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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In This Section

The Park School Statement on
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Approved by the Board of Trustees • January 2018

At The Park School of Baltimore, the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion is the responsibility of every member of the community; the benefits of that work are an enriched society, a thriving community, and a brighter future for each individual.

Park commits to fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for learning and living. We seek to ensure that all aspects of school life — including curriculum, admission, retention, hiring practices, and support for students, families, and employees — reflect our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and will be diligently assessed and actively supported.

We recognize that our school exists in an ever-changing world, and that our understanding of, and support for, diversity, equity, and inclusion must grow and evolve. We bring students, families, employees, and guests of different backgrounds and experiences together to engage constructively in the life of the school and society. Learning at Park involves listening to and working with others, considering and embracing different points of view, and empathizing with and understanding multiple perspectives. Through open, honest dialogue and active, ongoing inquiry in an authentically diverse context, all members of our community gain awareness, wisdom, and the capacity to act as responsible, engaged citizens.

The Park School continually works in support of a diverse community of students, families, and employees while engaging in the many issues inherent to sustaining a genuinely equitable and inclusive environment for learning. In 2012, the Board of Trustees made diversity a key area of focus in the Strategic Plan to Launch the School’s Second Century, and approved a Board Statement on Diversity. These steps, shared with the community on the occasion of our Centennial, acknowledged our rich, 100-year history, and communicated clear priorities for the years to come. Further, the Strategic Plan elucidated specific diversity, equity, and inclusion action items involving personnel, hiring practices, professional development, curricular and co-curricular offerings, school culture — and even the creation of the Statement above.


A Joint Message from the Head of School Dan Paradis and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Courtney Rollins — Wednesday, September 9

Park School Community —

We write to you today in order to share the foundation of Park’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist school. We do this with full knowledge and acceptance that words are not enough. We embrace truth, optimism, and the belief that, together as a united community, we will make lasting change. Further, we disavow apathy, passivity, and denial. We welcome support, illumination, discomfort, and criticism. We invite, and expect, your committed engagement in the work ahead.

We believe that intentional efforts to upend racist systems must be identified and acted upon at the personal, cultural, and institutional levels. Park was founded as a progressive school — a school that believes in the potential of each individual student and with the faith that our students would make the world better. And it was founded as a school with a broader sense of inclusion (initially, religious inclusion) that, with each successive generation, has been further challenged and expanded. As a predominantly white institution throughout our history, our school community must come to terms with individual and collective failures to create a safe and fully inclusive community for all — in particular, its Black students, families, and employees.

I believe each of us has a role to play in creating a community where every child feels known, valued, and loved. For me, I can't separate my personal feelings — as a fellow human being, as a parent of a young Park graduate, as someone whose friends and loved ones are impacted by racism — with my responsibilities as Head of School. As I love and care about my own child, how can I not love and care about each and every child whose well-being is entrusted to me and to all of us adults at Park? — Dan Paradis

Anti-Racism Builds Capacity
We believe that specifically focusing on anti-racism increases our capacity to learn and live together.

Anti-racism and anti-bias education…

...makes us smarter.
 Being culturally competent requires critical thinking and promotes cognitive development.

...makes us better people. Understanding oneself and others speaks to the entire child — every child — and the community.

...reflects our values. Park School’s guiding documents, including our Philosophy and Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, express our commitment to inclusiveness and the preparation of students to live in an egalitarian and pluralistic society.

...prepares our students for the world. The colleges, institutes of higher learning, jobs, and careers our students will enter and create demand culturally competent citizens.

...creates a strong learning environment for all. Research demonstrates that a safe environment is a necessary aspect of effective learning at every phase of development. When our students experience a genuine sense of belonging, they are more inclined to thrive.

Our work is not only aspirational, but it is also restorative. It acknowledges past failings, confronts ongoing struggles, and challenges all community members to engage fully. Only when we join together in acknowledging and confronting racism in our society and in ourselves, can we move forward towards greater reconciliation and healing.

