A Message from the Head of School




July 1, 2020

Dear Friends,
 
Core to Quakerism is continuing revelation, the process of constantly seeking intellectual and spiritual truth. Recently, a bright light has shone on the truth that systemic racism exists everywhere, including Wilmington Friends School. As an institution, it is our moral obligation to accept this as truth and keep growing, keep moving forward, and never rest in our work to be an anti-racist school.
 
As many of you know, an Instagram account, @wilmpsspeaks, was created to provide a safe space for students and alumni of Delaware private schools to share stories and comments about their school experiences. Wilmington Friends posted a statement on our own account in support of this safe space, as well as a link to provide feedback directly to the School.
 
We are reading each post along with the direct feedback, and we are deeply sorry for the pain, embarrassment, hurt, and anger expressed. These experiences are unacceptable, and we have to do better. While it is hard to hear about these failings and the trauma they have caused, we are truly listening, for there will be no other way for us to make meaningful change without naming, facing, and preventing the problems that exist.
 
As mentioned in my letter sent in the beginning of June, we are focusing on the Quaker testimony of Equality in the upcoming school year. We have already begun to map out a plan and are committed to the following actions, which will inform subsequent concrete steps for the future:
 
Engaging Brown-Gary Associates (BGA) to conduct an Immersive Climate Assessment of our school. As stated on their website: “We are a resource to schools, corporations, and non-profit organizations that are committed to building inclusive learning and work environments. We conduct immersive climate assessments, professional development workshops and consulting services that promote cross-cultural understanding, strengthen communication and build a trusting community.”

BGA will do an immersive culture assessment of our community and stakeholders, as well as review feedback already provided to the School. Topics in the Assessment will include:

  • Philosophic commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
  • Leadership for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Board and Administrative Leadership); including new roles at the school
  • Faculty climate for inclusion, mindful of ongoing and future professional development opportunities
  • Recruiting and retaining faculty diversity; administrative and facilities staff
  • Diversity and inclusion of the student body
  • Student affinity
  • Socio-economic class and privilege
  • Gender and identity
  • Cognitive and physical ability
  • Community service and service learning
  • Parent education
We expect that the assessment will identify and prioritize both short-term and long-term needs for the School and the students we serve. Additionally, BGA will lead our faculty and staff in a workshop on implicit bias awareness.
 
Conducting Zoom sessions with students, parents, and alumni. Our community is hurting right now, and though they will have a chance to talk about their experiences in immersive climate assessments, we would like them to have the opportunity to share now. These sessions will be conducted by an outside facilitator to ensure a safe space for candid discussion and will start this summer. More information to come.
 
Instituting an Incidents of Bias Report to document incidents that take place at Wilmington Friends School or that involve the WFS community, with the goal of consistency in how we address these incidents as an institution. Incidents of bias include acts related to an individual’s or groups’ identity. That identity includes, but is not limited to ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. Incidents can be both intentional and unintentional.
 
Engaging our Black alumni. This summer we have been working on an initiative to gain feedback from our Black community members regarding their experiences at WFS. Last week WFS staff met with our Black Alumni Advisory Committee to talk about the best way to gain this insight. This meeting was beyond valuable, and we are grateful for the direction the group provided. We will be reaching out to Black alumni soon, and invite any Black alumni who would like to be involved in the committee to contact our Director of Alumni Programs and Giving, Tina DiSabatino, at tdisabatino@wil​mingtonfriends.​org.
 
If any community members would like to send thoughts or feedback now about your experiences at WFS, please use this form, or reach out to me at any time.
 
In addition, we invite our community members to join the Black Lives Matter march organized by Wilmington Monthly Meeting on Saturday, July 4, from 11am to noon at the Meeting House between 4th and West Streets in Wilmington.
 
In Friendship,

Ken




June 2, 2020

Dear Friends,
 
As I have watched and read about the unfolding national landscape, it has taken me some time to process all that we are experiencing. As an African American father and husband, the events of the past two weeks have reopened challenging and difficult conversations with family, friends, and fellow educators. I have struggled to process all that is going on, the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the communities who have suffered over and over. And in the shadows of these recent events is the fact that minorities are disproportionately suffering and dying as we are dealing with our own realities, fears, and frustrations from COVID-19. These are unprecedented times.
 
Over the past few days, there have been many images in the media of peaceful protests and violent actions. Blame has been placed on many different groups and depending on the source, it can be hard to sort out what is happening. But what we at Wilmington Friends know for sure is that the systemic racism in our country has gone on for too long, has brought tragedy to too many people, and is a toxicity that must be neutralized.
 
So where do we go from here?
 
We each are experiencing these events in our own way, from different vantage points, and have our personal ways of processing. But naming and facing the horrific thread of racism throughout our history has to be the first step for all of us. We know that over the years many members of the Wilmington Friends community have worked hard for social justice, and Quakers have a long history of speaking out against inequality, brutality, and suppression. Today, let’s ask ourselves, how can we do more?
 
As a school, we can look inward and take a deep dive into our students’ experiences. From our preschoolers to our seniors, what are they experiencing? How might we have developmentally appropriate conversations with our children? How can we have deeper conversations about privilege and systemic racism? How do we make sure that each child is truly seen and heard? How can members of our community, students and adults, have meaningful dialogue with one another? As I have talked with our teachers over the past week, we know that many of our students are struggling to make sense of what they are witnessing and experiencing. They seek to find answers and to put words into action.
 
I have been an educator in Quaker schools for 30 years, and I know as a community we can have real conversations. We do not have to subscribe to the notion that we are against one another. Though they may be challenging, we can talk about these issues with honesty and integrity, and not be afraid of saying and hearing things that are difficult. We may feel untethered by physical separation during this pandemic, but if the past months have taught us anything it is that we remain strong in our connections to one another. As a starting point, we invite you to join us on June 8th at 6:00 pm for a Virtual Community Meeting for Worship and reflect on how we can get these conversations started. You may register for the Meeting for Worship here.
 
As parents and educators, we must be sure to help our children navigate these incredibly difficult concepts. Listed below are some suggested resources to help you have these conversations.
 
As I write this, the public outcry for justice is growing louder. And as I search for answers, I am led back to the Quaker testimonies––especially those of peace, integrity, and equality. Let those be our guideposts in our journey as agents of change. Please join me in holding in the Light all those impacted by these tragedies.
 
In Friendship,
 
Ken