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Messages from Marjo

head of school marjo talbott

Staying connected: Messages from Marjo keep all of our upper school students, faculty, parents, and alumni connected and informed about the latest happenings and trends on campus. 


Equity Report Update—Spring 2022

Dear Maret Community,

Today, we are sharing with you our Spring 2022 progress towards building an anti-racist culture at Maret. This letter outlines further steps we have taken to address the recommendations from the Anti-Racism Task Force’s (ARTF) Equity Report, shared in March 2021; our last progress updates were shared in June and December of 2021.

This targeted anti-racism work has been spearheaded by the Equity and Inclusion Office — as well as the Committee on Equity & Inclusion (CEI), Student Life and Programs (SLP), and other critical leadership groups at Maret — and is foundational to the ongoing equity and inclusion efforts within our school community.

Every year, faculty, students, and parents and guardians help further this critical work at Maret. This year, faculty members have pursued professional development to build more equitable classrooms, Middle School faculty have worked on a set of essential questions to build a scope and sequence of anti-racist education for Grades 5–8, and in August new faculty will again attend our week-long seminar Deepening the Discussion on Race. Interested parents have started new affinity groups to ensure all members of our community feel included and welcomed at Maret, and student voices are being increasingly amplified through new Lower School affinity spaces, student listening groups, and the Maret Upper School Equity Council (MUSE).

We are excited about the deep commitment that our school has to live our mission. Please read more about our progress below and feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

Sincerely,

Marjo Talbott
Head of School
Co-chair, Committee on Equity & Inclusion

Courtney Cothran-Fenner
Director of Equity & Inclusion
Co-chair, Committee on Equity & Inclusion

 


Equity Report: Spring 2022 Update

Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI)
After a year of careful reflection and building out of our equity initiatives, we have taken the step to expand our Office of Equity & Inclusion (OEI); the Committee on Equity & Inclusion (CEI) will no longer meet. OEI will be helmed by incoming Director of Equity & Inclusion, Mich Black, who has a number of years of experience directing equity and inclusion work in a variety of independent school settings. She will be supported by longtime Maret Science Teacher and Grade Dean, Jua Fluellen, who has been instrumental in the creation of affinity groups and Day of Dialogue within the Middle School and who has been part of the leadership team of Deepening the Discussion on Race, which is attended by all new faculty. Joining them will be Nina Candia, the Assistant Director of the Upper School, and Patrick Scott, the Director of Middle School Admissions. They will meet weekly, and their schedules have been designed to allow them time to engage more deeply in E&I work together and within their roles across campus.

Martha Haakmat of Haakmat Consulting will be supporting the OEI in its design and function. Martha led an anti-racism and anti-bias training for the Board of Trustees in September, as well as a similar training for the Alumni Council in December. She is also supporting us schoolwide as we examine our systems to enhance equity across multiple aspects of our community. Last week, she spent a full day on campus with us, getting to know our school leaders and trustees as she plans her work with us for next year. We are grateful for a gift to the school that allows us to have such a comprehensive contract with Ms. Haakmat.

Anti-Racism Advisory Council (ARAC)
The Anti-Racism Advisory Council — made up of 10 students, four alumni, five parents, and six faculty members — met twice this year. It is charged with working proactively to prevent incidents of racial harm from happening through shared observations about racial equity in the community and making recommendations to CEI.

Raising Student Voices
The Equity Report strongly recommended that student voice be incorporated throughout the systems and spaces that are measuring and evaluating equity at Maret. To that end, we have created more opportunities for students to find support, build solidarity, and have a say in policy-making.

  • Maret Upper School Equity Council — Students on the newly created Maret Upper School Equity Council (MUSE) met twice per month to examine equity issues within the Upper School community and to brainstorm solutions. They also met with CEI to share some of their strongest concerns and observations, which the Upper School administration has taken under serious consideration. These meetings will continue next year, and MUSE plans to expand to include more students.
     
