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Black Lives Matter at Bolles and We are Listening

 

June 23, 2020

Dear Bolles Community:

We are touching base to update you after today's Board of Trustees call.

The key output of today's positive and constructive Board conversation was our decision to seek out an independent, expert resource to conduct a comprehensive and objective review of all allegations that have been made concerning diversity and inclusion at Bolles. The Board formed a search committee for that purpose and will be moving quickly to identify the right organization and initiate the review. The committee's members are:

  • Preeti Swani
  • Brittany L. Groover
  • Michael Meyers
  • Tatiana R. Salvador '86
  • Fernando Acosta-Rua '85, Board of Trustees Chair
  • Tyler Hodges, President/Head of School

Also proceeding, on a separate track, is the work that has been underway for some time under the leadership of Twyla Ashman, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

  • A review of the School's Parent-Student Handbook, with a focus on campus language guidelines (a meeting is already set for early July).
  • Ongoing training for faculty and staff on identifying and overcoming implicit bias.
  • Continuation of the curriculum review that is part of the School's strategic plan, in conjunction with the Academic Council and Department Heads.
  • Follow through on that strategic plan, which includes diversity, equity and inclusion within the Bolles experience.

These ongoing efforts reflect our shared commitment to continue listening and to welcome constructive dialogue with anyone who would like to be part of this important conversation.

This process reflects Bolles' long-term commitment to diversity and inclusion. As it unfolds, we will be providing regular updates during this process. As always, we encourage you to contact us directly if you have questions or would like to share your views. Together, we're going to make Bolles an even better place.

 

Respectfully,

Fernando Acosta-Rua '85                      Tyler Hodges

Chair, Board of Trustees                        President and Head of School

 

June 21, 2020

To The Bolles School Family:

As you know, our school and other schools across the country have been the focus of social media accounts created to share the stories of black students, alumni and their parents. There is no doubt that this is a national issue and that Bolles can do more to advance our own conversation and actions around diversity and inclusion. At the same time, the social media accounts make accusations that are certifiably false and deeply hurtful.

While we can always and will do better, I am proud of the actions we have taken to advance diversity, inclusion and opportunity with our faculty and student body. Three years ago, we appointed Twyla Ashman, one of our esteemed faculty members to the role of Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Earlier this year, we expanded her responsibilities to oversee these efforts across grades Pre-K through 12.

In the face of these current challenges, my team and I have engaged in a concerted effort to listen to many voices and engage in direct dialogue that reflects our school's values and aspirations. I am confident this effort will lead to even greater understanding and unity within our community.

Part of that process will be an effort to engage you, your children, our faculty/staff and alumni in a meaningful conversation rooted in our love for the School, respect for one another and desire to be the best community possible. In addition, we have formed a task force which will look at ways for us to further advance our diversity and inclusion initiatives. We also plan to engage a reputable outside resource to objectively assess the accusations that have been made and to assure any false claims are investigated.  We are committed to pursuing truth in a transparent and open manner. We are deeply supportive of our dedicated and committed faculty and the excellent teaching they provide our students.

In these challenging times, we can all take pride in our progress and our commitment to the continual pursuit of a diverse and inclusive learning environment for our community.

I know that you are deeply concerned about this and that you are being asked about these events by your friends, family and the community, so I have offered a few thoughts below.  I am also sharing some questions we have received, along with our answers in case this is helpful to you personally and for questions you also may be receiving. (CLICK HERE FOR Q & A) As always, please call or email if you have any questions or concerns that need immediate attention.

Respectfully,

Tyler Hodges

President and Head of School

1. We are committed to diversity, inclusion and opportunity. As a place of learning, The Bolles School is committed to continuously improving our culture, curriculum and community in ways that reflect our core values of excellence, courage, integrity and compassion.
2. We have a strong commitment and track record of progress. The Bolles School is a community built on mutual respect, meaningful dialogue and purposeful change. Throughout this process, we are listening carefully to our students, parents and faculty/staff from the past and present to build an even more just, diverse and inclusive future for all.
3. We are listening with intent. While anonymous outside voices abound, these challenging conversations must be advanced by The Bolles School community in the spirit of candor and mutual respect to ensure the changes we pursue will make our school stronger.

