It has been a remarkable and historic week and entire spring season. Here on the St. Christopher’s campus this week, we concluded the 2019-2020 school year with final faculty meetings, focusing on lessons learned during distance learning and bidding farewell to departing faculty and staff. On Tuesday we conducted a record-breaking Day of Giving in honor of our faculty and staff, and, over the course of the past three days, we individually conferred diplomas to 78 members of the stellar Class of 2020. Next week, we will provide an account on the 2019-2020 school year, including links to stories, photos, and videos that encapsulate this unforgettable year.
Amidst our celebration and conclusion of a successful school year, a national outcry has emerged. In our own city and in hundreds of cities around the world, protests, unrest, and voices representing the broad expanse of our national and global populous rang out, loud and clear. No more will this nation tolerate bigotry, oppression, racism, or the mistreatment of our fellow citizens at the hands of individuals or institutions bestowed with authority. The tragic death of George Floyd and too many other victims before him have challenged us all to do more than we ever have before.
St. Christopher’s School stands in solidarity with all who seek justice, equal treatment, and access to those fundamental rights and opportunities that make all of us Americans. As I stated in my May 31 statement to the community, my heart aches at this turbulent moment in our nation’s history, though I take comfort in the conviction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who believed that though “the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.”
Further, my heart aches, in particular, for African Americans and other persons of color who, through nothing more than the heritage of their family, have been forced for decades to confront the legacy of slavery and racism that continues to haunt our nation.
At St. Christopher’s, we teach our boys that words matter, for they are a manifestation of your thoughts, and they can form habits that develop your character. However, actions, particularly at this crucible moment in our nation’s history, speak louder than words.
Since my statement to you on May 31, we have taken the following actions:
- We are contacting every student of color in our school community, to check in on his well being at this critical time.
- We are organizing a series of Zoom-based conversations for current students of color and young alumni of color, in particular, to offer a forum for members of those groups to connect, ask questions, comfort and inspire one another, and to offer concrete suggestions to St. Christopher’s on how we can become an even more welcoming and inclusive school community.
- We will organize a broader series of student-led conversations on civility and race relations at St. Christopher’s, giving an opportunity for all students and even alumni to come together to share their perspectives and ideas for how St. Christopher’s can continue to grow in the area of diversity and inclusion.
- Over the summer and into the 2020-2021 school year, we will be conducting an enhanced review of our JK-12 curriculum, focusing on the lens of diversity and inclusion as expressed in our content and curriculum. We recognize that it is vital for Saints of the 2020s and beyond to enter the world with a broad perspective of history, culture, literature, and beliefs. We have a duty to prepare our young men for the world they will inhabit and to expose them to ideas representing the true breadth and expanse of our nation and our world. To the extent that changes in our curriculum need to be made to best reflect the needs and realities of 2020, we will be bold in making those changes thoughtfully but expeditiously.
- We are selecting a summer reading book for our entire faculty and staff, one that focuses on race in America. When we return in the fall, our faculty and staff will work together in small groups to discuss and explore the selected text. We will pursue additional professional development for our faculty and staff in the field of inclusive practices during and beyond the 2020-2021 school year.
- We are in the preliminary stages of organizing a community forum (timing dependent upon large-gathering restrictions at that time)--a moderated discussion on our campus for students, families, alumni, and the greater Richmond community that focuses on race and history in our country, state, city, and School.
- For many years, we have been fortunate to possess a dedicated and diverse Community and Inclusion Committee of the Board of Governors. While not previously scheduled, that committee will convene over the summer to offer additional recommendations for the School to consider and implement in the months and years ahead. That work will be supported and complemented by our Diversity Pillar group, an assembly of faculty and staff formed several years ago as part of our accreditation process, charged with reviewing and implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion practices on our campus.
- Our Community and Inclusion and Health and Wellness teams have collaborated to compile a list of resources, listed below, for families interested in engaging in dialogue with their children on the topics of race and racism; as always, our faculty, chaplains, and counselors stand ready to support you and your family in any way that we can.
This list of action items is by no means exhaustive; it represents our thinking at the end of a complex and historic week for our city and nation. We are committed to doing better and being better as a diverse and inclusive school community, and we recognize that commitment will be measured in years, not weeks. This is an institutional priority for the long term, and we must be prepared to engage in critical and courageous conversations and actions together.
Pasted below you will find the School’s official Diversity and Inclusion Statement, endorsed by the Board of Governors earlier this school year. In addition, you will find a list of the members of our Community and Inclusion Committee of the Board. You are welcome to contact them or me with any suggestions or concerns that you may have.
Finally, I feel extraordinarily fortunate at this time to benefit from the wisdom, leadership, and guidance of Mr. Ed Cowell, our Director of Community and Inclusion. Mr. Cowell joined us last summer, following a successful career as a JK-12 headmaster and as a Dean of Students, Director of Multicultural Affairs, and Chief Diversity Officer at Salisbury University, the College of William and Mary, and Bucknell University, respectively. You are welcome to contact Mr. Cowell directly with any questions, concerns, or suggestions.
Thank you for your continued support and passion for St. Christopher’s. We hold our boys to the highest standards of excellence in all that we do, and we have the same expectations for our entire school community, particularly in how we value, respect, and treat every member of our Saints community.
HeadmasterDiversity and Inclusion Statement
St. Christopher’s School is committed to the holistic development of each student in order to help every boy reach his full potential. The School fosters a diverse and inclusive school community in which every boy is known, loved, and celebrated for his individual gifts and perspective.
Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is based on a genuine respect and appreciation for individual differences that enrich our school and reflect the broader community that we serve.
Further, our commitment to diversity and inclusion ensures that each student is prepared to engage and lead in an interconnected world with integrity, civility, and respect. The foundational element of St. Christopher's is our community, strengthened by our diversity and our trust in one another, and thus, our fervent belief that all who come here are essential.
Board of Governors Committee on Community and Inclusion
Dr. Lydia Johnson, Chair, Community and Inclusion Committee, Board of Governors
Allison Bridges, Former member of the Board of Governors
Emmett Carlson, Saints for Social Justice Faculty Advisor & Upper School Math Teacher
Lance Clelland, Director of Middle and Upper School Admissions
Ed Cowell, Director of Community and Inclusion
The Rev. Whitney Edwards, Upper School Chaplain
Anne Wesley Gehring, Director of Lower School Admissions
Benita Griffin, Head of Lower School
Dr. Kim Hudson, Director of the Center for the Study of Boys
Hamill Jones ’00, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid
Gerd Kobal, Board of Governors
Stephen Lewis, Assistant Director of Athletics & Director of Sports Information
Dr. Sarah Mansfield, Interim Head of Lower School & Assistant Head of School
Mollie S. Reinhart, Former Parent
Andy Taibl, Associate Director of Athletics
Marshall Tucker, Jr. ’02, Board of Governors
Ned Valentine ’83, Board of Governors
Thomas Valentine ’76, Board of Governors
Greg Vick, Director of Upper School Glee Club & Saints for Social Justice Faculty Advisor
Elizabeth Wallace, Board of Governors
Christie Wilson, Director of Middle School Student Life
Resources for Students and Families
How to talk to children:
A guide for Parents: