Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Respect is a core value of a Landon School education. And respecting others means respecting and celebrating their different journeys, backgrounds and identities. Landon is committed to promoting supportive and welcoming traits like inclusivity and understanding to appreciating diversity and how it enriches the tapestry of the community. We seek to develop in our students the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to value differences, encouraging both speaking and acting with integrity and compassion and developing an informed and respectful worldview.
The Landon 2018 Strategic Plan also identifies areas for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, including:
- Imbue an authentic respect and appreciation for differences of all kinds through programing and practices that expand students' understanding of others and that lead to lifelong brotherly bonds.
- Enrich the school population through broadened efforts to recruit and support students and faculty with diverse backgrounds.
We have made the advancement of DEI-related work a primary professional development priority for the school for 2020-21. All faculty and staff have set goals for themselves on a range of topics from reviewing curricular and programmatic content and teaching practices; to personal growth and development through workshops, conversations, and reading; to evaluating various policies and rocedures to ensure we are creating an equitable and inclusive experience for our young men. Please watch our Head Jim Neill speak to this in our opening ceremony for the school year, during the August 2020 Convocation Assembly.
- Diversity and Community Committee
- DEI Faculty Coordinators
- DEI Board of Trustees Task Force
- DEI Director Search
- DEI Consultants
We assembled this year a faculty and staff committee called the Diversity and Community Committee (DCC), which is comprised of teachers, staff and administrators from across the Divisions and which is focusing on programming, professional development, and goal setting among other areas in this arena. The group will also participate in the search process for our next DEI Director.
Saima Ahmad, Lower School administrative assistant
Deborah Basket, Co-Director of College Counseling
Dori Boyce, Middle School art teacher
Alex Coyle, Upper School history teacher
Adam Diaz, Lower and Middle School Counselor
Matt Dougherty, Upper School humanities teacher
Erin Duffy, Head of Middle School
Vivian English, Upper School science teacher
Ehren Federowicz, Head of Upper School
Charles Franklin, Assistant Head
Charles Harley, Assistant to the Athletic Director, Facilities, Upper School Diversity Coordinator
Eric Harrison, Form II Dean
Ian Healy, Upper School humanities teacher
Addison Hunt, Middle School Diversity Coordinator and math teacher
Alyssa Jackson, Upper School science teacher
Kareena Mims, Associate Director of Admissions, Lower School
Tara Montague, Head of Lower School
Dan Moorin, Upper School English teacher
Jim Neill, Head
Megan Rains Mercado, Lower School art teacher
Hajj Turner, Grade 5 teacher
Anna Vice, Upper School math teacher
To bridge the transition to our next DEI Director, we have created three Divisional DEI Coordinators to serve as leaders of the DCC and its associated work:
Charles Harley, Upper School DEI Coordinator and Assistant to the Athletic Director, Facilities
Addison Hunt, Middle School DEI Coordinator and Middle School math teacher
Megan Rains Mercado, Lower School DEI Coordinator and art teacher
In fulfillment of the 2018 Strategic Plan, the board this year assembled a DEI Task Force to oversee the development and drafting of a Landon DEI action plan, including the hiring of outside consultant, Dr. Val Wise, to launch a communitywide equity audit as well as assessing and strengthening governance and infrastructure to promote DEI at Landon.
Steve Jones, Chair, P '19 '24
Alex Baldwin, P '18
Kristen Best, P '23, '25
Jean-Marie Fernandez, P '24
Jeff Freed, P '11, '13, '18
Alex Glaser '05
Scott Harris '84
Burnell Holland '01
Ken Jenkins '78
Tara Montague, Head of Lower School
Jim Neill, Head
Amy Shang, P '21
Lisa Ellis Williams, P '24
We are pleased to announce that our next Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) will be Ellice Hawkins. Ms. Hawkins joins us from Lovett School, a well-known K-12, co-ed, independent school in Atlanta, where she has served as the Director of Multicultural Programs and Services for the last 16 years.
At Lovett, she has advanced this work across the school from the classroom to the boardroom and in every area in between, shaping the role in the process. From working in professional development and curricular areas at Lovett; to developing new policies, programs, and partnerships; to supporting students, faculty, and families, she has been a real leader in the area of DEI and is a well-known voice in this arena in the Atlanta area and beyond. Prior to Lovett, she worked for a decade at Morehouse College as its Director of Student Activities where her administrative duties were numerous and varied.
In addition to the many diversity-related trainings that she has both led and taken over the years, Ellice hold a BS in Finance and Marketing from Fordham University. She has two children who graduated from independent schools, and she is a product of a single gender high school. Her official start date is July 1.
Hawkins's appointment follows a national search to fill the position with the guidance and support of the search firm, Strategenius.
To conduct a communitywide equity audit and to facilitate professional development for the Board, faculty and staff, the school has engaged Val Wise and Norma Day Vines at Wise Consulting.
- Equity Audit
- Curricular and Professional Development Initiatives
- Hiring Initiatives
- Community Forums
We have engaged Dr. Val Wise and Dr. Norma Day-Vines, consultants/diversity educators/qualitative researchers to guide the work of our Board’s DEI Task Force as they develop an action plan in fulfillment of community and diversity related aspects of our strategic plan.
As an initial step in this process, Dr. Wise and her colleagues have been leading an equity audit of Landon – an evaluation of the lived experience of Landon’s program and community. It has thus far included interviews and focus groups with about 500 members of our community. The last step in the research part of the equity audit is a survey for those who are unable to engage in one of the focus groups or interviews. All of this will then inform the development of the action plan described above.
We began the year with small meetings with students during the orientation days on topics related to DEI and identity, have continued those discussions in ethics classes and advisories throughout the school year across the grades as these topics connect to our core values and our curriculum, utilizing in much of this guidelines and standards promoted by Teaching Tolerance.
Our school had its largest ever attendance at the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference, our administrative leadership spent received extensive training from NEMNET on best practices in hiring diverse candidates, and numerous faculty have engaged in various DEI related PD this year, including our entire faculty and staff participating in a workshop with Val Wise on January 4 related to responding to implicit bias.
- Landon Teacher Development Program – A new program, these are teacher development positions that will hopefully yield two excellent candidates who are at the beginning of their careers. These teachers will teach and support the academic program, participate directly in diversity, equity, and inclusion work under the direction of the Director of DEI, and coach in the athletic program or assist in the performing arts. The division and department of these candidates will remain flexible as we enter the hiring process. These will be two year roles that we will fill every two years.
- We have become full members of Nemnet and Strategenius, two hiring firms focused specifically on recruiting and placing diverse candidates. (See sections on DEI consultants and DEI Director search.
- We have engaged Strategenius to lead our search for our next Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Strategenius has been a leader in the recruitment and hiring of diverse candidates in independent schools for decades and we are excited to have their expertise assist us in filling this role. (See section on DEI Director search.)
- We have held a professional development session for those involved in the hiring processes led by Warren Reid, founder of Nemnet. This three-hour meeting featured an overview of the landscape for recruiting diverse faculty; reviewed the recruitment, screening, and interview processes; and discussed how we message to external communities about our open roles and our school overall, among other topics.
- We are including documents related to our current hiring process and practices in the equity audit being led by Val Wise Consulting and will look to enact any recommendations as well as those suggested by NEMNET.
In the summer of 2020, we held alumni, parent, and student forums to discuss the racial unrest, the effects on us of the killings of Black Americans that continue to plague our society, associated concerns about police violence, and perspectives on what Landon might do as an institution, including how we ensure that we are a place where our Black and Brown students feel valued and know that their lives do indeed matter. We anticipate developing additional regular forums through recommendations that come through the equity audit.
- DEI Survey Launch (January 9)
- DEI Survey (December 20)
- DEI Hiring Partners (October 24)
- DEI Focus Groups (September 24)
- DEI Work Update (September 21)
- Hiring of New DEI Director (July 22)
- Statement on Race and Inequality (June 2)
- Memorial Day Reflection (May 29)
Dear Landon Community,
Below please find the survey from Dr. Val Wise that is the last part of the research phase of the equity audit she has been conducting for Landon throughout the fall. We would ask that you take a few minutes to fill this out, even if you have already participated in one of the focus groups.
You will see that the survey uses a so-called Likert scale to gauge people’s attitudes and the intensity thereof regarding various statements related to Landon. It is based on a DEI-specific survey tool developed by Johns Hopkins School of Education in collaboration with Harvard Graduate School of Education and has been used effectively with over twelve thousand respondents in similar efforts at other institutions. Survey responses will be confidential and will go directly to Dr. Wise and her firm.
They will then be aggregating the results and themes from the survey, in combination with those from the many conversations and focus groups they have held with Landon community members throughout the fall, developing in the process a series of conclusions and recommended action steps. Our Board and its DEI Task Force will then refine that into our DEI-specific action plan – which has been the end goal of this comprehensive exercise, the overall ambition of which is of course to help ensure that Landon continues to grow in its efforts to be, in meaningful and felt ways, a place of belonging, connection, and respect. We will present the summary of her conclusions and the associated action plan once they are concluded.
We thank you for your time with this and wish you a Happy New Year.
Landon Trustee, Chair, DEI Task Force
Dear Landon Community,
Before we get too far into the Winter Break, I have a couple of important updates to share with you. We will remind you about this information and any further related details at the end of the Break, but I wanted you to have it now as promised in my letter from last week.
COVID-19 Testing Results
First, we received the full results of our recent COVID-19 testing, and the results continue to show very low incidence of the virus in our community. Of the 413 tests conducted on campus on Tuesday, December 15, there were zero positive results. We will communicate the results of our testing from Friday, December 18 when we receive them.
These good results remain the product of hard work and sacrifice by many. Please – especially as we go our own ways with many traveling during the Winter Break – continue to practice thoughtful, selfless, and prudent practices to mitigate the growing spread of the virus. Please do not let down your guard. Of note, the state of Maryland issued new travel orders Friday, and they provide additional restrictions and requirements for those who travel out of the area.
As you know, we engaged Dr. Val Wise and her diversity consulting firm at the start of the year to undertake a comprehensive equity audit. This has to date included focus groups and interviews with some 400-500 persons from all parts of the Landon community. We have also provided Dr. Wise with various Landon-related data to inform her study. She has further held student focus groups in all three Divisions and will conduct a few remaining ones with Upper School students in the new year.
As she looks to wrap up her audit and turn toward developing a series of conclusions and recommendations for our Board of Trustees and its DEI Task Force, there is one major element of the evaluative process remaining: namely a survey to gauge impressions of elements of the climate at Landon. We will be sending that survey as a stand-alone email at the very end of the Break, but we wanted to alert you to it now and ask that you take a few minutes to complete it when received. Our goal is for this step to be concluded by the second week in January.
Post Winter Break Plans
Our hope is to return in-person in January, but that will again be based on an assessment of the circumstances and data at the time. We will provide more information in the new year on specifics as they become available. That said, I want to give some information now regarding our post Winter Break plans to help shape expectations and assist with your planning.
- Testing. First, we will continue our approach of conducting on-campus testing prior to any in-person return after the holidays, just as we did after Thanksgiving. The earliest date that we were able to secure for full community on-campus testing in the new year is Tuesday, January 12. The policy will remain that, in order to be on campus for any in-person programming that may take place, students, faculty, and staff must have evidence of a negative PCR test from January 12 or from that week. We strongly encourage all to participate in our on-campus testing, but we also will accept results from another testing facility, so long as they are the result of a PCR test completed in that same week in January. Again, without appropriate test results, one may not be on campus.
- January Schedule. Our previously communicated plan had been to be in a distance learning mode for at least the first week back (January 5-8) as a settling-in period after Break. But in order to give us the necessary time to receive the full results of our testing data, which typically takes a few days, and given the Governor’s order from Friday, we are extending Distance Learning through the following week until Friday, January 15. This also includes athletics during this period. It is important to note here that this is our plan as it stands now. Depending on our overall evaluation of the circumstances in mid-January, including both community conditions and the results of our own testing data, changes could be necessary, including an extension of the Distance Learning period.
- In-Person vs Distance Learning. One thing we have communicated over the last month is how challenging it is for boys to move back and forth between in-person and distance learning modes. While we want to provide a degree of flexibility, that degree cannot be limitless. We regard the Winter Break as another reset period, especially now that we have experience with multiple hybrid arrangements. So, after we return from Winter Break, we will again solicit from families which option they prefer for their sons – in-person or Distance Learning –to help us plan and prepare for the period after January 15. Should we be able to be in-person after that date, we will treat the first week back on campus as something of an “add-drop” period, within which families will be able to change or confirm which mode they prefer. After that point, the choice of learning mode will “lock” until further notice.
- Campus Closed. Please know that the campus will be fully closed during the Winter Break.
We will provide reminders of all of this as well as any additional specifics in the early days of the new year. Until then, I think it is fair to say we are all ready for a break, so allow me to wish you all a wonderful and happy holiday season.
Dear Landon Community,
I am pleased to be writing today not about hybrid learning or pandemic response planning, but instead with updates related to our Strategic Plan, first rolled out in 2018. This will be the first of a few such letters I will look to send over the coming months focused on the long-term direction of the school. Today’s letter speaks about two important initiatives – progress on our Campus Master Plan and updates related to our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Item six in our Strategic Plan calls on us to “strengthen and enrich the tapestry of relationships that defines the Landon community” by promoting an intentionally diverse community of teachers and students and by advancing programming and practices designed to enhance respect and inclusion throughout the community. The hiring of our first full-time Director of DEI two years ago was an initial step here. We have begun our search for our next Director, and I am pleased to share that we have retained the firm Strategenius to partner with us in this search.
We have also joined with firm Nemnet to provide additional support to our hiring practices and consulting in this area. We are launching a new Teaching Fellow program that will seek to hire new-to-teaching, recent college graduates with the goals of attracting talented young persons to the field of education, bolstering our teaching and coaching capacity, and supporting DEI work at Landon.
I have already shared with you specifics regarding the creation of our Board’s DEI Task Force and its retention of Dr. Val Wise to lead a school-wide equity audit that will lead to an action plan that advances inclusion and equity at Landon – one that is informed by voices from across the broader school community. Dr. Wise and her team have held dozens of focus groups thus far, meeting with hundreds of Landon community members in the process. I am so grateful to all who have made the time to participate in these to date.
We have received requests for additional focus groups – both for those designated as Open to All and for those more specifically designated, such as slots for Alumni of Color, Asian/Pacific Island Families, and Latinx Families, among a few others. Dr. Wise is pleased to offer times for these additional groups, and we have set a schedule for them on the following dates:
- Sunday, November 8, 4-9 p.m.
- Wednesday, November 11, 1-6 p.m.
- Thursday, November 12, 1-8 p.m.
These will be the last focus groups offered as part of this process, except for student focus groups which are still to come. After these are concluded, we will distribute a survey to ensure those who were not able to join a focus group will have another chance to engage in this process.
Campus Master Plan
Item four in our Strategic Plan calls on us to “renovate, revitalize, and preserve our exceptional buildings and grounds to support current and future program needs.” In response to that goal, our Board retained the architectural firm Cox, Graae, and Spack to conduct a similarly broad, full community effort of interviews, focus groups, and surveying that ultimately led to the creation of our Campus Master Plan (CMP), a long-term vision comprised of many different phases for how our campus will evolve over the coming years and decades. We shared this plan with the community in 2019.
Since that time, under the leadership of the Board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, we have been working on the steps associated with the zoning and entitlement process necessary for the CMP, including work with civil engineers, legal counsel, historical consultants, landscape architects, traffic engineers, and conversations with neighbors and government officials, all in preparation for the formal submission of the CMP to the county for its approval through the so-called special exception process.
I am pleased to share that Landon submitted the plan to the county this past week, and you will, in the days ahead, see the large signs announcing a Special Exception Hearing going up in front of campus. These signs are part of the multi-month process that we anticipate will lead to the county’s affirmation of the plan, a step that will lead to our enacting elements of it.
We held several events for parents in early 2019 when the plan was first finalized to share its contents. Yesterday we held a webinar for families who joined the Landon community since then, to share the plan and the more detailed elements associated with the academic facilities.
As we await county approval of the CMP, our architects have also been working to more fully flesh out some of the Plan’s initial phases so that we are as ready as possible to move forward once we are able to do so. These initial phases include:
- Improving the campus arrival experience and traffic flow
- Enhancing safety and security on campus
- Adding to and renovating our academic spaces
This preparation work has included extensive space analysis and meetings with leaders from the various academic departments, administration, and the Board to understand our long-term programmatic needs. Through these efforts, our architects have been developing much more detailed plans for a new Upper School building and for a renovation and repurposing of all our other academic spaces that we will finalize and share in the months ahead.
There is lots more to come on this – including updates on the associated capital campaign that will be part of it – but I wanted to be sure you were in the loop on this stage now so that you knew what the signs are that will be going up along the campus perimeter. They are signs of progress!
So despite all the anxiety and challenges that the current moment is bringing our way, there is also exciting and excellent work that is taking place here at Landon to ensure that we emerge from this very challenging moment stronger than ever. Thank you as always for your support of our mission, our faculty and staff, and our boys.
Dear Landon Community,
As we shared in previous communications, the Board’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force has retained Dr. Val Wise – a prominent diversity educator, qualitative researcher, and consultant – and her firm to lead us through an equity audit – an exercise to evaluate the lived experience of the Landon program and community. This audit will guide our short-term and longer-term effort to embed attention to DEI-related matters throughout the life of the school. It will do this by serving as the basis for our comprehensive DEI action plan, which will seek to promote systematic, sustainable, and forward-leaning change.
The first step in this process – the data and perspective gathering step – will include focus groups, interviews, and surveys.
We are writing today to invite, and indeed strongly encourage, you to participate in this step. Dr. Wise and her firm will look to meet with as many faculty and staff, parents, students, alumni, and trustees as possible.
She and her colleagues will be holding one-hour virtual focus group meetings from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the following days:
- Tuesday, September 29
- Saturday, October 3
- Monday, October 5
- Tuesday, October 6
- Thursday, October 8
She plans to have approximately 10 individuals per focus group, and we ask that you sign up via the link below. You will see that we have set aside certain slots based on constituency (i.e., faculty and staff, parents, alumni, etc.) and other slots based on how one identifies oneself (i.e., race, gender, etc.), Still, other times are unassigned by constituent group or identity. Please sign up for whichever time slot you feel most comfortable participating in, and please only sign up for one slot.
Dr. Wise will also be meeting with interested students as well as student leaders to gather their thoughts. Those meetings will be set up separately through the Divisions.
Should the demand to participate in these meetings outstrip the number of slots available, we will set up additional focus group days. Also, please know that a community survey will come out on the latter part of the process for those who could not participate in one of the focus groups.
We thank you in advance for engaging in this critical work to make Landon and our society a better place for everyone.
Chair, Board Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force
Dear Landon Community,
I hope that you had the chance to enjoy the beautiful fall weather this weekend. It has been great to have boys on campus in various ways over recent weeks, and I am grateful to our faculty and staff for their fine work in getting the school year launched successfully in both virtual and in-person ways. Please know that we will be communicating plans regarding next steps later this week.
I also want to extend to our Jewish community members every good wish for a Happy New Year. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the loss this weekend of an important member of the broader Jewish community, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As just the second woman Justice and first Jewish woman on the Court, her passing not insignificantly coincides with the centennial of the women’s suffrage movement. May her memory be a blessing after a life dedicated to service and to promoting issues of equality.
One of the more moving books I have ever read is Alan Paton's beautifully written 1948 novel Cry the Beloved Country about South Africa during apartheid and the tragically powerful relationship between two sets of fathers and sons – one black and one white. For whatever reason, a line from this book comes to mind each year on 9/11, as it did a week ago Friday as I recalled details of that awful day nineteen years ago. The line from the novel is a simple one, said by one of the fathers to the other one after an experience of great sadness for them both: "Pain and suffering, they are a secret. Kindness and love, they are a secret. But I have learned that kindness and love can pay for pain and suffering."