Park School’s Anti-Racist Action Plan (click here)

I occupy a unique space in my role as a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, a father of an amazing 11th Grader, and as an unapologetic Black man in this country. I often feel the tension of different perspectives and expectations — some feeling that race is my only focus and others feeling that the office does not do enough when addressing race. Yet, I am filled with hope and optimism as I and we step into this unique time in our history as a society — and as a school. I believe the collective will is to move forward, and our students, families, employees, and alumni can lead the way in creating a school where everyone feels a sense of unconditional belonging. — Courtney Rollins

We look forward to creating opportunities for community members to come together and to learn and grow. We also plan to share updates with the full community, including specific metrics and programming details, as part of our commitment to sustain this work over time.

We will not be deterred in our efforts to ensure our community is safe for all identities. We move forward with our commitment to create an anti-racist school and combat prejudices with moral certainty; and, in doing so, we will leave no one behind.

Sincerely,

Dan Paradis
Head of School

Courtney Rollins
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


A Message from the Head of School — Wednesday, September 2

Park School Alumni and Parents —

I hope this message finds you safe and well. We began the new school year today — virtually — but with a special on-campus, physically-distanced gathering of the members of the Class of 2021! They will certainly help lead us through this year like no other, with resilience and tenacity. I just announced yesterday that we are looking forward to a phased reopening of the Park campus in the coming weeks as conditions allow. Believe me when I say I can’t wait to welcome our students back in our buildings and experience their enthusiasm and positive energy first hand. Many of you have reached out to share expressions of support and appreciation for our efforts over the past many months as our students and teachers adapt and rise to the challenges of the ongoing pandemic. Your words of encouragement have meant a great deal — thank you.

While we enter the year with great optimism for the experiences we will create for and with our students at Park, I must also acknowledge injustices that envelop us, nationally, locally, and even within our own community. 

An Instagram account (@blackatparkschoolbaltimore) was launched by Park alumni this summer as a space on social media for alumni, students, parents, and employees to share their experiences of being Black at Park. The experiences they have shared in many instances made them question their place at Park, and worse, some of the experiences made them question their worth as human beings. The challenges for Black students at a predominately white school are real, and Park is not immune from having created and perpetuated those challenges for Black students. Our alumni accounts inform the work we must do to address racism in its many forms. I assure you that I have been listening to the community members on the site and to other messages about the Black experience at Park, including a thoughtful letter from the Class of 2020 and other communications with alumni, parents, current students, and employees.

Wednesday of last week, a group of alumni identifying themselves as the Black at Park Organizing Collective reached out to me and Park’s other senior administrators with a letter, also published to the Instagram account. I responded to the letter on Friday, August 18, acknowledging the magnitude and urgency of the work we need to do at Park in order to address past and current failings and to create a safe, loving environment for Black students. I further confirmed that the school is committed to taking action — we have been preparing a detailed anti-racism action plan that we will be sharing with the community in the coming days. The plan reflects our ongoing work, outlines the guiding steps forward, and ensures accountability. 

Yesterday, an online article was published that focused on a troubling aspect of the letter written by the collective. While the reporter of the online piece suggests that the school failed to address anti-Semitic references within the letter, I assure you that this is untrue and that, in fact, the references did not go unchallenged. Here is a portion of my response to the Black at Park Organizing Collective from last Friday, August 18:

...As the leader of this school, I take seriously my responsibility for dismantling the way that white culture, white systems, and white individuals have worked to harm Black people and damage positive Black identity. I would challenge you to consider, though, whether or not your intention in the letter was to include language and imagery that is, in its own right, rooted in hatred. Specifically, I am referencing the use of pernicious anti-Semitic tropes that have been applied throughout history — and you now apply to Park’s history — including “wealth hoarding,” “tolerance for Zionism,” and “parasitic relationship.” We want, and need, to engage our entire community as we break down our own prejudices. We must create actions that bring the community’s full strength to bear on anti-Blackness. Dr. Bettina Love made it clear for us when she met with all Park employees this week: Allyship is not good enough; we need to be “co-conspirators.” We need to be in community with one another. I would ask you to consider the fact that we need everyone’s help in this effort — we cannot afford to exclude anyone. Anger and discomfort are part of this work. Hate is not. 

Just as I take seriously my responsibility for addressing individual and institutional failures to affirm and support Black members of our community, I also must address language and actions that challenge the identity of Jewish members of our community. Only when we call out injustice and seek reconciliation across racial, religious, and many other lines, can we fully realize the Park School all of our children deserve. 