 

June 17, 2020

Dear Bolles Community:

As the @BlackAtBolles Instagram account and other social media forums have displayed, the Bolles community needs to do better, to be better and to make change. We have been listening, and we are fully committed to be a better Bolles. But most importantly, we are committed to act — now. Racism of any kind will not be tolerated in our community. As communities and organizations around the world are challenged to account for painful histories of systemic racism and inequities, schools in particular must work to ensure an environment of true equity and inclusion.

While we have already begun the important work of creating a more diverse, inclusive Bolles community through the establishment of significant strategies and programs, we are moving forward immediately with critical action:

  • First, we are having important conversations with alumni, parents and other members of our community to broaden our understanding of places Bolles falls short. Our process of listening, monitoring and convening for dialogue is ongoing and fundamental.
  • We will continue to follow the @BlackAtBolles Instagram account as we look for ways to take immediate action and implement change. We also will stay vigilant in our awareness of other social media accounts to best monitor the discussion and feedback.
  • We are making changes to the curriculum for the 2020-21 school year that will broaden cultural and racial competencies in all levels of Bolles study, including a recently added 20th and 21st Century Journeys in African American Literature class.
  • Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Twyla Ashman is assembling a diversity, equity and inclusion task force and two auxiliary groups — one with alumni and one with parents — to help identify strategies and tactics necessary to realize diversity and inclusion efforts in the School's five-year strategic plan, which was endorsed this May by the Bolles Board of Trustees. The groups include representatives from all four campuses, parents, faculty/staff, administrators and Trustees.
  • We will continue to focus on hiring more black and other people of color faculty members and seek ways to increase this effort in order to be more representative of our population.
  • We are expanding diversity and inclusion programming for faculty, students and parents in all grade levels and will promote community discussion once we are back on campus this fall.
  • We are raising additional funds and resources to support the educational experience of black students and people of color on campus.
  • We are planning additional convocations and workshops in the 2020-21 school year for faculty, staff and students to sharpen our collective cultural competencies.
  • We are reviewing all areas of School life, from disciplinary protocols to dorm life, to ensure we can make our community a safer, equitable and inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds.

We have said this once and it bears repeating: we know we have an important responsibility in the moment to act. We will continue to listen, but we are committed to a process of change. We hear you. We are aware of the inequities. We will act. Please join us as we work together to hold up our Bolles mission of pursuing excellence through courage, integrity and compassion.

Respectfully,

Fernando Acosta Rua '85
Chair, Board of Trustees  
Tyler Hodges  
President & Head of School
Twyla Ashman
Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion


We invite you to review this list of resources to learn more about becoming antiracist, historical and modern-day racism and social justice. Contact us if you have suggestions for additional titles.

Books

White Fragility  (Robin Diangelo)

How to be an Antiracist  (Ibram X Kendi)

Whistling Vivaldi  (Claude Steele)

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria  (Beverly Daniel Tatum)

I'm Still Here  (Austin Channing Brown)

White Awake  (Daniel Hill)

So You Want to Talk About Race  (Ijeoma Oluo)

Why I No Longer Talk to White People about Race  (Reni Eddo-Loge)

The Hate U Give  (Angie Thomas)

Just Mercy  (Brian Stevenson)


Documentaries

13th (Ava Duvernay)

Emanuel (Brian Ivie)


Movies

Just Mercy

The Hate U Give

When They See Us

 

June 10, 2020

Statement to the Bolles Community:

On June 1, The Bolles School posted this message to our official Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages:

"Like so many people around the country have been feeling during the past week, The Bolles School community is horrified by the tragic death of George Floyd and other victims of systemic racism. As a school family, we are not only suffering and grieving but also seeking in earnest ways we can influence real change and stand together for the humanity of all people — at Bolles, in the United States and around the world. In troubling times, we must unite and live out our very important mission at The Bolles School: Pursuing excellence through courage, integrity and compassion. Today, we ask everyone in our Bolles family to live out courage by engaging in meaningful conversations about race and racism; to demonstrate your integrity by showing intolerance for hate and injustice; and to exude compassion by listening, understanding and embracing peace. The Bolles community is deeply committed to this mission and equity for all people."

