The Task Force Identifies Challenges
Now an ongoing endeavor, the DEI Task Force, coordinated by Maggie Davis, first embarked on its mission by drilling down into six focus areas developed by youth organization consultant bethany allen ’89 for Gould’s DEI Road Map.
The focus areas included: Institutional Review, Campus Culture and Mental Health, Engagement and Outreach, Training Opportunities, Hiring Practices, and Curriculum Review.
Davis emphasized that the beginning stage of inquiry is about pulling apart “business-as-usual” and identifying institutional sticking points and blind spots. It is not about prescribing solutions. That will come later and will include recommendations, mapping, and strategizing.
Moving ahead too quickly, Davis explained, would have been like “trying to build the plane and fly it at the same time.”
The discussions of the Institutional Review subcommittee offer a snapshot of what early efforts looked like. The group started by talking broadly about issues such as power structure: Who has the authority to make decisions and do they have the resources they need? How does the budget reflect Gould’s values? How is financial aid allocated?
Conversations, such as the one above, open up issues like “transparency”—a subject, among others, that has proven to have many tributaries within the larger institutional watershed.
The pace of change—generally—can be glacial. At Gould, however, allen has seen an acceleration of pace in the last couple of years, demonstrated by greater openness to discuss issues such as diversity. She also sees glimmers of hope in the leadership of Head of School Tao Smith ’90, P’23, and hopes this will serve to move the school forward less haltingly.
From her professional experience with other schools—both private and public—allen has seen good examples of the process of change. She believes greater transparency and accountability create places where young people can “thrive and be their authentic selves.” The work begins and continues with ongoing exercises in self-examination.
In an interview, Brady Wheatley ’03, another DEI Task Force member who serves as Head of Upper School at Rocky Hill Country Day in Rhode Island, reported that due to ongoing efforts, DEI practices have become well-integrated into the fabric there. Wheatley reported that she became encouraged to offer assistance to Gould when she started seeing messages from Tao Smith that signaled a greater commitment to diversity.
“I felt more welcome,” Wheatley explained. “[So] I helped put together a program for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021
and I’ve also been working with Maggie Davis and the faculty on the Professional Development subcommittee.”