excited to tell their parents how rewarding it was. Others said their daughters generally struggle to express more moderate or conservative views at Archer, and fear being shut down or socially penalized if they disagree with what they perceive as the majority liberal opinion. As an educational institution, our highest pursuit is the free and informed exchange of ideas in a climate of civil discourse. If Archer is truly about cultivating empathy, responsibility, and integrity in our students, then it is our duty to teach them to actively listen to and be respectful of divergent views. I know this is something our faculty believes as well. Given this, I think we must ask ourselves what we can be doing better to ensure a climate of trust and openness, and an intellectual culture that invites true discourse - a word that comes from the Latin “discursus”, meaning “running to and fro” and therefore never in one direction. Sociopolitical diversity also contributes to better outcomes in a learning community; thus we must equip our students to have courageous conversations and tolerate ambiguity - the capacity to hold two opposing thoughts in their minds at once.
As our society and independent schools in particular have raised their consciousness around issues of racial and cultural diversity, Archer too has been working as an entire community on issues of equity and inclusion. Not only has our DEI task force provided instructional support for our teachers and tools for students to have “courageous conversations,” our student and parent affinity groups have helped to cultivate a greater sense of community and connectedness for families of color. One question I get from parents who appreciate that Archer has 41% students of color is, “Why isn’t that diversity reflected in our faculty and administration?” It’s an excellent question and one that schools across the country face. First, the nation is experiencing a full-blown teacher shortage. Attracting, training, and retaining excellent teachers is our number one priority and greatest challenge. According to the most recent Report on Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce by the U.S. Department of Education, 18% of the teacher workforce is of color, with only 7% being African American, 9% Hispanic, and 2% Asian. This poses an additional challenge that we continue to tackle through specific diversity recruitment strategies such as:
Employing diversity recruitment firms to identify candidates, including
Increasing postings on recruiting sites such as
National Alliance of Black School Educators
National Association for Multicultural Education
Southern California People of Color in Independent Schools
Attending diversity recruiting events
Providing implicit bias training and ongoing DEI professional development to all employees
Featuring diversity and inclusion language in all job descriptions
Increasing diversity and inclusion information on our website
In addition, this year we launched a pilot of our Teacher Apprentice Program, or TAP, which is designed to recruit new and promising teachers and pair them with an Expert Teacher at Archer. As we scout for candidates, we aim to broaden faculty diversity.
Currently, 23% of Archer’s faculty, 56% of staff, and 29% of senior administrators identify as people of color. Among our Board of Trustees and staff we are making clear gains. Three out of four Board Officers are people of color. Six out of seven Board Committee Chairs are women, and three are people of color. Archer’s Admissions Team is entirely non-white, as is our Communications Office and Technology Team. That said, we know the focus has to remain on recruiting the most skilled and innovative faculty possible, which by necessity means increasing diversity of all kinds among its ranks. In the meantime, we will continue to work as a community on celebrating both our diversity and our connections as a place that is singular in its belief in the empowerment of each and every Archer girl.