Dear ISP Community,
Next week, I am flying to Plymouth, MA to visit my parents; my destination is a particularly notable one as we head into Fall Break. For many Americans, the landing on Plymouth Rock underpins the annual tradition of Thanksgiving and celebration. For Native American citizens and their allies, however, it is instead a National Day of Mourning. In Plymouth, the United American Indians of New England gather on Cole’s Hill to hold a day of remembrance and spiritual connection, as well as a protest against the racism and oppression that Indigenous people continue to experience worldwide.
The fourth Thursday of November is just one example of the dichotomies that exist within the United States. The current court cases involving the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the shootings at the Jacob Blake protests are another; they highlight our nation’s centuries-long struggles with racism, oppression, and systemic injustice.
In light of this, we’d like to provide an update about our efforts around Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the International School of Portland. Our work is ongoing, challenging and seeks to be authentic and intentional. As we announced in our Education Town Hall last week, we are seeking those of you who are interested to join our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee to begin in December. More details at the end of this letter.
During the 2020-2021 school year, we furthered our work in developing a school that fosters a program and culture that is inclusive of students, families, trustees, faculty and staff that embraces diverse perspectives, cultures, backgrounds and identities. We sought input from and created diverse engagement opportunities from our stakeholders to craft the content of a statement of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion using a participatory and community-driven approach. This statement of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) aligns with our mission, ethos and culture as stated below:
International School of Portland’s mission is to inspire children to become global citizens through an inquiry-based learning environment of total immersion in multiple languages and cultures. ISP celebrates the diversity of racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, religious, political and national backgrounds, and treats all students, faculty, and staff with kindness and respect as individuals who are inclusively welcomed into the school.
As part of fostering global citizens, the school equips students with the knowledge and skills to value difference; to challenge hate and discrimination; to act positively for change; and to embrace an international perspective across all aspects of learning. On this foundation, ISP has made the conscious decision to be an anti-racist institution.
We know that pursuing the ideals of being an anti-racist institution is challenging work. ISP recognizes that forms of historical inequality, structural inequity, and unconscious bias are woven into the very fabric of institutions, systems, and policies around the world. We are dedicated to the ongoing, intentional work of honest self-reflection and responsible action to address these issues at our school. It is through an unwavering commitment to be proactive that ISP seeks to contribute to a just and transformative educational experience, for all children, now and in the future.
Our mission is to guide our students to become global citizens who desire to be more inclusive, see multiple perspectives and take action as appropriate. This year we are focusing on:
Unpacking What Our EDI Statement Means
The next steps in the progression of our EDI Statement is to support it with an extensive FAQ document allowing us to further unpack what this statement means to ISP. After this work, we will be able to:
- Elaborate on definitions within the context of ISP.
- Provide an explanation of how EDI is reflected in curriculum and community engagement.
- Describe concrete actions and next steps, including developing a land acknowledgment.
- And, provide links to EDI resources at ISP, including the EDI Action Plan.
The statement is a living, evolving document. We expect the statement to be revisited and revised regularly.
Providing Anti-Racism and Implicit Bias Professional Development
Alexis James from Construct the Present, alongside our Educational Leadership Team (ELT) and our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Faculty and Staff Committee, created an ongoing anti-racism professional development course that we began this fall with all of our teachers. The ELT and faculty regularly work on this and take an active role in identifying and addressing concerns that come up. Our faculty come from many different backgrounds, and we continue to work to ensure that we are able to connect our teachers’ experience within Portland and the United States context. It’s not just about addressing the past, but creating an environment that recognizes ongoing bias and situations that inevitably arise in a diverse community. Throughout the year, we will continue to devote much of our professional development to becoming anti-racist and understanding implicit bias.
Collecting Accurate Demographic Data
Thank you to all the families who are submitting their student’s race and ethnicity demographic data in the MySchool App database. This data allows us to make informed decisions about policies and practices, including the trends in academic progress and disciplinary referrals to help determine if we are perpetuating racism or implicit biases. If you haven’t done so already, you still can. Only a small group of school administrators have access to this information.
Improving Hiring Practices
In spring of 2020, we began analyzing our hiring practices to eliminate gateway biases that might create barriers to applying to ISP. We have rewritten our job descriptions to ensure that cultural competency stands at the forefront of expected qualifications, and removed language that could unintentionally limit our possible pool of applicants. In addition, we train our interview panelists to reduce implicit biases during online interview processes.
We strongly believe that the interactions in the classroom and the curriculum provide the greatest level of support for developing global citizens. Our goal has been to ensure we embed anti-racist teaching and learning throughout our program by continuing to integrate the following questions, among others, into our planning process:
- Can all students see themselves?
- Who are the main actors represented within history and social studies?
- What discoverers, inventors, and innovators are taught?
- Whose voices are being heard? Whose voices aren’t being heard? Whose history is taught?
- Whose perspectives of historical events are represented?
- When marginalizing events are taught, how are the views of marginalized groups represented?
- We will be sending ongoing updates on how we are continuing our work to create a more inclusive and equitable learning experience for our students as the year progresses.
Continuing an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee
In collaboration with our Board of Trustees, we would like to continue an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee composed of various stakeholders in our community to work together to move ISP forward on these and future initiatives. The first meeting date is set for December 14th from 5:00-6:30 pm and will be held via Zoom. If you would like to participate, please send an email to us (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). All are welcome.
May you all enjoy the fall break!
Head of School