The following was sent via email to the Shady Side Academy community from President Bart Griffith and Director of Equity, Inclusion & Community Relations Lillian Grate on Monday, June 8, 2020.
June 8, 2020
Dear Shady Side Community,
Last week we expressed our grief and outrage over the killing of George Floyd and the systemic racism that persists in America. Since then, we have heard from students, alumni, and parents who have challenged Shady Side Academy to do more to acknowledge and rectify longstanding inequities in our own school community. We also have heard from a number of students and alumni expressing pain and frustration in reflecting upon instances of bigotry and racial bias they have experienced at SSA. We have been called upon to refocus on our mission and Guiding Principles and Declaration for a Diverse & Inclusive Community and to work to implement them better in practice.
As saddening as it is to hear the painful accounts of bigotry and racial bias within our own community, please know that we fully acknowledge them, and we appreciate the courage of those who shared their stories to help our community become better. As they have for many institutions, the unjust death of George Floyd, the ensuing peaceful protests, and the authentic conversations that have taken place over the last couple of weeks have made us look inward at ways we can and must improve.
We pledge to you that SSA will confront honestly the realities of any racial inequity that exists within our community and do the work that is required to make all of us better. This includes developing and following a pathway that will enable SSA to become a more equitable and just community. Said simply, we must move beyond words and focus on action.
Under the direction of the recently established Office of Equity, Inclusion and Community Relations, some important initiatives are already underway. Over the past year we have been developing equity plans for each campus and have established equity curricula in multiple divisions. We have completed an internal audit of our Senior School history and English courses with a focus on a more racially diverse representation in the curriculum. We have formed an Academy-wide faculty Equity and Inclusion Committee, and our entire PK-12 faculty dedicated an in-service day this past October to diversity, equity, and inclusion work, culminating in every teacher's participation in Factuality, a nationally recognized interactive training that simulates structural inequality. Our school heads have participated in workshops led by national organizations dedicated to the recruitment and retention of teachers and administrators of color. We have launched a Black Alumni Advisory Council and re-established the African-American Parent Group and plan to expand upon these organizations to support a range of parent affinity groups at the school.
While we are proud of these initiatives and optimistic about the impact of this work moving forward, we know that there is much more work to be done, and that to make continued progress we must listen and learn. Therefore, we have designed several opportunities for community members to share and discuss the ways their identities have shaped their experiences at Shady Side. We will listen intently and work quickly to put into action what we learn from these conversations.
We invite the entire Shady Side community to participate in these vital conversations, and we welcome additional insights on how we can advance this critical work. Please see the virtual opportunities below. (SSA students, parents, alumni and faculty/staff should read the June 8 email or contact Lillian Grate to obtain the Zoom links for the sessions.)
- Black Student Union (BSU) Session – Thursday, June 11, at 1:30 p.m.
This dialogue is for all African American SSA students and alumni. It is designed to be a conversation dedicated to the promotion of unity and support. With help from the Director of Equity, Inclusion and Community Relations, the session will be led by the president and vice president of the Senior School's Black Student Union
- Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) Session – Monday, June 15, at 3 p.m.
The Senior School's student-led Diversity Leadership Council invites all SSA students and alumni interested in the following question: What can I do to help? The conversation will be led by the faculty advisor of the DLC and its members.
- Community-Wide Listening Session – Wednesday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m.
Led by the Academy's President and the Director of Equity, Inclusion and Community Relations, this session provides an opportunity for all SSA parents, alumni, faculty, staff and students to share their experiences, perspectives, and concerns as it relates to equity and inclusion at SSA.
We remain thankful for your involvement in the life of Shady Side Academy and your partnership in its growth. In keeping with the mission and values of SSA, we continue to believe in the strength of our community and the promise of our shared future.
Bart Griffith '93
Director of Equity, Inclusion and Community Relations