Fall Planning and Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) Update

Zaw Lyn

Dear Families,

I appreciated seeing so many of you earlier this month at “Conversations with Marjo.” Your thoughtful questions and feedback are informative as we work through the many facets of our scenario planning. In August, we will send out another short survey to all parents and guardians to capture key information that will help us further refine our start of school on September 8. Expect the survey the week of August 3.

Health & Safety FAQs
As you are well aware, the landscape continues to shift in response to the spread of COVID-19 in our region and beyond. We are closely following the decision making of government and health officials and continue to attend webinars hosted by the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS), the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW), and various international school organizations to ensure that we are well-prepared for the first weeks of school whether we are in a fully virtual COL model or a COL-Hybrid model.

To help ensure a safe return to school, our Health & Safety planning group has been busy researching best practices. They have posted to the Maret website a list of health and safety FAQs addressing questions that you and our faculty may have been wondering about. I encourage you to bookmark this page and review it periodically for updates as the start of school approaches.

Athletics Update
We expect to get a determination by mid-week from our two Athletic Leagues (the ISL and the MAC) concerning the fall season for Upper School athletics. Director of Athletics Liz Hall will report to Upper School families and faculty on these decisions as soon as possible.

Next Update on Fall Plans
Presently, we find ourselves in a period of extraordinary complexity with very high stakes on how best to return to campus. Analyses of the course of COVID-19 and appropriate educational responses vary greatly, both locally and nationally. New considerations affect our decision making almost daily. Therefore, I have asked my team to pause while we gather more information and reality check our scenarios.

On August 11 and 12, there will be a series of Zoom meetings with school leadership in each division—exact times will be sent to you a week in advance. We will try to be as clear as we can about academic planning for each age group, understanding there are different needs and pressures for our youngest students and their families compared to those in high school. We are also very conscious of the need to welcome our new students and their families and make them feel part of the Maret community as quickly as possible.

Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF)
As announced in June, I asked Ian Cameron, President of the Maret Board, and Courtney Cothran-Fenner, our Director of Equity & Inclusion, to co-chair a newly-constituted Anti-Racism Task Force. This group met this past week and confirmed the following goals and priorities:

Goals
Maret is committed to continue building a truly equitable and inclusive community.

We have heard from students, alumni and faculty members who have faced institutionalized prejudice and racism at Maret. Through the Instagram account @blackatMaret, Black students have honestly shared how their experiences of racism have left indelible harm and pain. This harming of students must stop. These experiences do not exist in a vacuum, and we must listen and do more to fight institutional racism at Maret; we must examine our practices, policies and protocols to ensure equitable experiences. We must start an honest dialogue about how to support and protect Black students, alumni, parents, and faculty members.

  1. We must further educate our teachers and school leaders to reduce systemic bias through diversity and inclusion trainings that are iterative and ongoing.
  2. We must develop a system of reporting injustices when they happen, with clear and transparent steps for each incident.
  3. We need to conduct an institutional audit to ensure that our educational program provides positive, unbiased, and comprehensive curricula and that our admissions, hiring, and retention programs are devoid of bias and promote a truly diverse population.
  4. We call on the entire Maret community (faculty, parents, students) to partner with the school and uphold its commitment to Maret’s anti-racism efforts. This would be done through one-time listening groups and ongoing advisory groups that would meet regularly.
  5. We must work with our Institutional Research team to analyze past research and develop new tools to root out racial bias in our program and practices.

Over the past decade, the school has made strides in this work and developed strategies that were implemented after the joint trustee and faculty Equity & Inclusion Task Force Report which was published in 2015. Strategic Directions calls us to “ensure that everyone in our community has the opportunity and support to succeed. We must challenge and respond to bias, harassment and discrimination, and work to remove the barriers that inhibit progress...Maret must ensure that differences are welcomed, diverse perspectives are respectfully heard, and every individual has a voice and feels a sense of belonging.”

At this particular moment, our country is reckoning with racism’s violent and deleterious effects on Black people. We must seize this moment to make meaningful and lasting change. While the Task Force will first address institutional racism against Black people, our actions will ensure that Maret builds an equitable and inclusive environment for all students, families, and faculty of color.

The Anti-Racism Task Force’s work will be transparent and inclusive. We will report regularly to the community and hope to submit a report in December.

Task Force Members:
Ian Cameron (President of the Board of Trustees)
Courtney Cothran-Fenner (Director of Equity and Inclusion)
Nina Candia (Assistant Director of US)
Susan Epps (Assistant Head)
David Hall (Trustee)
Allie Levey (Director of College Counseling)
Krystle Merchant (Director of Community Engagement)
Clif Morgan (MPA Executive Committee)
Lex Sant (Trustee)
Sylvia White (Trustee)
Marjo Talbott (Head of School) ex officio

We will be updating the website regularly with information about the work of the Task Force.

I hope you can enjoy time with your family during the coming weeks. Recognizing what an anxious time this is, I sincerely appreciate your patience. I, for one, am trying to recharge my batteries and allow a little more balance in my life away from computers, the onslaught of news, and the contradictory messages on how to deal with this pandemic.

I look forward to seeing you in August.

Marjo

 

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