Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias Action Plan

July 13, 2020

Dear Masters Community,
 
The fervent outcry on social media against racism in our country and on our campus as well as many recent conversations with alumnae/i, students and faculty have brought our School to a pivotal and galvanizing moment in its history. As a growing portion of our nation’s population reaches new levels of awareness, empathy, outrage and sorrow too-long familiar to its citizens of color, The Masters School community, too, has become aware of the ways in which it has disappointed, hurt and alienated its members of color. 
 
We have historically prided ourselves on our considerable efforts to achieve true diversity, equity and inclusion within our community. But we have fallen short, and for that we sincerely apologize. Masters is committed to school-wide anti-racism work. This process of self-examination and action will take time and will require further steps.
 
Becoming aware of our part in pain and injustice is not enough: It is a moral imperative that we take swift and decisive action to rectify it and regain the faith and trust that we have lost. We must work diligently to dismantle racism on our campus and in the world beyond it. Without this commitment, we not only perpetuate harm but inadvertently limit our own impact as powers for good in the world.
 
As a matter of principle, Masters must become an anti-racist and anti-bias community. The degree of our success will depend on the commitment, determination and enthusiasm of all members of the community. We must demonstrate our commitment to this principle through ongoing efforts, and we must hold ourselves accountable.
 
The anti-racism and anti-bias action plan outlined below will be in place as we return to school in the fall. It covers different areas of life at Masters, from governance to admission, from curriculum to hiring. The creation of this plan included conversations with and revisions and contributions from students, alumnae/i, faculty and parents of color, and we are immensely grateful for their feedback and support. This is a breathing document: Our action plan will evolve and be updated over time, as we recognize that this work will be unwavering and ongoing, and we are committed to providing regular reports on progress as we advance in our efforts.
 
GOVERNANCE
 
The Masters School is committed to diversifying our Board of Trustees to ensure that the voices of its members and the decisions made by the governing body better represent the diversity of our community.
 
Specific board actions will include: 
  1. The Board of Trustees will prioritize the Committee on Trustees’ efforts to cultivate and recruit a greater number of board candidates of color. The Board will have a diversification plan in place by spring 2021.
  2. The Board of Trustees will create a committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. The committee will be in place at the conclusion of the October 2020 meeting. 
  3. Effective immediately, the director of equity and inclusion will attend all board meetings.
  4. Effective immediately, all members of the Board will be required to participate in annual diversity, equity and inclusion training.
 
ADMISSION
 
Having a diverse student body has been an essential part of our community and its mission. We will continue the School’s efforts to recruit, enroll, retain and support a diverse student population.
 
The Admission team will clearly communicate to prospective families the School’s mission to become an anti-racist and anti-bias community.
 
Specific admission actions will include: 
  1. Effective immediately, interviews of prospective students and their families will include a direct reference to our commitment to being an anti-racist and anti-bias school. We feel strongly that openness about our commitment will reaffirm it within us, help us identify families that seek an optimally inclusive community, and help families understand the community they aspire to join.
  2. An anti-racist and anti-bias statement will be added to the enrollment forms starting in the 2021-2022 admission cycle, and families will be required to sign it in affirmation.
  3. Beginning in the 2020-2021 admission cycle, the School will hold admission programming for prospective families of color.
 
RACIAL DIVERSITY AMONG FACULTY, STAFF AND ADMINISTRATION
 
Increasing the diversity of our faculty, staff and administration to more accurately reflect the identities of our students and families is and will continue to be a strategic priority in the hiring process. Each cohort of new teachers we invite to join our faculty must move us closer to attaining this goal. By September 2021, the School will have completed a review of the previous three hiring cycles and will use this data to inform any modifications to our plan to recruit and retain faculty of color. In addition, the School will be actively focusing on retention efforts to ensure that our colleagues of color thrive in this community.
 
