The Paideia School

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Paideia’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: An Ongoing Conversation

Update on Paideia's DEI Actions

Dear Fellow Paideians,

We are writing to update our community about Black Lives Matter issues at Paideia.  Much has happened in the last month, inspired by the student BlackatPaideia Instagram posts that showed us a perspective we needed to see and also the depth of the work the school needs to do to create a safe and nurturing environment for all of our students and particularly our students of color.  This environment means also creating a safe space for students to share when those conditions are not met.

We know that our work is not something that can be captured by a list of initiatives or bullet points, but must be integrated into how we approach education at every age level. We assure you that the school faculty, administration, and board of trustees are committed to these fundamental goals and that we will make it a foundation of our educational and community mission going forward.

During the last several weeks we have been meeting and listening to members of the Paideia community to understand the past and  to inform how we advance meaningful change. In a number of instances, the school has already taken action.

We will continue to listen, learn, and engage on these important issues and continuously strive to do better. These conversations have included:

  • Faculty meetings in all levels of the school that focus on assessing the climate, curricula and improvements in school policy around racial harassment and bullying: English and social studies curricula in the high school; an expansion of Race, Class, and Gender curriculum in the junior high; and the focus and coordination of the central subject in the elementary school.
  • Meeting of Black faculty with Paul, to assess curricula and climate issues and to make recommendations for diversity, equity and inclusion.  Additional meetings have been scheduled during the summer and after school begins.
  • A webinar attended by 270 families, which served as an introduction to smaller sessions by area of the school.  The three smaller sessions were each attended by 60 to 70 families who shared their experiences with school personnel and their widespread commitment to racial equity at Paideia community.
  • A Black Parent Organization meeting with Paul, other school administrators, Oman Frame and Nisha Simama, who has returned to help with Paideia's efforts in DEI.  Oman and Nisha are longstanding faculty leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Preliminary data from the National Association of Independent School AIM survey was shared with the BPO and is also on the school website.
  • Two alumni ZOOM meetings, one with Black alums and another open to all alums of the school.

As we continue these conversations, we want to update you on other actions we have taken that have been informed by these conversations:

  1. An extensive board of trustee discussion and an initial action plan was developed at the regularly scheduled June meeting. The board established a committee including Wayne Aaron, Paul Bianchi, Laura Magnanini (assistant head) Oman Frame, Nisha Simama, and trustees Melinda Holladay, Shenia Kirkland and Ade Patton to hire an outside consultant to work with the different constituencies in order to provide an independent audit of school culture, data, and initiatives, and also to propose a set of public recommendations for the school to achieve meaningful change.  The committee started with an extensive list of consultants offered by members of the Paideia community, narrowed the list down to three, and conducted extensive interviews with each on July 2 and July 7.  Upon additional discussions and review, the committee will share the final selection by early next week.
  2. The board is establishing a diversity, equity and inclusion committee made up of trustees and non-trustees to monitor progress and recommend to the board future directions.
  3. Nisha Simama and Linda Zamora Epstein, dean of student affairs for the entire school, have begun to work with the student leaders of BlackatPaideia, LASSO, and Asian American groups to help the students translate ideas into action.  One possible outcome is a coalition student summit early in the school year.  Kristi Budd, in addition to her role as high school counselor,  will support Mary Lynn Cullen, Brooke Marty, and the elementary faculty in their DEI work.
  4. All faculty and staff are required to read one of three books in preparation for the  August retreat. The books are: How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi; Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele; and We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love (audiobooks only).
  5. Continued professional development which include a White Privilege study group and White Anti-Racist Educators in the elementary school and junior high. Teachers have attended introductory courses in Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain; three teachers will attend a national workshop on racial literacy. The faculty committee will continue to meet to discuss how to maintain this staff development work long-term for all faculty and staff.
  6. The junior high and high school administrators are reviewing practices and policies in both the student handbook and faculty/staff handbook around incidents of racial harassment- specifically in regard to improvements in reporting and the handling of incidents of racial harassment.  These handbooks are distributed prior to the start of school. A parallel elementary handbook is being developed.
  7. The school will not tolerate racial epithets and slurs.

