December 2, 2021
Dear Watkinson Community,
The end of the fall athletic seasons, the daily lists of college acceptances for our seniors, and the arrival of the 2021 holiday season signals that Watkinson’s winter break is mere weeks away. Before we take that break, I want to share some important progress on Watkinson’s ongoing work toward becoming an anti-racist and inclusive institution.
In October, we had our first-ever “Day of Community and Belonging.” It was a half-day virtual conference, and more than 130 members of the Watkinson community — including students, current parents, faculty, alumni, alumni parents, and trustees — joined us. It was an important day of connection and conversation where, not surprisingly, our current students shared the most important insight that will lead to lasting change at Watkinson. With great clarity and unity, our students expressed that they expect Watkinson to be better than the rest of the world at recognizing, identifying and addressing behaviors, language, and attitudes that are harmful. At a time when many young people are questioning their faith in the world, Watkinson’s students want to have faith in their school. While the school has done sporadic micro-aggression training both as professional development for faculty and also with students, it is clear that a more systemic approach is needed, one that encompasses all grade levels on a regular cycle so that no faction of our community, which graduates some and welcomes others every year, will be missed. The expressed intent of this work is to ensure that no one ever feels “less than” while they are part of our community.
Central to this commitment to being a place where every student experiences a sense of belonging is our ongoing focus on professional learning. Specifically, we are focusing professional development and learning on defining, understanding, and creating evermore inclusive spaces within the school, and more effectively supporting our alliances and affinity groups.
All of this progress has coincided with the arrival of Courtney Massenberg, our Director of Community, Equity and Inclusion, and her fresh eyes and broad experience have added great value and dimension to both our process and results. Currently, Courtney is working with students and her colleagues to create new approaches to long standing Watkinson traditions like our MLK Day Celebration. I expect to be able to tell you all about this in my spring Community Letter.
As we approach the nearly two-year-mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, please know that all your friends at Watkinson wish you safety and peace during this holiday season.