Strengthening Our Commitment To Combat Racism

Linda Johnson

Dear Maret Community,

As I acknowledged in a letter in early June, our nation has been struggling with persistent violence against and murder of Black people—often by the very people sworn to protect them. Black Lives Matter and Maret supports the goals of dismantling systems of institutional racism and injustice.

Our school is not immune from these ills, and too many have experienced racism and prejudice at Maret. Challenging and constructive conversations are underway about more deliberate and effective steps we can take to combat systemic and institutional racism and be a truly welcoming and safe community for everyone, particularly people who identify as Black.

Last week, a conversation began on Instagram (@blackatmaret), providing a forum for Black students, faculty, alumni, and families to share and discuss their experiences at Maret. Many of those experiences do not reflect what Maret – in its parts and as a whole – aspires to be, and it is evident that these wounds continue to cause pain.

I truly appreciate the honesty expressed in these postings and have spent this past week reflecting with our team on how to respond thoughtfully. While reading the messages has produced feelings of anger, profound sadness and deep regret, it is important that all of us listen carefully and recognize that we must be willing to change. We need to sit in the reality of our institutional and individual shortcomings, knowing that the harm revealed by these stories far outweighs our discomfort. This is a time of meaningful and ongoing reflection for all of us - the school leadership, faculty, students, and whole community. Creating an environment of respect, equity, and inclusion is embedded in our Mission.

The School’s leadership team, acting in partnership with the entire faculty and the Board of Trustees, has the obligation to set a higher standard of inclusion and engagement. Fulfilling that role requires us to deal directly with transgressions (both micro or macro) directed at our Black alumni, students, parents, and faculty.

Over the past decade, Maret has put in place many programs that further the work of opposing systemic racism. One example is the in-house, intensive workshop Deepening the Discussion About Race, which every teaching and non-teaching faculty member has attended. All teachers continue this work through Equity Learning Groups (ELGs) throughout the year. However, our efforts still fall short of where we should be.

We have decided to re-constitute the 2015 Task Force for Equity & Inclusion – renaming it the “Anti-Racism Task Force.” This Task Force will call upon every parent, guardian, trustee, student, and employee to affirmatively take responsibility for fostering an environment of safety and belonging for every member of the community. Some of the first steps will be to complete an institution equity audit to identify problems in our policies and practices; develop unvarnished and inclusive curricula across all subjects; and ensure that identity and equity education is explicitly taught through a variety of channels, including our newly developed Wellness classes across all thirteen grades.

Board President Ian Cameron, and Director of Equity & Inclusion, Courtney Cothran-Fenner, will co-lead this Task Force. This summer, the Task Force will set up listening groups of our alumni, student, faculty, and family communities. We hope that these frank conversations will help us heal, reflect, and grow. Our goal is to unearth our own systemic and institutional racism and to develop meaningful changes which will help us live up to our Mission and Core Values, making Maret the best it can be for each and every one of us. We will share what we learn and what we will do on a regular basis.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly (mtalbott@maret.org), Courtney Cothran-Fenner (ccothranfenner@maret.org), or Ian Cameron (ianocam61@gmail.com). Thank you for helping us continue to fight for equality and combat racial injustice.

Sincerely,
Marjo Talbott
Head of School

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