August 6, 2020

Dear Academy Community,

It has been just under two months since we gathered in our stadium to mark our community’s resolve against racism and amplify the voices of Black students, alumni, parents/guardians and faculty/staff. It was a moment to care for the pain inflicted by racism, and moreso, it was a call to action.

In the coming weeks we will share a formal action plan, outlining our commitment to systemic changes that address racism at CA and foster antiracism in our community. While we are finalizing the plan, we want to update you on our work this summer and actions already underway.

Much of our work this summer has included listening to and partnering with students, alumni and parents/guardians to ensure our actions are meaningful and focused on our most pressing needs. I am grateful that these meetings have also nurtured relationships and community with and among our students, alumni and parents/guardians.

Some highlights of these (virtual) meetings include:

  • Student leaders in our Upper School have met several times with teachers and administrators to discuss improving the student experience and culture. They are developing several student-led initiatives to begin when school resumes, including changes to student culture, open dialogues on race, anti-bias training, and mentoring for younger students of color.

  • Our Black alumni hosted a town hall gathering in June and shared a summary report with us. They will be together again online this weekend for a Homecoming celebration and continued conversation supporting the school’s work to address racism. From our ongoing work with Black alumni, we are able to formalize and augment our alumni mentoring program for students of color this coming school year.

  • Leaders of MOSAIC, CA’s affinity group for parents/guardians of students of African descent, have coordinated gatherings to provide support and be in dialogue with the school about issues and possible actions. They will host a virtual meeting for all parents/guardians of Black students in the coming week and then meet again with us.

Some actions already underway:

  • For four weeks starting in mid-June, we hosted learning and action groups for parents/guardians, alumni and faculty/staff. These groups emphasized building skills for authentic cross-racial dialogue, learning and effective action against racism. At the end of our four weeks together, there was a clear call from participants to continue such gatherings to create enduring and more widespread engagement in combating racism and bias in our community. We are working on plans to offer this through the school year.

  • One of our school images and marks, the caravel ship, holds a difficult place in history, having been used to transport enslaved African peoples and by colonists responsible for great violence against indigenous peoples in the Americas. Our Board of Trustees has begun conversations about the Caravel and how it reflects our mission, values and ethical standards. As this work may take some time, we are replacing it around campus and in communications in response to learning the pain it causes in our community. You may have already noticed that we have begun using the popular CA-in-shield mark as our primary logo for the school.

  • Over the last several years, our faculty and staff have engaged in intensive cultural competency training and have made significant progress to integrate cultural perspectives, anti-bias learning and culturally responsive teaching practices into the educational experience of students. In this moment, we recognize our need to more directly address the powerful and systemic issues of race and racism. In response, all faculty and staff will begin professional development next week having read, watched and listened to materials that foster racial awareness and anti-racist skills. During our two weeks of preparations for the school year, staff will participate in discussion groups and several additional hours of training that elevate our skills for addressing race and racism. These discussions and trainings will continue throughout the school year.

  • Division heads and deans are integrating orientation and back-to-school programming for students to provide age-appropriate understandings of bias and our expectations for behavior. Additional programming and conversations will be integrated throughout the year to support student identity development, safety, well-being and character development.

Community Conversations on Race: August 16 and 20
As we shared earlier this summer, we will be hosting two opportunities for our community to engage in open and honest conversations on race. The goal of these gatherings is to collectively acknowledge the ways race matters for individuals and our community, help normalize authentic cross-racial conversations about race, and build a stronger community by openly addressing the effects of personal and systemic racism. The conversations will be facilitated by Kimberly Brazwell, a highly regarded dialogue facilitator and diversity practitioner, and will be structured with school leaders present to foster listening, understanding and human dignity. We urge everyone to join these important gatherings to move our community forward, together. Mark your calendars for either or both conversations, which will occur virtually on Sunday, August 16, at 4:00 p.m. (join here) and Thursday, August 20, at 7:00 p.m. (join here). There is no need to pre-register so just click on those links when the events are about to begin.

While apart since June, our community recently gathered again in the stadium, this time to honor our 98 graduates from the Class of 2020. It was a beautiful morning of celebration and connection in the midst of a difficult summer, a time when it would be easy for our graduates to focus inwardly on the personal sacrifices, challenges and losses of their senior year. Chosen to represent the Class of 2020, class president Charlie Sabgir and valedictorian Jay Gokhale chose instead to express their pride and gratitude for the tremendous character of their classmates and their responsibility to fight for racial equality.

It was fitting then that our esteemed guest speaker and CA alumnus, former Brigadier General Dr. David Hamlar Jr. ’73, emphasized to our community that indeed “character lies at the heart of any serious education endeavor, alongside the study of ethics and morality… It is the substance of leaders.” And while he commended his alma mater for our immediate response to the national outcry for racial justice, he also called for “constant vigilance” in our actions against hate and racism (view Commencement coverage).

I was blessed to spend graduation in the company of Deidre Hamlar, our school’s first full-time diversity director (2005-12) and sister of Dr. Hamlar. I was struck by this moment… watching our thoughtful graduates demonstrate such high character and racial consciousness while in the presence of people who represent the strong legacy at CA that paved the way for this moment.

We are committed to continuing CA’s path forward. We may not always get it or say it right. Change is never easy. But we are committed to working with our community to unravel racism and bias while fostering safety, belonging and equality.

Sincerely,

Director of Diversity and Community Life