In recent months, people across our nation have been engaged in deep reflection about the systemic racial inequities in our nation’s fabric that advantage some and oppress others. While these injustices are rooted in our past, they remain omnipresent. If we at Ensworth are to live up to our motto, In Search of Truth, we must recognize and respond to the lived truth of everyone in our community.
This summer, several members of our school community, including alumni and current families, came forward to express concerns that some students, mostly Black and People of Color, did not feel or do not feel equally welcome at Ensworth. I am grateful for the courage and candor of those who reached out to share their stories, and I apologize to those who experienced hate or discrimination despite our stated commitment to kindness, respect, and inclusion.
Recent national events and revelations have further emphasized the importance of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and compel us to ensure that our ideals continue to be transformed into actionable plans. Following is an outline of efforts that have already been underway, as well as some new initiatives, all of which are geared toward making Ensworth a more inclusive community.
Building upon the establishment of an official Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by the Board in 2018, we chose the topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a key area of focus for our reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) in 2019. Our self-study, the feedback from a survey of parents, students, and faculty that we conducted last fall, and the recommendations from a visiting team of educational leaders who came to campus during this past school year, are guiding our actions moving forward. Our priorities coming out of this process include:
Dedicated Leadership for the work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Following the recommendation of the visiting team, this past spring we made the decision to create the senior leadership position of Director of Community Engagement and Inclusion. David Whitfield was appointed to this role, and he joined the Ensworth Leadership Team at the beginning of the summer. David has been a faculty member at Ensworth since 2006, teaching in the Seminar, English, and History departments at the High School, as well as leading a number of community-based initiatives such as Kids Academy, Time to Rise, and Tearing Down the Walls. Given his strengths and his experience as an educator at multiple schools, as well as his deep understanding of our community, he is eminently qualified to do an outstanding job in this role.
Faculty and Staff Professional Development. The SAIS visiting team emphasized the importance of dedicating resources and time for professional development and training around DEI for all stakeholder groups, including the Board, leadership team, and faculty and staff. While discussion groups—with relevant books, case studies, and movies about DEI issues—have taken place with the faculty on a regular basis, there is the need to expand upon these efforts in an intentional, systematic way.
Outreach and Recruitment. We must take an even more strategic approach in our efforts to attract a more racially diverse faculty, staff, and student body. While we have had some success in this area, with the representation of students of color in our student body increasing from 13% to 22% over the past ten years, and the number of faculty of color increasing from 6% to 11% in the past four years, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done if we are to more accurately reflect the broader community.
Supporting conversations on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion issues in the school community. Feedback from the survey of community members expressed the desire for more opportunities for safe, authentic, inclusive discussions about diversity to take place. These types of conversations amongst and between constituencies, including students, faculty, parents, and alumni, are essential to cultivating a deeper understanding of each other and our community.
These established priorities are only the starting point, not the endpoint. We know our work is just beginning. Moving forward, we commit to take the following actions:
Build effective K-12 Faculty and K-12 Family Councils to work with our Director of Community Engagement and Inclusion to lead and support our DEI efforts.
Leverage resources from the Nashville community to offer professional development and school conversations to all constituencies (faculty, staff, school leadership, students, and families).
Actively engage with our alumni of color, and in particular, our Black alumni, to better understand their experiences so that we can utilize this understanding to improve as a school.
Accelerate the diversification of faculty and staff by implementing new protocols and training to reduce implicit bias in the hiring process and by building a more racially diverse pipeline of candidates.
Expand support for faculty and staff of color through internal mentoring and external growth opportunities.
Examine our policies and procedures to increase our ability to identify, interrupt, and hold our community accountable for racial and other forms of bias that occur at Ensworth, such as hate speech.
Further develop our curriculum to give students a more complete understanding of the long history of racial oppression and injustice in this country, as well as constructive ways to interrupt that history.
We want our students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff of color to know that their presence and contributions are greatly valued at Ensworth, and we stand in solidarity against any form of racism or oppression. As a school, we remain committed to becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive place, where all members of our community experience a true sense of belonging. It will require our collective efforts in order to accomplish this goal, as we all must commit to partnering together in this important work for the good of Ensworth.