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Harpeth Hall School: DEIB Commitments Update

 

Dear members of the Harpeth Hall community,

In October 2020, we wrote to you about Harpeth Hall’s commitment to better foster a culture of belonging within our school community and build upon the school’s community goal in the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. In that communication, we outlined a number of important priorities in the areas of teaching and learning; culture and climate; and outreach, community engagement, and communication. We write to you now with an update in the spirit of accountability and transparency.

The work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in a school community is difficult and exciting and necessary. At Harpeth Hall, we continue to affirm the dignity, power, and potential of all girls and young women. Supporting those values requires the sustained and collective effort of every member of the community: leadership, faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumnae. As a school, our efforts are guided by best practices in the field that are strategic, data-informed, and sustainable. Our efforts will continue to draw inspiration from Harpeth Hall’s historic strengths, students and teachers, and from continued dialogue with you whom we respect and value.

We believe in the unyielding power of an inclusive learning community and are dedicated to ensuring Harpeth Hall remains a place where each girl feels comfortable being her most authentic self. Our longstanding commitments are shared responsibilities, and the work will continue.

Sincerely,

Jess Hill, Head of School

Jane Berry Jacques '72, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Nancy Graves Beveridge, M.D. '80, Chair of the DEI Committee of the Board of Trustees

 

 

Highlights of Progress

Hire a Director of Equity and Inclusion to strategically lead the DEIB work on campus alongside faculty and students. 

  • MarQuis Chappell assumed the role of director of equity and inclusion in July 2021.

     

Implement a system for students, faculty, and staff to report incidents of racism and bias. 

  • A Harpeth Hall committee collected data on incident forms from other schools and created a bias awareness form. Harpeth Hall counselors rolled the form out through the Life Balance classes to students in grades 9-11, and the process for identifying and reporting bias will be shared with other classes throughout the next school year. 

Further educate our students and faculty to recognize and reduce explicit and implicit racial prejudice. Provide our faculty with additional tools to facilitate discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion, to be allies for student success in the classroom, and to cultivate a truly inclusive community. 

  • In 2020 and 2021, a total of 24 Harpeth Hall faculty and staff attended the National Association of Independent Schools' annual People of Color Conference. The mission of the conference is to provide a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools.
  • Upper School faculty attended a workshop on microaggressions and case study scenarios. (February 2021)
  • Leadership team members participated in a series offered by the independent schools organization INDEX and led by Uche Amaechi of the Harvard Graduate School of Education to guide schools through the issues, questions, and process arc of nurturing an inclusive educational environment. (September 2020 - April 2021)
  • The school’s Center for Civic Engagement faculty leaders presented a Difficult Dialogues training “refresher” to all students in attendance at Leadership Day and full faculty during in-service. (August 2021)
  • The Center for Civic Engagement Student Advisory Board was formed in fall of 2021. Its purpose statement is as follows: The CCE Student Advisory Board brings together student leaders who represent different perspectives for the purpose of promoting civic engagement and civic dialogue on campus. With an emphasis on building and sustaining a strong sense of community, the student advisory board will work with the faculty CCE Committee to develop activities and events that promote these objectives.
  • Middle School faculty joined in-service training on student feedback and framing for addressing questions of identity, diversity, and belonging as they relate to teacher-student feedback. (January 2022)
  • BELONG, the Upper School student diversity leadership group, prepared a presentation on recognizing and reducing prejudice to share at an Upper School meeting. (March 2022)
  • The school held a Diversity Viewpoints professional development workshop for faculty and staff to discuss guiding principles for open discussion in the classroom. (April 2022) 

Actively recruit more faculty of color and work with our consultant, Dr. Nicole Furlonge, to assure best practices in hiring faculty from underrepresented backgrounds. 

