Actions Toward Anti-Racism at OES
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black Americans, OES participated in a social media campaign for #BlackoutTuesday in solidarity against hatred, racism, and violence in our world. The next day we posted a video expressing a similar sentiment. These gestures were considered hollow by many members of our community, and we were rightfully called upon to take actions to back up our words.
Head of School Mo Copeland, Board President Dan Drinkward '95, and the entire Administrative Team at OES have taken to heart the comments and emails we have received, including a petition signed by hundreds of OES community members. We are grateful to this chorus of voices of and in support of our BIPOC* community for their messages, and we have already begun taking steps toward reform. *Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
- 8-28-20: Update on Action Steps toward Fighting Racism at OES
- 6-19-20: OES Town Hall Report and Next Steps
- 6-16-20: Invitation to June 18 Town Hall, Update on 2020-21 Campus Opening Planning
- 6-6-20: Steps Toward Anti-Racism at OES
- 6-4-20: Letter to OES Community
- 6-2-20: Solidarity Against Racism
Much has happened in the world and at OES since our June 18 Town Hall initiated by the petition signed by hundreds of community members urging us to focus our efforts on diversity directly against racism, and elevating our value of inclusion to a higher standard. We heard at the Town Hall, and subsequently in other ways from many people of color and their allies, of the pain caused by racism at our school. At the Town Hall we promised an update on our action steps toward fighting racism at OES.
First, I want to thank the many of you who have reached out to us or responded to our calls and inquiries and questions—those of you who have engaged with us in conversation and taken the time, out of a shared love for the school—to let us know your experience and to urge us to press forward.
I also want to recognize another message we have heard through this summer: As a school we are recognizing and working to address generational inequities that have persisted in this country for centuries, in this city for decades, and at our school for 150 years. We are not going to undo generations of injustice in a short period of time. We are going to address what we can at OES to reverse these trends and to become a different kind of power for good in the world. We commit to being a community willing to listen, discover, inquire, and act for future generations. This is a cultural shift and it will take time.
Nonetheless, from the Town Hall we heard clearly the need for some immediate action and accountability. Good intentions have been part of our plans, our strategies, our next steps, for ages. The time has passed for good intentions. Our community wants immediate action on a number of items, as well as long-term strategy for institutional change. Below is a summary of some of what we have accomplished since our last report on June 19.
Changed the name of the science classroom in the Middle School to the Mae C. Jemison Science Lab.
Revised our Photo Release Permission Form to include more explanatory language so our mission- and identity-driven intent is clear and to allow parents and students to have agency and voice in the process.
Reviewed and revised our All-School and Employee Handbooks to ensure the strict prohibition of the verbal, written, or digital use of words that are rooted in a history of oppression (including, but not limited to, the n-word) by any member of the OES community in any circumstance, and outlining clearer consequences and accountability.
Requiring the OES Request for Proposal process to include proposals from people of color and women owned businesses when awarding contracts.
Contracting with an alumna of color to help us to connect in deeper and more meaningful ways with our alumni of color.
Leadership and Governance
The Board created the Inclusion Committee of the Board of Trustees. The committee will be chaired by current Trustee, parent, and educator Chris Riser, and staffed by Director for Inclusion Dr. Dyan Watson.
As Inclusion Committee chair, Chris also joins the Board’s Operations (Executive) Committee.
We have reached out to Black community members, including alumni, to consider engaging with us on Board committees, recognizing that we continue to have much work to do in this area.
Mo and Dyan are working with student leaders on ways to ensure student voices are heard by leadership.
We are fortunate to have Dr. Dyan Watson joining OES as our Director for Inclusion (DFI). She comes to us from Lewis & Clark College, where she worked with teachers on curriculum design, and trained teacher educators. This is a top priority for her, and she has the expertise to lead the way in culturally responsive teaching for OES. For more on Dyan, please read the most recent issue of the OES Magazine (oes.edu/magazine; Summer 2020, p. 14).
