Dear St. Martin’s Community,
It is as if the campus is slowly stretching and waking up after a long rest as we busily make preparations for the start of Summer Care. We are filled with excited anticipation. Two weeks from now, we will welcome our Summer Care campers, and in a little over eight weeks we will open school for the fall semester. For our staff and administration, this is the busiest summer ever. We are working diligently to assure that we are ready to offer a safe, secure, healthy, and happy experience for all.
Not only are we putting protocols into place to protect the health of our community, but in view of the horrific killing of George Floyd and the events that followed, we are redoubling our efforts in the fight against racism at St. Martin’s and outside of our own community. This message is being written not from a point of wisdom, but from a quiet prayerful commitment to provide our students with the tools they will need to go forward in life with an understanding of how to love universally, and to help heal today’s climate of unrest.
Over the centuries, systemic racism has shaped our lives and experiences. In speaking about this with a family member, I was recently reminded of the Parable of the Lost Sheep. This parable is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Parable of the Lost Sheep is a wonderful story told by Jesus to illustrate the love and compassion that God has for every person.
The account describes a shepherd leaving his flock of ninety-nine sheep to search for one sheep that is lost. Over the centuries, scholars have questioned whether a shepherd would truly leave the ninety-nine unattended, to search for a lost one. The answer is an absolute yes. The ninety-nine are safe in the fold, and the one that is lost is as precious to the shepherd as any of the others. We find ourselves in a similar place when it comes to our flock today. At St. Martin’s, just as on that mountain, we dare to lead, and we are committed to teaching our students, of every age, to courageously fight for the rights and well-being of every individual. We pledge to teach them to bravely stand for the rights of others, and to stand up against racism, classism, and injustice wherever they see it.
The children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and we are charged with preparing them to lead with justice, courage, and equity for all. Last year we named Jenny Velasquez as St. Martin’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator. For the past year she (along with a committee composed of parents, students, faculty, staff, and alumni) has provided strategic leadership and oversight of the school’s efforts in diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice.
After conducting a thorough analysis to analyze the current culture, the committee chose to focus on two main issues. The first is a complete audit of the curriculum (from George Cottage through 12th grade) with a DEI lens. Jenny is leading that work. Our second area of focus is a more robust recruitment of Black faculty and students. Parent volunteer Paula Robinson leads this subgroup’s effort. The committee’s work will continue while creating a school-wide action plan focused on diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice issues at St. Martin's and how we as a community can address them.
In response to a concerned young alum, Velasquez wrote the following: “It's so important to take active stands wherever and whenever we see racism... Our ultimate goal with this work is to create safer, braver spaces at school for all students to examine institutional racism at its deepest levels...We are actively trying to find ways to support having difficult conversations here on campus and to empower our students to confront racism wherever and however they experience it...We also have an incredible faculty who is dedicated to teaching social justice, from George Cottage through the Upper School.”
We are learning that we all have unconscious biases, and we are products of our environments that have directly or indirectly laid foundations for racism to exist. We are committed to change at all levels of our community.
As always, I am so proud to be a part of this great community, where our mission supports our dedication to confront inequity and to eradicate silence and complacency. If you have questions or would like to join the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, please contact Jenny Velasquez at Jenny.Velasquez@stmsaints.com.
Together we are Saints,
Head of School