The Paideia School

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

Paideia Retains DEI Consultant Al Vivian

Dear Members of the Paideia Community,

Al Vivian, president and CEO of Basic Diversity

Al Vivian, president and CEO of Basic Diversity

Our students' safety and well-being are our number one priority.  In furtherance of this goal and in response to issues highlighted by Black Lives Matter and @BlackatPaideia, we embarked on an intensive process of listening and self-reflection.  As we have outlined in past communications, in response to your input; the board of trustees decided in late June to hire a consultant to provide an independent audit of the school's culture, systems, and programs and then to propose a set of public recommendations to help the school achieve meaningful change as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion.  We are excited to announce that we have selected Al Vivian, president and CEO of Basic Diversity (www.basicdiversity.com), to engage with us to achieve this objective.  Basic Diversity, started by Al's father C.T. Vivian, has been in business for over 45 years and has been rated as one of the top inclusive leadership consulting firms in the industry. 

Before outlining our next steps in the engagement with Al, we want to provide you a brief background on the selection process.  Upon announcing at the end of June that Paideia would hire a third-party consultant, we established a group led by board chair Wayne Aaron to dedicate extensive time for the selection process.  This committee consisted of Paul Bianchi (head of school), Laura Magnanini (assistant head of school), Nisha Simama (multicultural coordinator), Oman Frame (coordinator of diversity, inclusion and equity), Melinda Cooper Holladay (trustee and former board chair), Shenia Kirkland (trustee and chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion board committee) and Ade Patton (trustee).  We wanted to act with a sense of urgency yet ensure that we were thoughtful in our process and that we sought out the absolute top consultants to perform this important work for the school.

We began with a list of 17 consultants that were recommended by various constituencies within the Paideia community, mostly from our parent body.  We reviewed the list of 17 recommendations and analyzed each consultant's capacity and qualifications.  We were looking for people and organizations whose work was consistent with our Framework of Values, who have local connections and have some experience working with schools.  We also asked a few HR professionals for their opinions and experiences with those on our recommended list.  After this careful vetting process, the selection committee narrowed the list down to three finalists and held a series of Zoom interviews.  After meeting with each of the consultants, we invited two of the finalists to submit a formal proposal.  Our team reviewed each of their proposals, discussed them in a number of meetings and reached a unanimous decision to engage with Al Vivian.  Al has extensive experience and an excellent reputation locally and nation-wide.  We are confident Al represents the values of our community and will be a thoughtful partner in this evaluation.

Al is eager to engage in this work with Paideia and has informed us that he has prioritized his schedule so that he can begin in September.  The assessment, including the public recommendations, will take three to four months to complete.  Al will lead the following activities as part of his independent assessment:

  • Conducting executive interviews with key leaders in the school's administration and staff along with leaders of other constituency groups to acquire a leadership perspective on diversity as it relates to each person's area within the Paideia community.
  • Facilitating focus group sessions with major Paideia constituencies that will provide a small group setting designed to foster candid and open dialogue.  The demographically-diverse focus groups will include students, parents, faculty, administration/staff, board members and alums.  Later this month, we will be sending information on how members of our community can participate in the focus groups.
  • Designing and administering a community-wide survey to solicit all individual voices to help understand the perspectives from all Paideia community members.
  • Evaluating the school's policies and procedures as well as its handbooks to suggest any potential improvements consistent with the strategic goals of this assessment.
  • Assisting with the establishment of the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion board committee and the design of its scope, objectives, composition and overall functioning role.

Over the next few weeks, Al will begin engaging in and setting up the specific processes for the above listed activities.  We will leave room in the process for Al to ensure that all voices in our community are heard.  Additionally, we will set up a cadence of communication to keep the Paideia community informed of the progress.  As we have stated, the findings from Al's evaluation will be made public so that all members of our community have visibility into the assessment process and the resulting set of actions the school will undertake.

We look forward to this next phase of work to create an environment where every student is respected, heard and valued at Paideia.

Warm Regards,

Wayne Aaron
Board Chair

Paul Bianchi
Head of School

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). 

 

Paul Bianchi, head of school, 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
Head of School                                                                                                                           


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's Responses to DEI Issues - Letters sent to Elementary, Junior High and High School on  July 31, plus ongoing action.