As one example of curriculum work in progress, the Lower School has adopted the Pollyanna Racial Literacy Program, which it expects to have fully integrated Pre-K through 5th grade by June of 2023.
All of the Middle School’s English and Humanities curricula are being reviewed this year, with particular attention to the Humanities 6 curriculum, which is being significantly reimagined to be more intentional in its view to a diversity of perspectives.
After a year’s review and redesign, the 9th and 10th grade English curricula are re-launching with a focus on inclusion and diverse voices, and a new history course, Contemporary American Issues, will center on issues of race, class, and gender.
Students, parents, and employees have participated over the summer in myriad reading and discussion groups, including Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race, Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, and Dyan Watson’s Teaching for Black Lives. The school continues to fund professional development on these topics for all employees.
Long-Term Planning in Process
This is just a start for the long term. There is much more to come and much more to do. Mo, Dyan, and the Administrative Team are building out our 2020–2025 strategic plan for our ongoing DEI work. This includes goals toward building an inclusive community, curriculum, hiring, enrollment, leadership training, and employee training as well as our own personal growth in this area. Dyan is leading the efforts on building a strategic plan for this in addition to the institutional work.
It will take all of us, the entire community, working together to achieve the goal for OES to be inclusive and equitable. We welcome everyone’s voices and participation. Please continue to reach out to us with your thoughts and ideas. This work will never be done—just this week, as every week, another Black man was shot. This work is essential and ongoing.
Thank you to everyone who has reached out to engage and to have a conversation. This work is essential for our next 150 years as a school.
Head of School
Dan Drinkward ’95
President, Board of Trustees
Dear OES Community,
Our sincere thanks to the 300+ members of the OES community who attended last evening’s Town Hall. We also offer our enormous gratitude to Dr. Jabali Stewart for so skillfully and compassionately facilitating the Town Hall, to the alumni voices who called upon us to take action, and to outgoing Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement Dori King for all of her work on strengthening the community for all the years she has been here. Becoming a more diverse and actively anti-racist school is the most important work we can do for our students, for OES, and for the world. And we will.
We heard you during our two hours together last night. We heard that we have failed to live up to our stated values and we heard the call to action. While we will need some time to “harvest” (to use Dr. Stewart’s word) all the feedback we heard last night, we can announce the following commitments today:
- The OES Board of Trustees and administrative leadership commits to undertaking our own work as anti-racists and allies — personally, as a team, and as leaders of the school. We are equally committed to sharing our learning and our journey going forward.
- At its meeting Tuesday, the Board authorized the formation of a standing committee charged with ensuring our commitment to DEI and anti-racism work as demonstrated through leadership, governance, recruitment, power-sharing, strategic planning, and accountability. We acknowledge this step should have accompanied our Diversity Statement work in 2014.
- Incoming Director for Inclusion Dr. Dyan Watson will report directly to Head of School Mo Copeland and will sit on the school’s top two leadership teams. Additionally, we will devote the resources she deems necessary to be successful in her—and our—charge.
- Mo has tasked every division and department with a thorough review of their programs and practices through a DEI lens. Obvious change areas include, but are not limited to, curriculum, discipline, employee training, recruitment and hiring, marketing, and admissions.
- The Middle School Science Room previously named for James Watson and Francis Crick will now be named for Dr. Mae Carol Jemison, engineer, physician, and the first Black woman to travel into space. Watson’s late in life racist comments regarding intelligence do not align with our core values. New signage will be placed over the summer.
We recognize there are immediate, long-term, and forever steps in our work. As Dr. Watson comes on board in July, the three of us will immediately go to work with the Board and leadership team to establish measurable and reportable longer-term goals, following best accountability practices. You can expect an update in early August as we work on the steps noted above and the development of our longer-term goals. In addition, a recording of the Town Hall is posted on our Actions Toward Anti-Racism page, and responses to unanswered questions will be posted on the same site as soon as possible.
The Town Hall was the first of many, many conversations. The number of Black people speaking last night was not as many as we’d hoped, and we are already working to develop a conversational space specifically for Black alumni, current students, and employees.
