Letters from OES Leadership
“We are rooted in the values of compassion for our human family, the strength of dialogue to promote understanding, and a commitment to inclusion. Our Episcopal values challenge us to create an environment—both within and beyond our school—that recognizes and values each person’s lived experiences and where everyone is accepted and thrives.”
—Mo Copeland and Dan Drinkward ’95
Dear OES Community,
As we find ourselves in the quiet space between two school years, we want to share with you our unequivocal commitment as an Episcopal school to become an antiracist organization. We are actively working to be more inclusive and culturally responsive through our programs, pedagogy, employment practices, and governance. As Director of Inclusion Dyan Watson shared in the Winter 2021 OES Magazine, “This is a team effort. It will take the entire community, but we are up for the challenge.”
Strategic Plan on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at OES
This team effort begins with the Board of Trustees, where we have formed an Inclusion Committee of the Board. This group is made up of OES leadership, employees, alumni, and community members who have been working over the past year to create a new tool to help move our intentions of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the form of actionable steps. The Inclusion Committee was also formed to ensure adequate school resources are allocated to meet the committee’s stated goals. The tool, still under development, is a dashboard that will monitor key performance indicators at OES such as enrollment, test scores, financial aid, and employment practices and analyze how these systems impact people of color within our community.
The Board of Trustees is becoming more racially diverse and plans are underway to offer members ongoing DEI-related professional growth and development. We understand that having a diverse group of leaders, and leadership dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion, is crucial to the school’s success over the next 150 years.
All-School Equity Coach
Our work continues building on the expertise and pedagogy of OES teachers. This fall, we added Willow McCormick to our faculty as an all-school equity coach. Willow is working closely with individual teachers, grade-level teams, and departments to develop and improve their teaching practices, especially as they relate to antiracism, inclusion, and equity. We know that antiracist pedagogy is the foundation for changing beliefs and creating a generation of young people who will understand systemic racism and its long-term impact on outcomes—financial, educational, emotional, social—based on race. Willow will use our inquiry framework in supporting teachers in their exploration of equitable pedagogy and curriculum.
Commitment to Social Justice
We are devoted to making and sustaining social justice commitments among the broader OES community. In the 2020-21 school year, we hosted the Dreaming Justice Series, which provided people all over the country an opportunity to engage with authors, teachers, and education leaders of color on race and education. We believe that realizing our power for good necessitates that we educate and challenge ourselves and our neighbors—both locally and globally—to eradicate racism by gaining perspective, acquiring knowledge, and participating in acts of justice.
Student affinity groups have been an ongoing part of life in the Upper School for years offering space for students to discuss their individual experiences among a peer group that shares a common identity. Over the past year, we’ve even had some parents start to form affinity groups of their own, gathering regularly and supported by OES staff members. Other efforts to gather our community together over the past year include “DEI Cafes” that invited employees, parents, and alumni to take part in deeper conversations about racism and social justice.
Alumni Engagement and New Curriculum Offerings
In April 2021, 79 alumni raised more than $24,000 in a few days as part of an OES Give Day campaign to further DEI initiatives in the OES curriculum. Examples of this work over the last year include a new racial literacy curriculum in the Lower School, continued restorative justice work in the Middle and Upper Schools, and a year-long series in the Upper School about race, social justice, and current events, as well as student participation in the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action.
The most looming reality the pandemic has laid bare is privilege, both as individuals and as organizations. How will OES use its privilege to educate to a higher purpose, to ensure that those with abundant advantages use their power for good, and to increase access to this education?
We are rooted in the values of compassion for our human family, the strength of dialogue to promote understanding, and a commitment to inclusion. Our Episcopal values challenge us to create an environment—both within and beyond our school—that recognizes and values each person’s lived experiences and where everyone is accepted and thrives.
Our work is vital and ongoing. We stand before you as an imperfect organization, but one committed to communicating transparently about our goals, struggles, and shortcomings, and doing so inclusively and responsively. We will use our power, knowledge, and humanity for good. We are up for the challenge.
Dan Drinkward ’95
President, Board of Trustees
Head of School