It seems to me that such a line has significant bearing in this time of division and isolation – a time when we are very much in need of kindness and love as individuals and as a society. I hope and pray we can all take its message to heart during what is at once a difficult chapter in our collective history as well as one replete with opportunity to improve as a nation and as individuals in the areas of racial justice and equity. For the line is not one suggesting a mere niceness or passive hoping for positive change, but instead one that implies a call to action, as well as the kind of action that is needed – action that can undo pain and suffering. And while the current moment is certainly calling on us to greater levels of listening, reflection, and understanding, it is also a moment, I would suggest, of moral imperative – one we must not let slip from our hands as we seek to ensure that the broader tomorrow is better than the broader yesterday. And for that to happen, we need to commit ourselves to ongoing and continued work during the broader today.
It is with all of this in mind that I wanted to update you on what we at Landon have been and will be doing to elevate our collective community as a place of respect, as a place of inclusion, and as a place where every young man feels at home, valued, and loved.
Two weekends ago the Board dedicated its all-day retreat to topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as they relate not only to how the Board governs the institution but also to how we think about our individual identities, the experiences of one another, and our desire to ensure that the culture and systems here are ones that promote equity. The retreat was led by Dr. Val Wise and Dr. Norma Day-Vines, the consultants/diversity educators/qualitative researchers we have engaged to guide the work of our Board’s DEI Task Force as they develop an action plan in fulfillment of community and diversity related aspects of our strategic plan. The retreat was a powerful way to launch that work.
As an initial step in this process, Dr. Wise and her colleagues will be leading an equity audit of Landon – an evaluation of the lived experience of Landon’s program and community – and I hope all of you will participate in this effort. It will include many focus groups as well as a survey for those who are unable to engage in one of the focus groups. Please look for an email in the next day or two inviting you to participate in one of these conversations and explaining how to do so, from me and trustee Steve Jones, Chair of the DEI Task Force.
And during this complex year, we have made the advancement of DEI-related work the primary professional development focus for the school. All faculty and staff have set goals for themselves on a range of topics from reviewing curricular and programmatic content and teaching practices; to personal growth and development through workshops, conversations, and reading; to evaluating various procedures to ensure we are creating an equitable and inclusive experience for our young men. We have assembled a new standing faculty and staff committee called the Diversity and Community Committee (DCC), which is comprised of some 15-20 teachers and administrators from across the Divisions and which is focusing on programming, professional development, and goal setting among other areas in this arena. I shared previously that our DEI Director, Joe Canty, moved this summer to take a Head of School role in North Carolina, and to quickly bridge the need created by that transition, we have created three Divisional DEI Coordinators – filled by Charles Harley in the Upper School, Addison Hunt in the Middle School, and Megan Rains Mercado in the Lower School – to serve as leaders of the DCC and its associated work. Dr. Wise has also already met with the DCC to support the development of Landon-specific faculty training in this area, and the group will also participate in the search process for our next DEI Director. We have interviewed three search firms to partner with us in this search and will select one in the coming days.
We have also begun the year with small meetings with the students during the orientation days on topics related to DEI and identity, have worked through ethics classes and advisories on it, and will continue to engage in these conversations in deeper and ongoing ways with our boys – and the boys with one another – as the year progresses. And I must say that the energy the faculty has brought to this work, including full faculty meetings and professional development work over the summer in anticipation of this year’s focus, has been inspiring.
This summer, we also held various alumni, parent, and student forums to discuss the racial unrest, the effects on us of the killings of Black Americans that continue to plague our society, associated concerns about police violence, and perspectives on what Landon might do as an institution, including how we ensure that we are a place where our black and brown students feel valued and know that their lives do indeed matter. The conversations have been powerful and heartfelt ones, as have been other conversations and communications I have had over recent months with and from many in the community. I want to express my deep thanks to all community members who have taken the time to engage in these important discussions. They have been marked by openness, honesty, respect, as well as the sharing of painful personal experiences related to being treated as lesser because of race, socioeconomic status, or gender identity.
Some of the experiences shared are ones that have taken place here at school over the years. And as much as our overall efforts are marked by a forward-looking energy and focus, in order for us to create the institutional progress we want, we must also acknowledge occasions when a young man has had a degrading experience here as moments when we have failed to live up to our mission. Our purpose at Landon is to serve and build up the young men whose care and growth is entrusted to us. It is a sacred trust. To the extent that any of our students have had a demeaning or hurtful experience here stemming from some aspect of their identity, I want to apologize on behalf of the institution and assure you of our commitment to working to make it better.