We wholeheartedly agree this change must start with the Board and the leadership of the school. And, cultural change this significant requires a change in every person’s viewpoints, values, attitudes, and assumptions. For our community to truly change, we must all engage in this important work. We look forward to working together with each of you as we move forward. Please reach out to Mo directly or through email@example.com.
In close, it is important to recognize that today is Juneteenth, which recognizes the emancipation of Black slaves in the United States. Our school opened its doors only a few short years later. We acknowledge that Oregon Episcopal School still has so much work to do toward reconciliation and anti-racism. These past few weeks have illuminated that truth, and we are committed to it. As President Barack Obama noted this morning, “Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible — and there is still so much work to do.”
Head of School
Dan Drinkward ’95
President, Board of Trustee
Dear OES Families,
This has been one of the most challenging years in OES’s 150-year history, one full of loss. The fall brought the terrible loss of Upper School student Nabila Mazzouz ‘23. In March, we lost our daily pattern of life as we were forced into remote learning, social distancing, and family pods by COVID-19. Today, in mid-June, we recognize the harsh reality of the huge number of Black Lives lost to police brutality and racism.
Last Friday evening we celebrated the Class of 2020, who have gracefully weathered this incredibly difficult year. Talk about resilience. I am confident they will act on their passions and beliefs and use their power for good to make the world a better place for all people.
Actions Toward Anti-Racism: Town Hall Thursday
As I shared with the Class of 2020, there are significant challenges as a school and as a country as we address systemic racism. Writer, historian and brilliant thinker, Ibrham Kendi is clear that we—people and organizations—are either racist or anti-racist, there is no neutral space. At OES, we are committed to anti-racism, which means actively working to dismantle racist systems.
Our next step forward is a Town Hall, Thursday, June 18 from 5–7 p.m (PDT). The Town Hall will be hosted by Dr. E. Jabali Stewart, an inclusion specialist who utilizes Peacemaking Circle in schools (K-college), businesses, families, government, and community settings. Dr. Stewart is also a public speaker whose work is deeply informed by his belief and practice of sensible, love-based leadership. He has experience in independent schools, and is a sought after facilitator on the difficult conversations on race. We are grateful to Dr. Stewart for joining us in this work.
At this Town Hall we hope to hear from all who wish to share their experiences, questions, and suggestions for meaningful change. Your voices and collaboration will be an important foundation for this change. In addition, Board Chair Dan Drinkward ‘95 and I will share what we are hearing and what our action steps moving forward will be. This is work that is continually evolving and expanding—but our community deserves to hear from us on concrete next steps.
Registration and more information are available at Actions Toward Anti-Racism at OES. Space is limited and the meeting link will only be sent to those who RSVP.
2020-21 Campus Opening Planning
Layered on this difficult time for our school and our country, we are also figuring out how to open school for next year. Our 2020-21 campus opening planning gained some clarity last week as the Oregon Department of Education released its K-12 Guidelines. We are also reviewing the Oregon Health Authority and Higher Education Coordinating Commission's College and University Guidelines as pertains to our Residential Life program. Director of Facilities Jon von Behren and multiple task forces under his direction are studying these guidelines and applying them to our program. The recommendations of the various task forces will come to a leadership group for final determination of the plan. This plan will evolve as we learn more about the pandemic and the effect of re-opening on our community as well as schools and camps, including our own, that open in a small way later this summer.
At this point, we believe there is room within the guidelines for us to get students and employees back to campus while meeting physical distancing and hygiene requirements. Our goal remains to announce a final plan by August 1 (pending unforeseen changes) and we will continue to provide updates as necessary leading up to that date.
Family Emergency Relief Fund
As an important reminder, we have established a Family Emergency Relief Fund to provide assistance with 2020-21 tuition for families with documented needs specific to the COVID-19 economic crisis. If your financial situation has changed or you are concerned that you may experience financial need later in the year due to COVID-19, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enormous gratitude to those of you who have chosen to direct all or a portion of your discretionary facility closure credit as a donation to the Fund. Your contributions will help us ensure that all current and incoming students can take part in the 2020-21 academic year as planned, despite the hardships of COVID-19.
