What did you experience while attending Far Brook’s conference last November that confirmed your interest in hosting a Pollyanna Conference?
The shape of the conference and the distinct outcomes that a school can anticipate impressed me. I’ve been to many conferences centered around diversity, equity and inclusion and the action planning and results that occur at the Pollyanna Conference just resonated with me.
I like that you hear from constituents in a very organized way and in particular that you spend so much time thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion from the student perspective. The range of representatives in attendance means we can all talk about how we want to improve and having the chance to ideate together in our school group gives us the opportunity to formulate a framework for an action plan. Equally, I felt very inspired and empowered by the keynote speaker, which provides food for thought as you move into the rest of the day.
All-in-all very productive.
How does this Conference fit in with Parker’s strategic goal of Strengthening Community by Expanding Options, Equity, and Access?
This conference will help us flush out our strategic plan, in particular, our goal of Strengthening Community by Expanding Options, Equity, and Access. We are starting to work on this now, and I know it will assist us in the crafting, especially around the student experience.
We’ve completed a climate assessment on identity, equity and inclusion, undertaken some professional development, and organized a student workshop as part of the process. We have been looking at how we can expand the experience of our students, so the Pollyanna Conference will be an excellent way for us to do this.
Why did you choose the topic of Race • Privilege • Community Building for your first conference in March 2019?
We chose Race as a topic because race in Chicago IS the conversation. It captures generally what the independent schools in Chicago are grappling with, and therefore we think schools will want to address the issues they face around this topic in this unique and productive format. At the same time, we didn’t want the focus to be too narrow. Boarding schools face different scenarios from day schools, so we wanted to make the topic more inclusive, incorporating privilege and community.
Parker hosts many equity events on campus. What do you hope to achieve for Parker and the schools that will attend?
When we talked to Pollyanna, we felt that the model would resonate with the community while supporting our own institutional goals. To be a beacon around this work is important to us. We are also excited about the opportunity for community and camaraderie building with other schools through the Conference.
We want to provide a space for schools that are in a similar situation to us to come and work out an issue they’ve been dealing with, making this an efficient, productive time. What’s so great is that we can talk about issues that permeate and tackle them together. And, because the structure of the Conference is different from other meetings or events, you leave with a succinct plan in place.
Having seen the Pollyanna Conference in action was very powerful, and I know it can work!