Head of School Blog Post: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at The Orchard School
Sherri Helvie, Ph.D.
As we prepare to take some time away from school to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, I am thankful to be in a community where we always strive to live our values. In my first blog post this summer, I mentioned that I have been conducting entrance interviews with members of the community to learn more about our school and the people who make it such a special place. As I’ve had conversations with faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and Board members, it’s clear that Moving Forward on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a deeply held value and a priority at Orchard. It is also a priority that is captured in the Board of Trustees’ Charge to the Head of School. The Charge identifies four areas of focus for my work in this first year:
Community Building and Connection
Moving Forward on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Making the Case for Orchard
Implementing the Makerspace
On September 28th, the Board of Trustees’ Diversity Committee hosted a community event to share information about ongoing diversity work at Orchard, and to build connections and partnerships amongst our families as we plan for the future. Nearly 100 people came to Orchard on a Friday night to learn more about curricular highlights and projects in the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Middle School programs that allow students to explore identity, community, bias, and social justice. Parents from across the grades alsospoke about the community they’ve forged with families and faculty as they’ve shared their histories and cultures with one another. We concluded the evening with a few dances and a celebration of the opportunities we have to continue to work together to make our school a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. If you would like to learn more about the Board of Trustees’ Diversity Committee, please contact Trustee and committee chair Dawn Batson, or me. We welcome your participation on the committee, and in future school events and activities that allow us to continue to have courageous conversations that challenge us to do more.
While our internal work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Orchard continues on a regular basis as we examine our curriculum, hiring practices, and faculty, staff, and family support, I have also appreciated having the opportunity to connect with organizations and institutions throughout Indianapolis that are doing transformative work. The Anti-Defamation League has been an innovative partner in providing support and resources for students and faculty to combat anti-Semitism and hatred in communities near and far; the Great Lakes Equity Center at IUPUI is a research center working to improve the work of educators and family and community engagement in schools; and the Indianapolis Urban League assists African-Americans, other minorities and disadvantaged individuals to achieve social and economic empowerment. Visiting and communicating with these organizations in recent weeks and learning more about the positive impact they’re having on our community has been invaluable. In order to make lasting, meaningful change around equity and inclusion, our efforts must be linked to the innovative work that’s happening throughout our city.
Thank you for partnering with us to foster a school community where we understand that we all have an obligation to work together to make the world a better place.