On January 28, the MKA Anti-Racism Task Force and PAMKA Parenting Workshops hosted a virtual conversation with Dr. Khalil Muhammad, Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Dr. Muhammad discussed how we can help our children build the skills, language, and understanding to talk about race and disrupt racism. This conversation was moderated by our own, Dr. Carlaina Bell, Assistant Head of School for Diversity, Inclusion, & Anti-Racism/Middle School Assistant Head of Campus and Stephen Valentine, Assistant Head of Upper School and Director of Academic Leadership.
The MKA Board and Administrative Anti-Racism Task Force, a special committee of the Board of Trustees, was created to support the school in taking deliberate and systemic action to be an anti-racist school and examining our structure, program, policies, practices, and culture to develop recommended strategies, initiatives, and goals that advance anti-racism in all facets of school life.
The Task Force will work to accomplish the following:
- Identify and rectify racial biases that exist at MKA and reaffirm our commitment to a learning environment where all community members feel welcome, are treated with dignity, respected, and valued
- Develop strategies, initiatives, and goals that will disempower racism at MKA and reaffirm MKA’s intolerance for racism in any form
- Make recommendations to the Board of Trustees and to the administration that advance anti-racism strategies, initiatives, and goals in all facets of school life and school culture
- Establish metrics to assess outcomes and impact of anti-racism goals and engage the Board of Trustees in providing oversight and accountability for such goals
While being anti-racist requires intentional education and self-development, we must also be willing to listen to the lived experiences of members of MKA’s Black community. MKA engaged Batiste Consulting to conduct and facilitate multiple listening sessions to further deepen our awareness of the experiences of Black students, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni. These sessions created space to engage in frank and honest dialogue and identified concerns regarding explicit/implicit bias, racism, and tension at MKA.
The report from the Listening Sessions was provided to the MKA Board of Trustees and Administrators and included feedback, concerns, and recommendations from MKA’s Black Community in several areas, including, but not limited to:
- The Administration’s accountability for anti-racism measures
- Student support, emotional safety, and discipline
- Increased diversity in the curriculum and anti-racism/anti-bias education
- Student and family education regarding race and racism
- Recruitment, advancement, and retention of Black faculty and staff
- Further building and sustainment of student, parent, and alumni affinity groups and understanding the lived experiences of Black students, parents, and alumni
MKA is committed to addressing concerns raised in the Listening Sessions through work that is underway to advance anti-racism on all three of our campuses, including curricular changes, faculty professional development, literature choices and classroom libraries, and student and family education regarding race and racism.
Board: Kate Logan (President of the Board of Trustees), Karen Gulliver, Naveen Ballem, Anya Barrett, Bonnie Carter, Paige Cottingham-Streater, Tracy Higgins, Lauren Kaplan, Reshan Richards, Stephanie Salzman, Craig Solomon, and Margaret Wager
Administration and Faculty: Carlaina Bell, Dave Flocco, Randy Kleinman, Margaret Gonzales, Tony Jones, Varsay Lewis, Daniella Kessler, Melanie Bieber, Breanna Conley, Ben Goodrich, Karen Newman, Meg Arcadia, Maureen Bates, Roshni Shah, Shanie Israel, and Yesenia Ravelo-Rodriguez
In the 2019-2020 school year, new disciplinary policies for individuals who use hate speech, specifically the N-word, and restorative justice practices were implemented. Driven by students, this initiative changed the language in the Code of Conduct and was the first outcome from the Black Student Experience Task Force recommendations.
Anti-racism begins with a close examination of our own individual racial identity, the need to build skills and competencies, and to have vulnerable, self-reflective discussions about race and racism. MKA is committed to supporting members of our community in building the skills and understanding to be anti-racist.
MKA’s current Strategic Plan, the BSET recommendations, and input from the listening sessions last summer with our Black community members all speak to the importance of accelerated progress in the hiring and retention of faculty, staff, and administrators of color in order to support the school’s commitment to be a diverse, inclusive, and anti-racist community. Action on this commitment is a shared responsibility for colleagues charged with hiring and mentoring. Leadership on this commitment is most significantly vested with the Head of School and the Assistant Head of School for Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism.
Assistant Head of School for Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism
In December 2020, Dr. Carlaina Bell was appointed to a full time position as MKA’s Assistant Head of School for Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism.
Carlaina Bell has led colleagues, students, and parents in diversity work while also serving as Assistant Head of Middle School. MKA’s capacity to meet strategic goals in staffing, curriculum, professional development, student support, and parent education requires full-time leadership. We are deeply fortunate to have Dr. Bell at the ready to take on these expanded responsibilities.
MKA has established a strategic consulting relationship with Equity Literacy Institute in order to support this work.
Equity Literacy Institute provides a framework for cultivating the knowledge and skills that enable us to respond to inequity and racism and foster long-term institutional change in transformative ways. Guided by our commitment to the work required to fulfill MKA’s mission to be a diverse and inclusive school, as well as Equity Literacy Institute’s framework, we are building systemic anti-racism initiatives intentionally around a set of well-defined principles and goals informed by deep equity knowledge.
This strategic anti-racism work, along with ongoing faculty professional development, adjustments to curriculum, and community education, are all components of our shared commitment to create a truly inclusive and anti-racist school community.