“My charge for us is to think about ‘together we can make a difference,’ to navigate some of the not only tricky waters ahead, but the promise that those very same waters hold. Ahead of us we have the call and the promise of Black Lives Matter and our fight against racial injustice, staying safe while living through a pandemic, a major election coming our way, and as we all experience it, the fissure and divide within our country. There is lots for us to get our arms around and to put our mission into action in whatever way you can. Each one of us has a charge to make a difference.” — Head of School Bodie Brizendine remarks at Upper School Opening Assembly
Anti-Racism Task Force Updates (September 14) Read Here; also see this link from the update about Spence's response to the BlackSpenceSpeaks June 15 petition
Anti-Racism Task Force Updates (July 10) Read Here
Announcement by Board of Trustees about the wallpaper (June 26) Read Here
Head of School's Letter About Anti-Racism Task Force Statement of Purpose (June 19) Read Here
Head of School and Board Chair Response to A Letter Urging Action from The Spence School (June 14) Read Here
A Letter Urging Action from The Spence School Link Here
Head of School and Board Chair Statement About Anti-Racism (June 7) Read Here
Video: June 4, Head of School's remarks at the Parents' Association Meeting
A comprehensive mapping of the K-12 curriculum has been completed this spring and the Academic Team is now developing clear curricular throughlines across disciplines and between grade-levels. We have good work ahead guided by a new charge from the Head of School to further strengthen our K-12 program. Included in that charge are the guiding questions “Does our curriculum help our students graduate from Spence knowing about systemic racism, inequality and historical oppression and equipped with skills to dismantle it? Does it also give all of our students adequate understanding to think about the richness and beauty of different experiences?”
We are actively building our own capacity as K-12 teachers and finding new ways to teach equity literacy skills—listening, engaging, self-awareness and self-regulation, facilitation, mediation, and facing racial and equity issues while managing racial stress and anxiety. We are moving to restorative practices to replace traditional disciplinary structures, which include community engagement skill-building. All students in the Upper School are also trained as they enter into 9th grade in the skills of intergroup relations, and we do ongoing trainings with advisors as well. The department chairs have been immersed in a two year program to develop their capacity to support faculty in racial equity work, including recently an implicit bias training with The Perception Institute and a tailored racial literacy workshop with Howard Stevenson of Penn’s Racial Empowerment Collaborative. These workshops explored skills important for our students, and skills we need to practice ourselves with colleagues.
In the Spring of 2019, the leadership team completed a comprehensive overhaul of our hiring practices and produced the "Faculty Hiring Handbook." Included therein are updated guidelines for recruiting, assessing, onboarding and retaining faculty of color. Implicit bias trainings are now done regularly for all hiring managers, clear criteria for each job are determined before hiring commences, and in-common questions are used for equitable hiring (including questions to assess cultural competency). This year, we also hosted a multi-school "train the trainers" training specifically on implicit bias in hiring. Recognizing that for retention of our faculty of color, it is imperative that all of us create an environment of belonging, the School has recently developed faculty expectations for cultural competency. We will build on this work with our active outreach for and retention of faculty and staff of color as we design for future hirings.
Through K-12, we want each student to develop a positive sense of themselves in the world. Our goal is to help all students grow to understand their strengths, and to learn to appreciate others. Because we know that each of us lives at the intersection of multiple identities—whether gender, racial, national, religious, etc.—we actively support students in their exploration of themselves as part of social groups. The Gender Diversity Leadership Team, made up of counselors, health educators, and the Director of Institutional Equity, assures that we support all our students to navigate their girls school environment with strength and confidence to know themselves and to be curious about others.
Since 2018, when Spence began offering Beyond Diversityfor our parents, 215 Spence parents have participated in this program. In addition to ongoing partnership with the PA for gender literacy and racial literacy programming, this winter we partnered with other schools to offer the first-ever Equity Parent Conference in February. We will continue to partner with the PA to offer anti-racism programming for families of our Spence students, knowing that each and every family is responsible for creating a strong community of belonging.
This June, Head of School Bodie Brizendine, Dr. Rebecca Hong and the Alumnae Office organized a series of Listening and Discussion Circles to gain deeper understanding of our former students’ experiences. Our goal is to listen for ways we can continue to strengthen belonging and access in our school community. And in July, we will expand programming to offer social justice trainings for alumnae who are interested in deeper engagement in the work.
We commit to making Spence an inclusive, equitable and multi-identity community in which each student will build intellectual and moral capacity, not only for school but also for life. Spence young women enter the world as excellent scholars and engaged citizens, able to bridge differences and diverse points of view to meet the complex challenges of a changing world. Spence is an environment that embraces differences, honors identity and values full membership and belonging for all.
Guided by our Community Standards, we stand up against exclusion, bias, racism and prejudice in all forms. While deepening our understanding and appreciation of a diverse community, we recognize the ongoing opportunities and the challenges inherent in learning from one another. Together, we find power and joy in working collaboratively to ensure that Spence is a place of ethical stance and substance, a place in which students, parents, faculty and administration cultivate personal integrity in service to the collective values of respect and trust.
Understanding that good, strong community can never be accidental, The Spence School asks every member within its fold to meet the high standards necessary for effective citizenship and valued humanity. We are committed to an inclusive and equitable school, and we will continue to marshal our community to stand up against exclusion, bias, racism and prejudice in all forms. Beyond any calculus of rules, Spence strives, always and in all ways, to be a place of ethical stance and substance, a place in which students, parents, faculty and administration cultivate personal integrity in service to the collective values of respect and trust.
This we believe for school and for life. This allegiance has at its core a partnership of engagement, education and responsibility, all held in balance for that significant relationship between life and learning. Recognizing that mistakes can sometimes be our most vibrant lessons, we also understand that clear and deliberate expectations go hand-in-hand with meaningful consequences. With trust as our pilot and respect as our goal, Spence thrives and is dependent upon our collective commitment to moral leadership.
Diversity is the representation of all our varied identities and differences (race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, caste, socio-economic status, thinking and communication styles, etc.), collectively and as individuals. We seek to proactively engage, understand, and draw on a variety of perspectives. We believe that the solution to the problems we hope to address...can be found by affirming our similarities, as well as by finding value in our differences.
Equity seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all. We believe this is only possible in an environment built on respect and dignity.
Inclusion builds a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation of all people. We believe every person’s voice adds value, and we strive to create balance in the face of power differences. We believe that no one person can or should be called upon to represent an entire community.