  • The school is actively seeking funding to establish a Teaching Fellows Program to attract new BIPOC teachers to Harpeth Hall.
  • The advisory committee for the director of the Upper School search, along with Harpeth Hall’s leadership team and Academic Council, participated in anti-bias training facilitated by the educational recruitment and strategic consulting firm Carney Sandoe. (Fall 2021)
  • Division directors from the Middle School and Upper School attended training with Nemnet Minority Recruitment: “Overcoming Obstacles to Recruiting Faculty of Color Workshop.” (December 2021)
  • Harpeth Hall’s director of human resources and director of equity and inclusion conferenced with career services at the local universities to strengthen partnerships between the schools. (January 2022)
  • In 2021-2022, Harpeth Hall recruited and hired more faculty of color than in any previous year.

Complete during the 2020-2021 school year a self-study by department to assess and make changes to ensure a diverse and inclusive curriculum. 

  • Division directors partnered with Columbia University’s Teachers College to design a sustainable curriculum review process with a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, which will serve as a useful tool in future curriculum decisions. (September 2020 - April 2021)
  • Harpeth Hall division heads created a Wednesday morning professional learning community time for faculty to complete curriculum mapping by departments during the 2021-2022 school year. This articulation of the scope and sequence of the curriculum is a best practice and an essential step in creating a robust and ongoing curricular review process.

Support the formation of more diversity and inclusion groups and clubs that enable underrepresented students to feel seen, valued, and affirmed within the broader Harpeth Hall community. 

  • Affinity groups and leadership groups on campus provide a community for students, faculty, and parents to gather, celebrate, and support one another. These spaces affirm all members of our school community. Currently, our spaces include:
    • Better Together Middle School Diversity Leadership Group
    • BELONG Upper School Diversity Leadership Group
    • BIPOC Faculty/Staff Affinity Group
    • DEI Committee of the Board of Trustees
    • Faculty Council for Belonging
    • SPECTRUM Faculty/Staff Affinity Group
       
  • Harpeth Hall faculty- and student-run clubs offer many opportunities to engage in important conversations where respecting all viewpoints is paramount. Currently, those groups include:
    • Black Student Alliance
    • Center for Civic Engagement
    • Current History
    • Free Speakers
    • Gender Sexuality Alliance
    • Women in Government

Develop new partnerships with the broader Nashville community to establish a more diverse applicant pool for admission.  

  • Harpeth Hall partnered with two East Nashville charter schools on multiple engagement initiatives including participating in school fairs, special campus visit days, and special interview programs in fall of 2021 and winter of 2022
  • The Office of Admission held Parent and Alumnae of Color panels for prospective families. (December 2020 and December 2021)
  • The Admission and Financial Aid Office held programs for area schools leaders to learn about the holistic admission process. (September 2020 and September 2021)
  • New student enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year includes 21% self-identified students of color, a 2% increase from the previous year.

Further engage our alumnae of color and parents of color in leadership roles on our boards, councils, and committees.  

  • The Alumnae Board added a DEIB liaison position to improve engagement with BIPOC alumnae and to partner with the director of equity and inclusion in establishing a mentor program between students and alumnae.
  • The Harpeth Hall Parents Association was intentional about reaching out to parents of color and further engaging them in leadership positions.

Support the Trustees and Governance Committee of the Board in their work to invite more people of color to join the Board of Trustees.  

  • The Trustees and Governance Committee of the Board remains intentional in its search for supportive individuals from a variety  of constituencies, races, and cultures as it nominates prospective trustees who are invested in the long-term success of the school. For the 2022-2023 school year, the Board of Trustees will include five individuals of color, or 15% of the Board. 
  • Harpeth Hall continues its endeavor to engage alumnae of color in the school’s alumnae board and councils to more fully reflect the talents and strengths of all Harpeth Hall graduates and so that more alumnae of color may consider the role of trustee along their leadership path.

Work with the DEI Committee of the Board to facilitate conversations at the Board level about equity and inclusion and to ensure the implementation of the “Community” goal in the Strategic Plan.  

  • Dr. Nicole Furlonge, professor and director of the Klingenstein Center Teachers College at Columbia University, led a workshop with the DEI Committee of the Harpeth Hall Board of Trustees to reflect on strategic ways to think about, act, and further the work connected to Harpeth Hall’s community-building priorities. (December 2020)
  • MarQuis Chappell, director of equity and inclusion, led the Board in a presentation and discussion about the goals for our DEIB work at Harpeth Hall. (September 2021)