In addition to the actions outlined above, both the school and the board have taken previous steps that are outlined on the Paideia homepage.

We are committed that these actions are not one-time initiatives, but must be sustained and embedded in how we operate the school  followed by a continued and open dialogue in order to effect permanent change.

While the common marathon-not-a-sprint metaphor applies, there is also urgency that our community makes this work a priority. While we have miles to go,  we are also fortunate to have the strength of passionate current and past families, past students, faculty and current students who are deeply committed to making change together, not only for Paideia but for our collective social good. 

We will work together as we move forward and to put every one of our student's safety and well-being as our first priority.  We will keep the community apprised of additional actions.

Wayne Aaron 
Chair, Board of Trustees

Paul Bianchi
Head of School

Oman Frame Coordinator of Equity and Inclusion

The current state of our world has illuminated many of this country's ills. The constant plague of racism and injustice has once again manifested itself by way of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, and we find ourselves examining and reaffirming our commitment to being an inclusive, anti-racist space. The school's commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive community is paramount and unwavering. And while we'd all like to jump to the finish line, the road to infusing diversity, equity, and inclusion into all levels of our community is a process. We know there are improvements to be made, and commit to examining our blind spots and making actionable, measurable progress. Now is the time for brave conversations as we commit to taking a look at the world around us and transparent in its reflection back to us. 

Paideia was founded as a place for children. This moment provides us with an opportunity to improve the experience for all of our students because when the environment works for our children, it also works for parents and faculty. The most common question seems to be, "What can I/we do?" As a school, it is imperative that we act together to examine our biases, privileges, and assumptions. As individuals, it's important to do the same. As an institution, it begins in the classroom, with an intentional curriculum that reflects the school's Framework of Values and our global reality. It extends into a commitment to ongoing self-examination and discussion, with transparent and measurable goals, and a willingness to listen to too often silent voices. History has proven that this work is a marathon, not a sprint. The end line will be ever-moving, with obstacles and arduous tasks along the path. As a school committed to meeting the needs of all of our community members, we are dedicated to continuous training, growing, stumbling, and dusting ourselves off as we strive to attain our goals. A group will work together this summer to design a plan to move our community towards verbalizing, and actualizing in goals.

At Paideia, we believe in the vitality of being taught and mentored by the diversity within the community. 

Oman Frame
Coordinator of Equity and Inclusion
 

Paul Bianchi, headmaster, sent a letter to all parents and high school students on June 20. Read his letter below.

Dear Parents and High School Students,

Many of us in the Paideia community have been shaken by reports coming out of the school, specifically the Instagram BlackatPaideia posts. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to write us or call with your questions and concerns. The issues raised speak to the racism that pervades our society, including Paideia, and the lasting pain it inflicts on people of color. As you know, we work hard to make the school welcoming and inclusive of everyone. It is heartbreaking to all of us that this work has been insufficient. I apologize on behalf of Paideia.  I and we will do better.

We are taking several actions right away to address these issues, and also putting in place structures to maintain the momentum to create change.

  • We had on Thursday a webinar that was attended by 270 families. Oman Frame facilitated a panel that included Nisha Simama, Linda Epstein, Stacey Winston, Che Calix, Laura Magnanini, Miranda Dillard, and me. This opening meeting will be followed by smaller meetings beginning next week so that there can be discussion not feasible in such a big gathering. A summary of that meeting is or soon will be on the website.
  • A standing committee of Black faculty organized by Oman will meet regularly with me to advise and implement future directions.
  • Nisha Simama, longtime high school counselor and leader at the school, has agreed to return to the school to advise and counsel with all of us. Nisha had mostly retired this past year, but is glad to return to help out. It's always a better room when Nisha is in it.
  • We will more actively share information and resources on the school's website, such as an enrollment of 39 percent students of color, the largest number being African-American; 25 percent of the faculty are people of color, with 24 African American teachers this past year. We continue to work to increase those numbers: this year the majority of new hires were African American.
  • The faculty and I have long participated in many staff development programs designed to educate all of us on racism. Some of these are outside the school, such as People of Color conferences and White Privilege conferences; others are ongoing study groups inside the school.