Many of you responded to this post with painful reflections about personal experiences with racism at Bolles, stories of incidents that occurred in our classrooms or to your friends, challenges to our community to stir real change, and, overwhelmingly, a desire to hear more from Bolles administrators about what concrete actions we will take to make equity and inclusion a priority on our campuses. We are humbly regretful these events occurred in our history and reject racism in all forms. We are listening closely to these conversations, however, as they will help shape our future. We are working on ways we can continue important dialogue, move our community forward and make the tangible, system-wide changes necessary to better address concerns you shared with us online, in-person and through email.

This important work already has begun. We will continue our efforts to promote a diverse and inclusive student body and a faculty that mirrors that diversity, including the refinement and addition of new strategies and programs that promote inclusion. The Student Diversity Committee has actively shared important observations and suggestions. In 2015, math teacher Twyla Ashman was appointed to Director of Cultural Competence for the upper school. Her work has helped bring highly regarded experts to campus for change-making workshops with faculty, students and parents on the Bolles Upper School San Jose Campus. Recognizing the importance of this role, Bolles administrators expanded her position in the spring of 2020 to Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, an administrative position focused on school-wide programming for faculty, students and families in Pre-K through Grade 12. Our Black Student Union is active, respected and supported. Designs on change have been occurring on broader planning levels as well. In the School's most recent five-year strategic plan, endorsed this past May by the Bolles Board of Trustees, diversity and inclusion play a major role. This summer, we plan to put together a task force, led by Mrs. Ashman, to help identify the strategies and tactics necessary to realize this portion of the plan. We will begin new columns in our faculty and staff and alumni newsletters about diversity and inclusion. We know there is much work ahead — and we will need your support to approach and manage it.

Our work will be framed by the vision and experience of our Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, administration and feedback from our community. Planning will address long-term themes of understanding our community's cultures and blind spots, enhancing Bolles' faculty and student diversity and better communicating cultural competencies within our curriculum. We will continue to seek ways Bolles can be a safer and more inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds and dedicate financial resources toward these efforts.

We know we have an important responsibility in the moment to act. We can do better when it comes to making Bolles a more inclusive place for all students, particularly black students and people of color. We are committed to a process of change and to producing student leaders who live each day with the highest ideals of courage, integrity and compassion as their compass. I invite you to add to this important conversation by sharing your insights and ideas. You may contact me at headofschool@Bolles.org or Twyla at AshmanT@Bolles.org. We want to make our community stronger by taking these steps together. Thank you for being part of this important work, I look forward to hearing from you and making change together.

Respectfully,

Tyler Hodges

President and Head of School

 

June 5, 2020

We are listening and look forward to continuing these important conversations. We are so grateful to our alumni, students and families who have shared their experiences for the benefit of our reflection, progress and action. To continue a more personal conversation, please email headofschool@bolles.org Your perspective and feedback are important to us as we seek to contribute to making our communities more inclusive and welcoming for all.

June 1, 2020

Dear Bolles Community:

Like so many people around the country have been feeling during the past week, The Bolles School community is horrified by the tragic death of George Floyd and other victims of systemic racism. As a school family, we are not only suffering and grieving but also seeking in earnest ways we can influence real change and stand together for the humanity of all people – at Bolles, in the United States and around the world. In troubling times, we must unite and live out our very important mission at The Bolles School: Pursuing excellence through courage, integrity and compassion.

Today, we ask everyone in our Bolles family to live out courage by engaging in meaningful conversations about race and racism; to demonstrate integrity by showing intolerance for hate and injustice; and to exude compassion by listening, understanding and embracing peace. The Bolles community is deeply committed to this mission and equity for all people.

Be well,

Tyler J. Hodges
President and Head of School, The Bolles School