This morning, I was inspired by the leadership of our Upper School Principal Patti Porcarelli and Dean of Students Traci Wright. At the Upper School’s virtual opening assembly, they helped us navigate the challenges we are facing as a community. 

Patti called for both intellectual and personal examinations to lead us to action: “What we know is that students of color are speaking and they are telling their stories. It’s imperative that we listen to these experiences...for white people to listen...to reflect on our involvement directly or indirectly, and on our actions to combat the racism around us.”

Traci dug deep into the intersections of injustices, with the clear understanding that none of what we face exists in a vacuum: “Through the experiences and correspondence from the architects of the Instagram page, we are wrestling with difficult and racist experiences while also grappling with the seeds of anti-Semitism. As we are holding race under a microscope, images of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, classism, and heteronormativity are also showing up. We are on the precipice of something powerful — something soul-changing — that could have an impact on all of us as we grapple with these important topics.”

Together, Patti and Traci presented a personal and powerful way forward — engagement in the work ahead with eyes, minds, and hearts wide open. This engagement is not separate from life at school, but, rather is life at school — what we learn, how we learn, and, at its most basic, if we learn — with one another, in community.

As you will read in further communications about our work in creating an anti-racist school, we reference and respect what the late John Lewis referred to as the “Beloved Community.” “Democracy is not a state,” Lewis said, “It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

We owe the very existence of Park — our own aspiring beloved community — to a group of families that responded to injustice — the failure of the public school system at the time, and the abject discrimination practiced by private schools prohibiting access to Jewish children. In creating Park School, a community came together to right a wrong. And they set us forth on a path that, while imperfect, bends toward justice. The principles on which Park School was founded must continue to guide us even as we are challenged to live and practice them more fully by each successive generation. We will not be deterred in our efforts to ensure our community is safe for all identities. We move forward with our commitment to create an anti-racist school and combat prejudices with moral certainty; and, in doing so, we will leave no one behind. 

Park alumni, I welcome your continued engagement in our important work. Anger and discomfort are part of this work. Hate is not. 

Sincerely,

Dan Paradis
Head of School


A Message from the Board of Trustees — Thursday, July 2

Dear Park Community,

In Head of School Dan Paradis’ recent correspondence, he was clear: the national upwelling of calls for the dismantling of systemic racism, wherever it resides, is an imperative for Park School to critically examine our practices and do more and do better in our own anti-racist work. As citizens, we must effect change of the Black experience in our nation. As a school, we must effect change in the experience of our Black students, families, alumni, and employees. As parents, friends, educators, and colleagues, we must come together as a community of strength and purpose.

At the end of June, the 2019–20 Board of Trustees was joined by the incoming 2020–21 Trustees to discuss the community call for deliberate anti-racist action at Park. Together, we add our collective voices in support of Dan’s commitment, and in support of the work of the Park School administrative team, faculty, and staff as they advance Park’s anti-racist practice. As Dan has shared, and we have now discussed as a full Board, Park will enter the next school year with specific actionable commitments that reflect our community’s willingness to ask tough questions of ourselves, to lean into difficult conversations, and to effect change in both the short-term and in the future. These commitments will be shared with the community prior to the start of the coming school year.

In partnership with the senior administrative team, the Board has used both the Strategic Plan and the school’s Diversity Action Plan to guide its work in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Beyond developing Park’s Statement on DEI and expanding administrative leadership to include a Director of DEI, significant progress has been made in addressing multiple cultural perspectives and social justice in curricular and co-curricular programming as well as incorporating DEI into professional development and educational opportunities for employees and volunteer leadership, including the Board. While we recognize, appreciate, and build upon the dedication of the members of Park’s community across all constituencies that produced this work, we know that current and future work must continually prioritize racial justice and anti-racism. Furthermore, we acknowledge as Trustees the importance of pursuing our own anti-racist education and actions. In order to provide effective governance, we must address our own implicit biases, broaden and deepen our understanding of systemic racism, and actively partner with the school to ensure that Park lives its mission.

Recently, the Class of 2020 shared their own call to action with the community; and their voices have been joined by still more alumni, current students, parents, grandparents, faculty, and staff. Their letter, as Dan told the Board, is a gift to the school. Not only does it provide documentation of the lived experience of our Black Upper School students and their classmates, it exemplifies Park’s support of our students’ development into “confident questioners and responsible citizens of the world” — central to the Park School Mission. It is also a call for clear communication within our community regarding the depth and breadth of ongoing anti-racist work. Unequivocally, The Park School recognizes there is work to be done — and this work is built upon years of progress together as a community of students, parents, faculty, administrators, alumni, and trustees. The school must share its work more widely and more frequently — engaging partners, leveraging strengths, and welcoming critical assessments.