Specific hiring and retention actions will include:
  1. Effective immediately, The Masters School will increase its efforts and success rate in hiring and retaining diverse members of its faculty, staff and administration. The School will offer all employees continuous anti-bias work, broaden networking practices in the hiring process, and increase intentional support for our employees on campus.
  2. In support of successful onboarding and retention, and in addition to the mentors that all incoming faculty are paired with, the School will offer new faculty and staff of color a colleague mentor of color beginning in August.
  3. In alignment with the hiring cycle at independent schools, in January 2021, the School will launch a national search for an associate director of equity and inclusion to begin in fall 2021. The associate director of equity and inclusion will report to the director of equity and inclusion.
 
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES 
 
As a community dedicated to principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, Masters welcomes the thoughtful contributions of all individual voices. Members of the school community are expected to treat all people with dignity, respect and equity. Violations of these core values and expectations will be addressed promptly and in accordance with revised rules and policies included in the School’s handbooks.
 
Specific action steps related to policies and procedures will include:
  1. The School is speaking with prospective consultants who specialize in issues of diversity, equity and inclusion at independent schools, and will retain a professional in this capacityover the course of the 2020-2021 academic year. A specific task of this individual will be to help the School conduct a thorough review of its employee and family handbooks with a clear emphasis on anti-discrimination policies to ensure that they explicitly address acts of racism, bias and discrimination and clearly articulate appropriate discipline responses. The work on the handbooks has begun, and the School will provide an update by February 2021.
  2. In order to swiftly and properly address reports of racism, bias and discrimination, the School will establish an online incident report form for members of the community to bring forward incidents of racism, bias and discrimination. Reports made through this process will be properly investigated according to revised protocols, in compliance with best practices and privacy laws, and in collaboration with the director of equity and inclusion and/or the director’s associate. This process will be in place by September 2020.
 
CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY
 
Starting in the upcoming academic year, the School will launch a thorough and in-depth review of the curriculum. 
 
Specific action steps related to curriculum and pedagogy will include:
  1. The School is committed to identifying and implementing the essential skills and competencies that will empower students to recognize and dismantle systematic racism, bias and discrimination. The School will integrate these skills into its 5-12 curriculum. This anti-bias curriculum will be developed throughout the 2020-2021 school year by our director of learning initiatives; the diversity, equity and inclusion task force; and the Academic Committee.
  2. The School will ensure its curriculum across all disciplines more fully includes voices and works from individuals and groups that have been systematically excluded, including material and content that reflects a greater diversity of thought and experience, provides opportunities for student choice, and tackles essential contemporary questions of social and racial justice. A comprehensive curriculum review will be initiated in fall 2020. A progress report will be made in fall 2021.
  3. All employees will be required to participate in professional development around issues of racism and other factors impacting equity and inclusion. This training will take place beginning in 2020-2021 and will continue to be required in subsequent years.
  4. Beginning in August, the School will revise its New Faculty Institute, a weeklong onboarding program for incoming faculty, to more fully address issues of race and identity.
  5. Starting in the 2020-2021 academic year, the School will prioritize anti-racism, anti-bias and anti-discrimination training in its professional development budget.
  6. Beginning in fall 2020, the School will revise its “Guiding Principles for the Instructional Core,” which articulate the criteria for teachers to set goals and be evaluated, to include a demonstrated commitment to anti-racist and anti-bias pedagogy. This revision is expected to be concluded by September 2021.
 
COMMUNITY AND BELONGING
 
The policies, procedures and practices we put forth in this plan exist to support and strengthen a climate of belonging and inclusion at The Masters School. A healthy school climate is built through day-to-day interactions with one another and through the norms that are established and reinforced when we see, acknowledge and listen generously to one another. Deepening a sense of connection and belonging is essential to our ultimate goal to become an anti-racist and anti-bias community.
 