Addressing systemic racism with its manifestations at Paideia will not be a quick fix. It's a marathon, not a sprint. We are doing both now, and we will keep it up. I believe and I hope you do also that this commitment will make a difference. None of us ever thought Paideia was perfect, and on such an important issue as this, we need to do better. I am confident that together we will.

Paul Bianchi
Headmaster                                                                                                                            


Oman Frame, Coordinator of Equity and Inclusion, compiled a list of resources for teachers, administrators, students, families) interested in learning more about racial justice. 

A list of books on diversity compiled by elementary librarian Natalie Bernstein.

Paideia Action Plan

The actions listed in this plan are not exhaustive. Our fundamental hope is to rebuild and regain trust within our community to create safe spaces for faculty and students. We hope that the community will  work with the school in both our individual and institutional self-reflection. 

We are listening to Black voices at Paideia and this will help the school change. We are heartbroken to hear these stories of racial trauma that range from racist language and behaviors, isolation and exclusion, and limited opportunities and lack of support at Paideia.  The intention from the beginning of Paideia's history was to create an equitable and diverse community and we take responsibility for not ensuring a safe space for all of our students.  

We unequivocally believe that Black Lives Matter. 

Our action plan includes:

Offering specific high school and junior high student training in anti-racism and white privilege. 

  • Rachel Peterson, dean of students, and Natalie Rogovin, director of service learning have created programming for student leaders in the high school. They will be incorporating diversity  and implicit bias training in their Student Leadership Summit, offer a deep dive in Implicit Bias for the Steering Committee ( student government) and host a student book read - "How to Be an Anti-Racist" by Ibram X. Kendi. In high school, the Steering Committee will be meeting with leaders of Black@Paideia to discuss initiatives to support students of color at Paideia.  Rachel will also be spearheading a new program for the Advisory program for all students that focuses around diversity, equity, social justice and anti-racist work.  
  • In the junior high, we will be organizing student training in anti-racism and white privilege through our extended Race, Class and Gender (RCG) curriculum and implementation of our new student leadership groups.  A variety of age-appropriate support materials and activities will be used to maintain friendships and sustain authentic, non-biased communication between students, faculty and administration.

A commitment to creating safe spaces for all students on campus. 

  • We are committed to our student racial affinity groups across levels and will provide needed support for students in our Black Student affinity groups in all levels. We will review how we discuss race in each level of the school. Specifically, the junior high is reviewing periodic symposiums on diversity and inclusion that will happen throughout the year. The high school committee for Race Day will review its programming ( in format and content) to help ensure their discussions are effective and create safe spaces for everyone.

A review of our systems of reporting racial harassment, racial discrimination, instances of racial microaggressions, and bullying in both the junior high and high school. 

  • We do not and will not tolerate racial harassment, racial discrimination, microaggressions and bullying at Paideia.
  • These methods of reporting will be clearer and more readily available to all students and we will create redundant systems of reporting to help ensure that complaints do not go unheard or with no response. Students will continue to be able to report incidents to teachers, advisors, counselors and administrators; these adults will receive training on effective reporting. Any and all adults who receive reports of this nature will report to Nisha Simama, counselor and coordinator of multiculturalism. Nisha will report directly to the head of school,  administrative team and the board of trustees.
  • We will design guidelines that can allow limited information to the reporting student of the course of action taken by the administration with regard to the complaint.  We realize that in our efforts to keep student and family information private, we have not helped the reporting student's understanding that they were heard and action was taken.

A departmental review of curriculum and materials and examination of how we discuss race in the classroom. 

  • Departments will review the use of diverse texts, language in literature, and diverse representation in all departments for high school, junior high and elementary curriculum. 

A review of student class placement in the high School

  • Class placement for advanced courses will include more transparent and clearer rubrics to ensure equitable opportunities in course selection and advancement.

Specific training required for teachers, staff and administrators in anti-racism and white privilege.  

  • Our work will include faculty cohorts in Culturally Responsive Teaching by Zaretta Hammond, and White Privilege and Anti-Racist groups at all levels of the school.  Work in the elementary school is based off of the "Building Anti-Racist White Educators" (BARWE) curriculum.  Other in-house professional development groups will include a Diversity Reads group that will read diverse fictional literature and anti-racism texts. Non-teaching staff from admissions to college counseling will work with anti-racism, diversity and implicit bias training.  