While Park will continue to address issues of equity and inclusion across the broad spectrum of the human experience, we cannot fail in this moment to address more explicitly the call for anti-racist programming and education — for our students, our faculty and staff, and for our families.

Black Lives Matter.

We, the Park School Board of Trustees 2019–20 and 2020–21, are committed to supporting and engaging in the work of racial justice and creating an anti-racist community. In our own households, we — alumni, parents, parents of alumni, and grandparents — commit to doing that work. As Trustees, we will hold the school accountable to do the work. And the school needs each of you to engage in this work now, and in the future. We will all grow and change as part of this commitment — and we will all benefit.

—The Park School Board of Trustees, joint 2019–20 and 2020–21 membership:

Amy Millin
President of the Board of Trustees; 
Parent ’19
Betsy Berner
Immediate Past President of the Board;
Parent ’12, ’13, ’16, ’18, ’20
Kevin Pearson
Vice President of the Board of Trustees; 
Parent ’28, ’31
Sarah Baird
Parent ’18
Danesha Ball
Parent ’29
Janet Cohen
Park School Class of ’78
Reid Curley
Parent ’14, ’17
Sarah Davison
Parent ’23, ’26, ’30
Andrew Foster Connors
Parent ’19, ’22
Nicola Heller
Parent ’23, ’24
Raj Krishnan
Parent ’22, ’28, ’31
Laurie Legum
Park School Class of ’91; Parent ’30
Brad Mendelson
Park School Class of ’06
Ramesh Moorthy
Parent ’23, ’25
Ndo Osias
Parent ’17, ’19
Tim Pickering
Parent ’13, ’17, ’19, ’22
Rebecca Rabin
Park School Class of ’93; Parent ’29, ’31
Elisabeth Sachs
Parent ’17, ’21
Philip “Pete” Sachs
Park School Class of ’63; Parent ’88, ’91; Grandparent ’21, ’24, ’27

Joseph “JM” Schapiro
Park School Class of ’87; Parent ’22, ’24

Merete Serck-Hanssen
Parent ’20
Lila Shapiro-Cyr
Parent ’22, ’26
Jane Frankel Sims
Park School Class of ’91; Parent ’20, ’25
Georgia Smith
Parent ’22, ’22, ’24, ’24
Darryl Tarver
Park School Class of ’04
Karen Weinstein
Park School Class of ’87; Parent ’21, ’23

Greg White
Park School Class of ’81
Jean Wyman
Parent ’22
Lowell Yura
Parent ’25, ’25

Ex Officio Trustees

Melissa Kaplan
Immediate Past President, Parents’ Association; Parent ’19, ’21, ’23
Stacey Kunar
President, Parents’ Association; Trustee 2019–20; Parent ’26
Mesra Ebadi
Park School Class of ’20; Immediate Past President, Student Government
Lance Greenberg
Park School Class of ’21; 
President, Student Government
Matt Rogers
Park School Class of ’04; President, Alumni Council
Jennifer Lee
Immediate Past Faculty Representative
Katrina Holmberg
Faculty Representative; Parent ’20, ’22


A Message from the Head of School —Friday, June 19, 2020


Today is Juneteenth — a holiday that, for many of us, has just now entered our consciousness. My work today includes ensuring that the significance of the day is not merely acknowledged in passing, but is part of the meaningful and relentless elevation of anti-racist work in our community and in our country.

I write to you as a follow-up to my previous letter concerning the death of George Floyd and other senseless killings of Black citizens in our country.

Over the last several weeks, I have heard from many of you — current students, parents, faculty, and alumni (including an overwhelming majority of the Class of 2020). In your messages, you have expressed your desire to see, and be a part of, action within the school and in the broader community. I acknowledge that those of us who identify as white are learning and are working to understand the implications of whiteness more deeply; and I know it is critical that, as an institution, we take the time to reflect on our own practices and do more and do better in our anti-racist work.

