|June 3, 2020
Over the past few days, I have read so many letters and emails regarding our nation’s current crisis. Sparked by the terrible, horrific death of George Floyd, these notes from my alma maters, from CEO’s of large corporations, from church and religious leaders and from other school heads have each acknowledged that George Floyd’s death was senseless and profoundly disturbing. Racism continues to scar our country. The Covid-19 pandemic has had an outsized impact on our minority communities. There has been some condemnation of the violence and riots in our streets, and there has also been some apologizing for this violence.
Over the past few days, I have also been praying a great deal. Praying for our country, praying for our city, praying for our school community — our school family. And I have prayed for guidance as to what we can do better. What can we as a school community do to help those who are suffering, those who feel disenfranchised, those who have felt the pain of being discriminated against. If we were together on campus, I would gather our students together in Chapel. I would say as directly as I possibly could that judging someone based on their race goes directly against our Baptismal Covenant to “respect the dignity of every human being” — the theme that has been at the forefront of our worship life these past three years. I would say to our students that anyone in our community who intentionally makes someone feel diminished because of who they are cannot be part of this very special place that we call Episcopal.
While words are important, I would like to see more proposed actions and answers to end racism and bigotry in all their terrible forms. Those actions must begin with us. So what have we done and what are we doing as a school to educate, support, build up, and ensure that we truly are, as St. Paul says, one body with many members? We provide love and support for each individual in our community. We never tolerate anyone being made to feel “less than” or “other.” Our goal is unity through our differences, which makes us a stronger community.
Specifically, the following are some examples of our commitment:
- Through our Diversity and Inclusion Council, we will continue to provide a forum for discussion and idea generation on ways to continue to improve awareness, inclusion, and respect of all individuals within the community. This committee is a safe place for discussion and sharing of views and ideas.
- We are intentional about building an increasingly diverse culture and organization. Already a key goal within Seek Boldly, our strategic plan, this includes an increase in professional development with faculty and staff related to raising awareness. For example, all three campuses came together in January to participate in training by the Anti-Defamation League. Faculty and staff also discussed White Fragility, and viewed a TED Talk by ESJ parent Dr. Tammy Hodo.
- A senior member of our administrative staff is responsible for financial aid and student transition, a role we created to provide meaningful guidance to students and their families as they acclimate to Episcopal. This staff director works with these students and their families to ensure student success in academics, arts, athletics, and spiritual life.
- Serving all of our neighbors is another way of strengthening the Episcopal family, and St. Paul also calls us to lift each other up and support one another regardless of our gifts, talents, and differences. This year our senior class alone provided more than 29,000 hours of community service as they put others above themselves.
- Our collective worship in Chapel celebrates diversity and teaches tolerance as a human value, as do Global Community Day and Celebrating Service Day.
Yes, we have been making strides as a school community in ensuring that love for one another, regardless of who or what we are, is at the forefront of all that we do. But we must do more. And we will do more. We will come together as students, faculty and staff, parents, and alumni. We will discuss in an open and honest way how our school can continue to be a place where all feel equally welcome, how our school can be its best — for every member of our community. Over the coming year, I look forward to speaking with you all about these issues in a deep and thoughtful way. For now, know that our Episcopal family stands together as we condemn the racial hatred, mistrust, and injustice that sadly still exist in our world.
The Rev. Adam S. Greene
Head of School