Faculty And Students Attend NAIS People of Color Conferences
Beth Bryant

For the past two years, Pembroke Hill has sent representatives to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC).  According to NAIS, the conference equips educators and students with knowledge, skills and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic and intercultural climate in schools. This year, the conferences attracted more than 7,500 individuals representing over 900 schools from across the globe.

In December 2019, eight faculty members, representing all divisions, attended the event in Seattle. During the week following Thanksgiving 2020, three teachers joined the virtual conference.  At the same time, six upper school students, along with faculty sponsors Jeanette Jones, upper school social studies teacher, and Dr. Lisa Jackson, upper school director of leadership and community engagement, participated in the NAIS-sponsored Student Diversity Leadership Conference. 

Jermaine Thompson, upper school English teacher, said of his experience at the 2020 conference. “DEI work begins in the body of each individual. We have to interrogate the roots of our historic, public and private selves. And by sincerely participating in that uncomfortable self research, we can discover the ways in which we have all--at some point--been complicit in acts that devalue and ostracize the personhood of others. Once we arrive there, we can move forward, together, toward better: better appreciation for diverse cultures and have those reflected in our faculty and student body; better provisions for an equitable learning environment with equitable educational practices; and the better inclusion and championing of all the lives in the Pembroke Hill system so that each of us feels safe, cared for and free to be our full selves.”

Early childhood teacher Kate Shirk also participated in this past December’s conference. “PoCC was an inspiring, challenging, and intensely motivating experience,” she shared. “After this conference, I am eager to roll up my sleeves and dive into this absolutely necessary work.” 

Recommendations From 2019 Conference
Following the 2019 conference, the group of Pembroke Hill faculty who attended presented the following recommendations to the school. Under each item is a list of actions taken to date. Recommendations from the 2020 conference attendees will be forthcoming.

  • Develop a school-wide diversity committee whose members will include faculty (all divisions), administrators, Trustees and parents with a goal of drafting a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) vision statement and strategic plan. The committee will also solicit input from student leaders of PHS diversity groups. 
    • An Advisory Council composed of parents, teachers, students, alumni, administrators and Trustees meets monthly.
    • A Vision Statement is in progress.
    • DEI will be one of the pillars of the coming school-wide strategic plan.
       
  • Hire a consultant to advise Pembroke Hill on necessary steps to adequately prepare the school for both a culture survey and, ultimately, hire a full-time director of diversity and inclusion.
    • Pembroke Hill partnered with Sophic Solutions in August.
    • Sophic Solutions actions to date:
      • Completed five DEI Assessment conversations with more than 80 individuals. 
      • Facilitated a Community Conversation in August.
      • Engaged 100 members of the PHS community in a Start, Stop, Continue and Consider session in December 2020. A second session will be held in the spring.
      • In January, began a search for the newly-created position of full-time director of diversity, equity and inclusion.
         
  • Include the school’s commitment to culturally competent education in all future job advertisements.
    • Beginning in December 2020, this commitment statement is included in all school job postings.
       
  • Send a team of instructors (a minimum of eight; two from each division) to the PoCC each year. 
    • Eight faculty/administrators attended the conference in 2019.
    • Three faculty members participated in the 2020 virtual conference.
       
  • Send a small group of students (possibly members of the upper school Common Ground Club) to the 2020 PoCC in St. Louis.
    • Six upper school students attended the virtual POCC conference in 2020.
       
  • Explore school-wide training in Restorative Circles to develop skills in conflict resolution and to further build a sense of community. 
    • This recommendation is being explored.