Specific community-related actions will include:
  1. Led by the director of equity and inclusion, the School will create a diversity, equity and inclusion task force made up of various members of the Masters community to monitor progress and make ongoing recommendations toward becoming an anti-racist and anti-bias community. The task force will be in place by October 1, 2020, and will report to the head of school.
  2. Beginning in fall 2020, anti-racism, anti-bias and anti-discrimination training will be required yearly for students at every grade level and will cover the specific needs of a residential and multicultural community. Workshops and training will also be offered and encouraged for at least one parent/guardian from each household. Training of various constituencies will take place throughout the year, with the bulk taking place in the early weeks of the fall.
  3. To help community members use one another’s correct names and pronunciations, the School will create an online name bank in which all members of the Masters community will be able to record their names. The name bank will be available to faculty, staff, administrators and students. Recording of names will take place by the end of the first full week of classes. Directions will be sent out in August.
  4. The School is in the process of hiring a counselor of color who will be available to meet with students in a confidential setting. The counselor will be available as school begins in September 2020.
  5. Beginning in fall 2020, the School will support a student-initiated mentor/mentee program for students of color who wish to establish connections with alumnae/i and student mentors.
  6. Beginning in fall 2020, the School will provide forums for members of the community to engage in restorative conversations about race.
  7. Beginning in fall 2020, the School’s service program, MISH, will dedicate more time and effort to raise awareness of, fundraise for and support Black-owned organizations and causes that focus on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
  8. The School will conduct the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) survey every five years. It will report back results to the community and use them to guide and inform the needs of the School as related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The first AIM survey was conducted in 2017. Results are available upon request. The next survey will be conducted in fall 2021.
 
REPORTING ON PROGRESS
 
The Masters School is committed to holding itself accountable and to transparently reporting the progress of this action plan regularly to all constituencies. 
 
Reporting will be done in the following manner:
  1. The Board of Trustees’ committee on diversity, equity and inclusion will report on this action plan to the full Board during each scheduled board meeting.
  2. The School will provide a yearly written progress report on this action plan to the entire Masters community.
  3. The diversity, equity and inclusion task force will give students a progress report on this action plan at least twice annually during Morning Meeting.
  4. The diversity, equity and inclusion task force will give school employees a progress report on this action plan at least twice annually during all-school staff meetings.
  5. In its scheduled meetings, the Parent Association will offer presentations by the head of school, associate head of school, director of equity and inclusion, board members and/or external speakers to address issues of race and report on progress related to this action plan.
 
PROGRESS TO DATE
 
The execution of this plan will build upon initiatives that have been implemented during the past five years, including expanding the Equity and Inclusion Office to have a full-time director and division coordinators and creating the diversity ambassador program; affinity groups for students of color, LGBTQ+ students and Asian students; the Middle School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leadership group; and the Parent Association Equity and Inclusion Committee. 
 
Additionally, the School has significantly increased its student, faculty and administrator participation in the annual People of Color Conference, the Student Diversity Leadership Conference and the MOSAIC Conference and has offered ongoing professional development around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. These opportunities have included training and presentations from consultants such as Dr. Derrick Gay, Tim Wise and Alex Myers. 
 
For the past three years, The Masters School has successfully co-hosted the annual Saturday Summit on Social Justice. The School also conducted its first NAIS AIM survey in 2017 and used its results to better understand the diversity, equity and inclusion climate on campus. 
 
A SCHOOL-WIDE COMMITMENT
 
We have much more work that must be done to reach our goal of becoming an anti-racist and anti-bias community, and this plan is intended to serve as both a map and a starting point. We recognize that there is a portion of this message that is aspirational and that we are a work in progress, both as individuals and as a school. In this spirit, we call on all members of our community to embrace these principles and choose to be part of this work.
 
This will not be the work of a few but of our entire community. We are open to ideas that foster a sense of equity, inclusion and belonging for all. Please share your thoughts and suggestions by emailing us at abettermasters@mastersny.org.
 
We are grateful for the opportunity to engage in restorative and constructive dialogue and are committed to reporting on our progress periodically as we move forward. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Edith C. Chapin ’83
Chair of the Board of Trustees
 
Laura Danforth
Head of School
 
Karen Brown P'16
Director of Equity and Inclusion

The Masters School