Dear Oldfields School Community,
In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, the country has been consumed by calls for increased social and racial justice, and an acknowledgment that Black Lives Matter. Our collective focus on the realities of systemic racism must include an inward look at Oldfields School as well.
This is a moment to reflect carefully on the norms, practices, and behaviors that occur at Oldfields and the role we all must play to ensure that we create a true sense of belonging for all of our students-–and particularly for our BIPOC students. Our motto of Courage, Humility, and Largeness of Heart has been embedded in the School's culture for over a century. However, after listening to many of our students and alumnae of color, it is clear that we have not sufficiently reckoned with a legacy of systemic racism within the Oldfields School community. We understand that we have failed members of our community, especially Black students and alumnae, and it is incumbent on school leadership---at the staff, faculty and board levels---to make necessary changes so that all of our girls feel safe, healthy, valued, and included when they're in our care.
In recent weeks, members of the board of trustees, administration, faculty, and staff have been engaged in deliberate conversations about a path forward for Oldfields School. We are particularly grateful for the engagement and advocacy have been shown by members of our alumnae community. Such constructive criticism remains important for ensuring that this community can, together, hold itself accountable for the progress that is required. Today, we can announce several initial steps that will inform the critical work ahead.
First, we must create a framework for sustainable, long-term change, which includes:
- Commit to listen to and value the lived experiences and truths of our students, alumnae, and community members. We must be willing to reflect and acknowledge how we've fallen short as a community if we are to create and implement strategies to improve campus culture and create a truly inclusive environment.
- Move immediately to expand membership to the Board of Trustees before the 2020-2021 school year begins (August 22, 2020), ensuring that newly appointed candidates reflect the full diversity of Oldfields School–-specifically including trustees of color. Additionally, as part of the committee defined below, review and re-imagine the board nominations process to ensure that such diversity remains central to board governance.
- In addition to these appointments, we will create a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEI) at the board level and charge the DEI Committee to develop a three-year DEI Action Plan for Oldfields School. Members of the Committee will include trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, alumnae, and professionals with expertise in DEI. The Committee will look at policies and strategies related to trustee candidacy, hiring educators, student recruitment and retention, curriculum, student and employee handbooks, and the Oldfields experience for each girl.
Second, even as the work of this new committee begins, we cannot wait to implement changes that can begin immediately. These include:
- Providing increased training for the Senior Leadership Team and a commitment to training for all faculty, staff, and students this fall. This training will address implicit bias, microaggressions, and provide strategies to help members of this community recognize and counteract biases and blind spots.
- Launching a global search to hire a full-time Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion who will focus on student support, educational programs, and training for all constituents-–in addition to providing counsel to the work of the Board DEI Committee.
- Adding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to the Strategic Plan. While the work of the DEI Committee will ultimately inform Oldfield's strategic approach, our plan must commit to establishing metrics that equip us to monitor progress.
The steps above are only the beginning of this important work. True culture change will take a focused effort over time. To demonstrate our commitment to this important work, as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and Head of School, we intend to ensure this commitment remains a top priority and we will work with all constituents to listen and to enact policies that represent real change.
Again, we thank all of the alumnae who have been actively sharing their personal stories of racism and discrimination during their time at Oldfields School. It is time for everyone in our community to take responsibility for this crucial work. While we may not be able to control all that happens outside of Oldfields, we can and must pursue a culture on campus that is reflective of our values, and that allows every student to thrive.
Nancy Palmer P'12
Chair of the Board of Trustees
David G. Perfield
Head of School