That work is already underway. At the administrative and faculty levels, we have had multiple conversations over these last few weeks, beginning a comprehensive review of all aspects of school life — curriculum, scheduling, hiring, professional development, culture, safety, parent support, policies and procedures, and more — in order to identify specific actions and opportunities.

We have also reached out to a broader community of independent schools and diversity practitioners. First and foremost, we want to be thinking about the lived experience of our own students, employees, and families — but we also want to make sure we are considering other similar institutions and how they are challenging themselves to do more. I must acknowledge the work of Courtney Rollins, Park’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). In addition to his work directly with K–12 students and faculty over the last several years, Courtney has kept all aspects of DEI practice in front of the senior administrative team.

In the interest of continuing to provide resources to our community, I want to share a few writings that you might consider. First, Park graduate Glenn Singleton ’82 is a leader in the field of uncovering personal and institutional biases that prevent all people, and especially people of color, from reaching their fullest potential. He is the author of Courageous Conversations About Race, a resource that we have used in our work here at Park. Alumnus R. Eric Thomas ’99 recently wrote a compelling piece entitled It Does Not Matter If You Are Good — On Omar Jimenez, George Floyd, Christian Cooper and the myth of being non-threatening. Eric writes of having to always be prepared to smile and to make sure white people know he is good. We, at Park, cannot ignore the fact that he, of course, must have had to learn and practice that behavior while a student here. And this week, Park parent Dr. Chris Lebron wrote a powerful op-ed — White America Wants Me to Conform. I Won’t Do It — in the New York Times about his experiences in life and, specifically, in academia, navigating predominantly white institutions of higher learning.

I hope you will engage with the pieces above — especially given the close connections of the authors to our community.

At The Park School of Baltimore, the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion is the responsibility of every member of the community; the benefits of that work are an enriched society, a thriving community, and a brighter future for each individual. This introduction to Park School’s Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion establishes an important and broad expectation of each of us.

I write to you today to not only affirm this expectation in light of the nationwide reckoning regarding race, but to explicitly say to, and for, our community: every white person — administrator, teacher, staff member, parent, student, and alumnus — must take anti-racist action. We have to listen. We must support one another. We have to get uncomfortable, sometimes angry. We must do this work on behalf of all current and future Park School students, and for our society.

I hope you will continue to provide your feedback. We teach our kids to be critical thinkers. We teach our students to advocate for what is right. 

I look forward to sharing more about our work as a school later in the summer. In the meantime, I hope you follow the charge that I gave the Class of 2020 — in the words of U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis, make “good trouble.”

Sincerely,

Dan Paradis
Head of School


 

A Message from the Head of School — Wednesday, June 3, 2020


The message below was shared last Friday with parents, Upper School students, and faculty and staff, and today with alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents, and friends. I know that our community members are hurting deeply, are frightened, and are angry.

Park teachers, who are themselves processing the deeply distressing news and ongoing events, are being provided the time and space to reflect, share, and gather resources that are guiding the conversations and actions within our student community. In turn, they are engaging in age-appropriate conversations with our students that build upon our enduring — and essential — commitment to equity, inclusion, and social justice.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Good morning, Park families.

I am writing to you now with a deep sense of sadness, frustration, and rage as I read about more senseless killings of black citizens of our country. My son and I have spoken of little else in the last two days, and I hope those of you, like me, who do not identify as black are listening and learning (again) about our crucial, indeed essential, role in combating racism. We who enjoy the unearned privilege of race in this society must stand up in whatever way we can. At a moment in our history when we are called upon to recognize our shared humanity, our shared vulnerability, and our shared purpose in acting in unison, we are tragically reminded that our friends, colleagues, and loved ones who identify as black or brown carry a burden that I, for one, as a white man, can never fully understand. Please, pay attention for the sake of all of our children.

Below, find a link to a set of resources shared with me by one of my former students. In an effort to take even one small step in creating a better future for your child and for all children, please review this list of resources. Discover a new text or film or testimonial that might move your consciousness or, better still, might plant a seed in your child. Those seeds we plant, whether through the curriculum at Park or in the choices you make at home, will lead to positive change. We at Park believe that our students, your children, can and will create positive change in the world. Please take an active role in this moment of grief and of pain for so many.

Sincerely,
Dan Paradis
Head of School

 

Click here for anti-racism resources