  • Student Listening Groups — Listening Groups have expanded to include not only parents and guardians but also students. The purpose of these gatherings and subsequent feedback is to understand the school experiences of students of various racial or ethnic identities. In the past, parents and guardians spoke about their children's experiences. While those perspectives are hugely helpful, we found it critical to talk directly with students about how they have experienced Maret. Parent/guardian listening groups now focus on how parents and guardians experience Maret in their various identities.
     
  • Lower School Affinity Groups — This spring, the Lower School began an affinity group pilot program. We have seen the positive effects of affinity spaces in our Middle and Upper Schools and wanted to extend this opportunity to build community to our Lower School students. Affinity group spaces were offered to students in third and fourth grades. Each group met twice—once in April and once in May. Groups were created in response to requests from the students and the availability of experienced teachers to lead and facilitate the groups. We hope to expand the number of affinity groups in the future to include white students, students new to Maret, and others. Moving forward, we will make adjustments based on student, family, and faculty feedback.

Parent/Guardian Listening Groups
In early April, we continued our annual Parent/Guardian Listening Groups. Similar to our Student and Faculty Listening Groups, the purpose of these sessions is to hear feedback from our parent/guardian community in order to identify emerging trends in the experiences of people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds. We held listening groups for parents and guardians who identify as Latinx, Asian, Greater Middle Eastern, Black, Jewish, White, and Multiracial. We use the feedback to improve our strategies for greater inclusion of our parents and guardians.

Parent Communications
We are examining communication practices in our three divisions and schoolwide to appropriately address events in the news and keep families better informed about our institutional E&I initiatives, as well as what is happening in the curriculum, in classrooms, and in our programming across school life.

Restorative Practices (RP)
Restorative Practices is the two-part system of meeting protocols that we are using to help us build authentic community (through Community-Building Circles) and repair racial harm (through Responsive Circles). This work involves self-reflection, as well as strategies to repair relationships.

  • Community Building Circles — Our RP Team has been expanding Community Building Circles in our faculty and student meeting spaces across the school this year. The Team is also ready to lead Responsive Circles when these are requested. Over time, all members of the faculty will be trained to facilitate community building circles so that they become a part of the fabric of our school culture.
     
  • System for Reporting Harm — Maret is committed to systematically preventing racial harm and repairing any harm that does occur. To that end, we have drafted a system for reporting that begins a process for understanding what happened. Incoming Director of Equity & Inclusion, Mich Black, has had extensive experience in Restorative Practices, along with educating all community constituents about its ethos and its logistics. She will be a fantastic leader as this work evolves and rolls out, hopefully, in the fall semester of 2022.
     
  • We will also be sending more faculty to be trained this summer in RP, both brand new facilitators and also returning facilitators who will take an advanced level of training for reporting harm.

Faculty Listening Survey
Faculty have also been asked to share their experiences based on the racial/ethnic aspects of their identities. This allows school leaders to see trends emerging for specific identity groups among our faculty and to address issues to make Maret a more inclusive work environment.

Equity and Inclusion Training
Deepening our anti-racist work includes professional development for all faculty and school leaders.

  • Throughout this spring, the OEI gave presentations on “Holding Space for Challenging Conversations with Students” to faculty within each teaching division: Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School. These conversations help faculty develop the skills to disrupt harmful comments by avoiding our knee-jerk responses and developing strategies for engaging students in unlearning and relearning, ultimately coming to new understanding about how to treat each other.
     
  • All teaching faculty take part in Equity Learning Groups. They have spent the spring in conversations about how to measure student engagement in ways that build more anti-racist classrooms. These conversations are, again, starting points that will extend into the 2022-23 school year.
     
  • Our faculty are encouraged to pursue professional development with a focus on equity and inclusion, and they have continuous support in doing so. Some of the sessions they attended this school year included:
    • Racial Equity Facilitator Training
    • The History of Anti-Black Racism Series
    • NSTA: What is Social Justice Teaching in the Science Classroom Series
       
  • In December, Maret will attend the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) and People of Color Conference (PoCC). The conferences will be in-person in San Antonio, Texas.