Thank you, as always, for being part of our remarkable community. We have seen tragedy and lived through challenging times before in our 150 years. This, however, feels like a pivotal moment for our community as we grapple with historic and cultural challenges that are impacting so many in our world and the greater world. I appreciate all of you who are working to change and improve our school—to truly make it welcoming and inclusive of all—from inside and out.
Head of School
I received the petition linked below from members of our community regarding our racism at OES. Please see the letter from me and from board chair, Dan Drinkward, below.
Thank you for your thoughtful and impactful petition sent yesterday to the OES school administration and to the Board of Trustees. I hear your deep disappointment in the school, and understand the pain that we have caused over many years related to racism at OES. As I said in my letter earlier this week, I did not hear you before and did not understand the pain that was caused. Now I do.
Your words are poignant and challenging and thoughtful, and we are committed to working with you to be a better school and a better organization that truly does value every voice, allows everyone to be heard and known, and understands and can articulate our own failings and blind spots.
You are right that listening is not enough and that there is a need for thoughtful and committed action. Both the board and the administration are open and willing to listen, and to learn and to partner with you in order to fully live up to our mission and values through action. We have a lot of work to do and are willing to take the necessary steps.
One of our core beliefs and values as a school is that we are a stronger and better community when there are many voices. What I now know is that I have not heard everyone’s voice—though you have tried—and that we therefore have not lived up to the promise of that belief. Great schools—places where students can delve into the complexity of the world, engage in deep conversation and reflection, and develop as thinkers and people—must be diverse. Those diverse voices must be valued and heard—and I hear you that we have privileged some voices over others.
We want to listen, we want to learn, and we want to engage in conversation with you. I know we will make many mistakes along the way. But we know that is how we learn, as we have encouraged all of you to try, and try again, as part of the learning process.
I couldn’t agree more with the recent writing in The Dig, Viraj’s article in particular. Though painful to read—it is all about action. Viraj and the editors are right that action must be modeled from the top—and we commit to articulating and following through on clear action steps. We don’t yet know what those action steps are. We will learn and discern through dialogue as a community. I am committed to finding the right way to do that and urge all of you to engage with us.
It is time. OES is a great school—and we can do better.
I look forward to the first of many conversations at a facilitated Town Hall, tentatively scheduled for June 18, from 5 PM to 7 PM (PDT). We will provide more information soon.
Head of School
on behalf of the OES Administrative Team
Thank you. Your letter is powerful. The frustration and pain are difficult to hear but something we needed to hear.
The reason I serve as board president is because of my deep belief in the mission of the school. I was fortunate enough to be a lifer at OES and my experience was extraordinary. Most of my best friends were at OES, and the school is a special place to me. To hear that many students of color, and others, did not have such a positive OES experience because of racism and other forms of bigotry is not acceptable. I am committed to the change required for us to do better.
Your letter and the upcoming town hall are vital to OES as we chart a path forward. The Board and the Administrative team do not have all of the answers and we need to hear from all voices in our community. We are committed to listening and learning. We will take what we hear and work with those of you who are willing to turn words into actions. We want those actions to have defined outcomes and we want to be held accountable for achieving them.
I hope you are able to participate in the town hall and look forward to having a conversation that is long overdue.
Dan Drinkward ‘95
President OES Board of Trustees
I hear you. The murder of George Floyd and the many other Black people before him has forced our country to have long overdue and difficult conversations about racism and OES’ response has not lived up to our values. I want to thank all of you who have reached, out called, emailed and reacted over social media. I hear your pain that over many years, has been left unaddressed. I hear that we have let you down, in spite of our mission, vision and values. I am so very very sorry. You have shared with me your singular, unique, and powerful voices, and have been telling me to listen for years. This is extremely painful for me to recognize—but I hear you now.
Part of what I hear, in addition to frustration, pain and anger, is a wish for a better OES. As hard as it is to hear from people I respect and love throughout our community sharing their disappointment and shock, I hear under it a love for the school and a true desire to help us be better.
