This letter was shared with our community on July 21.
Dear Milton Academy Community,
Over the past several weeks, many students and alumni have shared their personal encounters with racism and microaggressions at Milton through direct conversations, letters to administrators, and on social media, including on the @blackatmiltonacad Instagram account. We are listening and we are grateful for the courage and candor with which they have spoken about deeply painful experiences. As School leaders, we apologize for the ways that Milton’s actions and inactions have hurt students and other members of our community.
Black Lives Matter. Milton affirms the beliefs of the BLM movement as we work toward improving justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion within our community. We understand that it is not enough to simply say these words: We must live in this movement every day, be accountable for our actions, and report our progress.
Today, we share updates on the anti-racism and anti-bias work taking place now at Milton to ensure meaningful, structural change. We are conducting these efforts because our School has failed to live up to the full measure of our mission and values, which include providing an environment where all students and adults feel welcome, safe, supported, and able to express all aspects of their identities without judgment or hate.
This work is not simple, and there is no finish line. Building the Milton we need to be requires continuous education of—and action from—all members of our community. We will make mistakes. We will also listen, and respond, when those mistakes are named. Our community demands change, and our mission and values call for it as well. We must make changes to existing practices, traditions, and mindsets that have caused harm to our Black classmates and colleagues as well as community members from other marginalized groups.
COMMISSION FOR DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
In addition to working closely with outside experts and consultants, we have convened a Commission for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Milton, made up of members of our Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty, and staff:
- Rob Azeke ’87, Board of Trustees
- Eleanor Haller-Jorden ’75, P’09, Board of Trustees
- Ronnell Wilson ’93, Board of Trustees
- Annie Jean-Baptiste ’06
- Kurt Collins ’97
- Vanessa Cohen Gibbons, Upper School Faculty, Head of Hathaway House, Onyx Advisor
- Heather Flewelling, Director of Multiculturalism and Community Development
- Donnaree Wynter Grant, Alumni and Development Staff
- Josh Jordan ’11, Lower School Faculty/Staff, Upper School Dorm Parent
- Amy Kirkcaldy, College Counselor and Head of AWARE (Alliance of White Anti-Racist Educators)
- Sharon Mathieu P’19, ’21, Middle School Faculty
- Tasha Otenti, Upper School Faculty, International Student Coordinator
External experts will help guide strategic planning, and, importantly, manage the implementation and tracking of action items. Consultants will assist with educational programming and other initiatives named by the Commission. Groups of Upper School faculty and staff have already convened to recommend improvements in some of the areas mentioned below. The Commission is also committed to working closely with students and families during the coming school year.
The Commission will execute a list of action items from both our DEI strategic plan and the suggestions from those who have reached out. It will also further identify gaps and critical items that are missing. A preliminary list includes, but is not limited to, mandatory training for all faculty and staff and evaluations of employee DEI competency; development of a truth, reconciliation, and restorative justice practice; creation of a process for the reporting and documentation of microaggressions at the School; the hiring of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) counselors for students and adults, as well as the expansion of affinity spaces and retreats for BIPOC students and adults; added resources for alumni of color; creation of an equity and justice fund; and establishment of a racial history of Milton Academy to understand how race has played a part in the School’s history.
Across all divisions, Milton is evaluating and revising curriculum to ensure diverse, inclusive, and anti-racist teaching in all academic departments. This will include culturally and historically accurate teaching and the inclusion of diverse voices in source material. Our Upper, Middle, and Lower Schools will continue to engage in division-specific curriculum work and expand specific training and affinity space requirements for white students, faculty, and staff.
EMPLOYEE DIVERSITY, HIRING, AND RETENTION
An area of critical priority is the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff of color, particularly Black teachers. Milton students deserve an adult community that reflects their diverse identities and in whom they can find supportive role models and educators with a broad range of lived experiences. Currently, 36 percent of Milton’s Board of Trustees and 26 percent of faculty identify as people of color; we know we need to continue working to increase the diversity of our adult community and leadership. The School is developing hiring and retention protocols for faculty and staff of color. Efforts to support employees of color must also exist across all grade levels and departments.
MANDATORY TRAINING AND EDUCATION
The School has identified seven days throughout the year for mandatory staff and faculty education and training. Additional leadership training will be held for managers, administrators, and the Board of Trustees. Milton will revise feedback and evaluation methods for all employees, including explicit standards for inclusive and equitable teaching and conduct for faculty. The School will also require department-specific training, beginning with Campus Safety, in the fall of 2020. Each division will offer training for students’ families.
REPORTING RACISM, BIAS, AND MICROAGGRESSIONS
We are identifying additional ways for community members to make incident reports with the School directly, as well as overhauling internal reporting structures for the future. Our goal is to promote healing and gather supplemental information to build more informed programs and policies. We will also explore improvements to reporting avenues for faculty and staff of color. Additionally, Milton will reassess its disciplinary policies with regard to reporting and responding to incidents of racism and bias involving students and/or adults in the community. In the meantime, we encourage students and alumni to continue sharing their stories.
TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND REPORTING
Our efforts, needs, and accomplishments must be transparent. If our goal is to build a stronger, more informed community, then we must share the progress and gaps along the way. Our work with consultants this fall will launch our measuring system, referenced in our ongoing DEI strategic plan as a dashboard, with key indicators of progress. We will provide biannual updates to the community to publicly communicate our progress on this critical work.
We know our efforts will not be successful without demonstrable, sustained action to build and maintain an anti-racist, welcoming community for all. Members of our community have been hurt, and our School has not done enough to promote healing and progress. Again, we offer our deepest apologies and a pledge to each of you: This work will be continual, ingrained in our School culture from this point forward—and we will change course when we fall short—as we work to build the Milton our community deserves.
Todd B. Bland
Head of School
President, Milton Academy Board of Trustees
Director, Office of Multiculturalism and Community Development