Conversations with parents and alumni to gather feedback and information to help guide our actions moving forward. 

  • Oman Frame, director of equity and inclusion, is hosting a series of parent and alumni conversations to listen and gather information for institutional change.  We will continue to reach out to our current student body to listen to their stories to help us guide that change.

Continued work on  the National Independent School Association (NAIS) Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) survey results. 

  • We received the data results from the AIM survey in November 2019.  A faculty/ staff committee (Oman Frame, Laura Magnanini, Linda Zamora Epstein, Ashley Austin and Jonathan Petrash)  has been reviewing and compiling the data for a whole school report that will be shared in 2020-2021.  The areas where we rank as "high performing" are Overall School Morale and Satisfaction with Multiculturalism.  The area for improvement marked as "healthy" is Satisfaction with Inclusiveness.  We are posting the NAIS's short summary of our results indicating areas where we are high performing and areas that need attention. You can find those results here: NAIS RESULTS.

Commitment to diversity work in our 2020-2021 SACS Accreditation plan.

  • Our SACS accreditation goals include a focus on developing programming and professional development based on our AIM survey. Next steps for the AIM survey are gathering constituency groups and getting more feedback from families. Our work in conjunction with SACS will be immediate with long term outside accountability. 

A commitment to diversity in hiring and recruitment. 

  • We will continue to utilize outside consulting firms to help us recruit faculty of color and extend our reach beyond the Atlanta and Georgia market. 
  • A fundamental part in recruiting faculty of color is ensuring that the Paideia community is an open and safe space. All faculty mentors of new teachers and department chairs in the high school will be provided with anti-racism and anti-bias training. Professional support for faculty of color will include the Teacher of Color (TOC) group and regular attendance at NAIS People of Color Conference (POCC). 
Board of Trustee Actions on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Paideia

June 23, 2020

Dear Members of the Paideia Community,

We write on behalf of the Paideia Board of Trustees.  Last Monday, courageous young people opened a BlackatPaideia Instagram account to give black students a platform to share their experiences and to advocate for change.  Many current and former Paideia students have voiced deeply painful experiences of racism within our community.  Many of you have contacted us to share your reactions to what these posts have highlighted. We all agree that providing a safe and nurturing environment for Paideia students is our highest priority.

We as a board acknowledge this pain and anguish, and we apologize for our role in it.  We have listened carefully during this last week, and we understand that these very personal stories are not new or isolated experiences.  We understand that they come from years of systemic and institutionalized racism in our society and in our very own Paideia community.  We understand that we need to continue to listen and to hear.  We understand that listening is the first step and that listening must lead to learning and to action.  We understand that effecting real change will be a process, and we are committed to sustained action to respect one another and to bring our community together.

The board met last night for the final meeting of the current school year.  We agreed on the following initial board actions:

  • Hold a specially called board meeting in July to focus entirely on this issue.
  • Improve diversity on the board by ensuring that at least 50 percent of each new trustee class is comprised of trustees of color so that the percentage of trustees of color is at least as high or is higher than the percentage of students of color.
  • Join the headmaster and the administration in hiring a third-party evaluator to help us identify our mistakes and blind spots and help us outline the steps for achieving meaningful change and reconciliation.
  • Allocate funds to pay for hiring a third-party evaluator and for the additional initiatives that result from that external audit.
  • Create a permanent board Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee that will include non-board members, using what we learn from our evaluative process to define and inform that committee's work.
  • Engage as a board in inclusiveness and anti-racist training.

As our community engages in these difficult and valuable conversations, the board vows to expand upon these initial actions.  These are among the first steps in the healing process.  We accept this opportunity to look deeply into ourselves, and we believe strongly that all of us who make up Paideia have the courage and the grace to achieve our shared goal of a truly inclusive learning community.  Again, we are here to listen, learn and act, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with the community.   

Melinda Cooper Holladay                            
Board Chair term ending June 30, 2020

Wayne Aaron
Board Chair term beginning July 1, 2020

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