You all know me as a problem solver, and part of this challenge is that this is not a problem to solve—which puts me completely outside of my comfort zone. It is a total change of point of view that I need to embrace. I am seeing things now that I have not seen—and I know I don’t have the tools, but am committed to learning.
Words are not enough. A long frustration has been the many many words spoken on the topic of racism, and inequality and privilege, and yet nothing has changed—in our country, our state and of course, in our school. I have added to this dysfunction. If you are willing to talk about this—which I want to do—then I want to commit to real change. Change that is meaningful to you, our families and employees.
I invite you to join me and board chair Dan Drinkward at a Town Hall after graduation. I want the time to do this right and thoughtfully, and I want to be able to celebrate our students and graduates over the next week. We will find a facilitator who can ensure all voices are heard, and that we commit to next steps for the school. We are committed to listening, learning, talking, listening, learning, and then building a school where everyone is truly valued, recognized and seen. We are committed to being held accountable for delivering meaningful change. I understand I cannot do this alone, but I have a remarkable group of people willing to walk with me down this road, so I will take the first step.
I care enormously about this school. We have long upheld the right principles—straight from the heart of the Episcopal tradition—that everyone and every voice matters. You are right that we have not always lived that—and not only have many of you been hurt by that, but the school itself is not the school we all want it to be.
I can feel the pain around all of this, and I know that more is to come. We will feel it, we will work to understand it, we will work through it, and then we will work to heal.
We want to affirm that the OES community stands this day, and every day, against racism, in all its forms, in all of its expressions, and in all manners by which injustice and violence are realized against the dignity of human beings. In our last week of classes for the year, we are gathering virtually in Chapels, remote classrooms, and in impromptu meetings to speak truthfully, hear each other's feelings, and share ways we may be able to impact the world around us. We will continue to listen and to offer a model of hope and compassion to the young people in our midst.
OES StatementJune 2, 2020
Oregon Episcopal School stands this day and every day against racism, in all its forms and in all of its expressions, and in all manners by which injustice and violence are realized against the dignity of human beings.
In particular this day, we acknowledge the death of George Floyd, and all others who have suffered at the hands of racial violence. Today we join the chorus of others in our community and nation to call for justice, and for compassion, and for peace.
We offer our condolences to all who mourn, and we encourage all members of our community to actively engage in courageous and meaningful offerings of solidarity with all who suffer. As a school that values inquiry, we accept our responsibility toward self reflection, and we re-commit ourselves toward a deeper understanding of the historic roots of racism in our nation which bring to bear these days of turmoil and pain and dismay.
We remain steadfast in our belief that diversity in our community is essential, by developing our culturally responsive teaching skills, inclusive classrooms, and emphasizing positive identity development and antiracist education. As an Episcopal School, we believe that all are precious and equal in the eyes of God. Our mission aspires for our students to realize their power for good. Power brings with it responsibility and accountability.
As educators, we will continue to listen, to speak truthfully and with love, and to offer a model of hope and compassion to the young people in our midst, knowing that given the opportunity, they will stand for a brighter future for everyone.
Recording of the OES Town Hall Thursday, June 18, 2020
On Thursday June 18, 2020, we held a virtual Town Hall event to hear directly from members of our community. The Town Hall was hosted by inclusion specialist Dr. E. Jabali Stewart. While we have heard from many voices in the recent past, we want to make sure we hear from all who wish to share their experiences, questions, and suggestions for meaningful change toward anti-racism at OES. Head of School Mo Copeland and Board Chair Dan Drinkward ‘95 shared what they have been hearing and what our action steps moving forward will be.
This is work that is continually evolving and expanding—but our community deserves to hear from us on concrete action steps. We are ready to hear, learn, and act. Your voices and collaboration will be an important foundation for this change.
If you were unable to attend but would like to have your voice heard, you are invited to send us a video or audio file (no more than two minutes in length) that we hope to share during the meeting. Send your recording to email@example.com.
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