We all know that a commitment to diversity can be a very personal journey — one in which we think about our own biases, our own stereotyping behavior, and our own prejudices.
But, a commitment to diversity also has to happen institutionally. It has to happen in our processes, our policies and our programs.
People often ask me, “Liza, which comes first, a personal commitment or an institutional commitment? Which has to happen first in order for diversity to be successful?”
I call this the “chicken and the egg” question
The truth is, I shift from the “chicken and the egg” line of questioning and talk about the “bed of nails” approach. Not sure what that means? Here’s a quick article about the physics of the bed of nails.
Basically, everything has to happen at once.
One of those “nails” in the diversity conversation is the presence and engagement of faculty of color. The question is usually, “Liza, which comes first — a commitment to increasing racial diversity in our student body or in our faculty/staff body?”
Bed of nails, all. Bed of nails.
Academic excellence requires a diverse environment in which to thrive. At Park School, we recognize the benefit to our students’ education, as well as our own growth as teacher and educators, that comes from having a more diverse Park School community. A more diverse Park School translates into a better education and experience for our students, faculty, staff and families.
A necessary step in building a more diverse overall community is building a more diverse faculty and staff. We are more likely to recruit students and families to The Park School if they see themselves reflected in the staff and faculty they interact with each day. And, a diverse faculty and staff community at Park contributes to more inclusive recruitment, hiring, retention, and sense of belonging for future faculty from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. If we expect success in diversifying our teaching and administrative staff, we must be proactive in developing a culture and climate at The Park School that actively supports this goal.
Networking helps us to build meaningful relationships in advance of the search cycle. This includes developing a comprehensive list of programs (e.g., education programs, majors/minors in which people of color are well-represented, teacher preparation programs) and developing meaningful relationships with these partners. However, simply reaching out to these organizations and schools is not enough; we must be deliberate in our connection to and relationship with programs and schools and work to build a trusting relationship with them. This may include visits to campus fairs, presence at networking events, intentional meetings with directors or key administrators in organizations, and perhaps even academic clubs and organizations that support faculty and staff of color.
Intentional Advertising and Outreach allows us to clearly express our commitment to inclusive hiring practices to a wide range of audiences. This includes making visible our data on our student of color population (approx. 40% in 2015-2016); opportunities for professional development; proximity to Boston; and cultural opportunities to participate in the life of the school and local community.
Mentoring opportunities that support, enhance and affirm identities provides intentional support to faculty and staff throughout the various stages of their time at Park. This may include development and information about affinity based groups; professional development at Park and outside of Park; awareness of and information about affinity based groups outside of Park (e.g., POCC-AISNE); and culturally reflective partnering and mentoring if desired.
Over the next few months, we will be fine-tuning a process that builds on our existing recruitment and retention strategies here at Park School. This will include a focus on increasing our outreach to underrepresented communities and finding the best teachers and staff out there. Park has always been a leader in teaching and learning, and our continued commitment to diversity on our faculty and staff is crucial to moving us further.
If you’d like some deeper reading on the importance of a diverse faculty and what schools can and should be doing, check out this guide from the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE).
Peace and Park,