Our work on diversity, equity, and inclusion at Landon is not new, but I am excited and proud to say we are engaging in it now in a way that is more focused and intentional than has been done before. I understand and share the sense of urgency that many feel about this, and while I know that we will not find solutions to every diversity and inclusion issue overnight, I also know that we – the Board, the faculty and staff, and I – are all committed to engaging in it in both in the immediate and long term. We also need the engagement of the broader community of families and alumni to make this work. Our goal is to seize upon this moment to improve and build-in enduring systems that will ensure that issues of equity and inclusion are an institutionalized part of how we do things, of how we evaluate our program, and of how we make decisions.
All of these steps are efforts to respond to the broader calls to conscience to do our part not only to advance the causes of equity, anti-racism, and racial justice, but also to ensuring that all community members feel included and at home at Landon. It is work that enables us to live into and up to our collective potential as a human institution focused on providing young men an education that develops in them understanding, empathy, belonging, respect, and the moral courage to speak to these issues in a way that will make our world a better place.
This is how we live out our mission, as we seek to ensure that each Landon Bear experiences the school – both during their time as students and throughout their lives as alums – as a place that is their own.
Dear Landon Community,
I write today to share the news that our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Joe Canty, has taken on an exciting new role as Head of School at Carolina International School in North Carolina, joining the large group of Landon former faculty who have moved on to lead schools and moving Joe much closer to his extended family. I know you join me in extending to Joe congratulations as well as thanks for the work he has done here at Landon.
Joe joined us as our first official Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion two years ago, coming from Cheshire Academy where he had served as Dean of Students. Since then has worked tirelessly to build community and advance awareness and programming related not just to enhancing and appreciating the diversity of our community, but also to attending to efforts to promote genuine belonging, build relationships, and advance our core value of respect.
Joe has also helped to lay the ground work over the last year for the DEI action plan that our Board and its DEI Task Force will be advancing this summer and fall in fulfillment of our strategic plan. I am grateful to current/alumni parent and Trustee Steve Jones for taking on the mantel of leading this Task Force. Please plan on hearing more about their work in the coming months and on engaging in the process they roll out.
We will be launching a national search for Mr. Canty’s replacement this summer, and in the meantime will be bringing a different approach to our stewardship of DEI work across the school this year, with Divisional DEI coordinators identified to serve as leaders and touch points for this work in their respective divisions. These DEI coordinators will also work together as part of a new internal Diversity and Community Committee, which will include both faculty and admin leaders, to coordinate and oversee ongoing professional development, programming, and conversations related to DEI throughout the school in the near term.
Never before in recent memory has this work been more crucial and, based on the impassioned engagement of the full faculty and staff yesterday in virtual meetings about DEI work and the call to engage in honest conversations about race and equity, I am at once inspired and hopeful about the work our teacher-coach-mentors will be doing on this front to supportively engage our Bears and one another – whether in person or virtually – this year.
Dear Landon Community,
I typically find myself writing at this time of year to celebrate another year of fine work here at Landon and to thank departing faculty. And while this year has been anything but typical, with all the difficulties that the current pandemic has brought to us, we find perhaps even more to honor and recognize this year, with the remarkable pivot to online school by faculty and students alike.
That letter I will still write. But it is not what I write about today. Today I write with a heavy heart as I again extend words of support and share reflections on the state of race dynamics that we have been watching play out across the country on the heels of the senseless killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. These killings and the terrible persistence of racial violence leave us disheartened and angry and perhaps even fearful or hopeless.
As I have discussed these events with many at school and contemplated the protests across the country, I feel deep sadness for our communities and concern for our Landon families, and more specifically, for our families of African descent whom I know these events impact in a different, more profound, and, indeed, frightening way. I write to express solidarity right now with all persons of color in the Landon community and to say I am thinking about you and wishing to you, and all Landon community members, courage and hope. And I would ask that we do what we can right now to look out for and care for one another.
Earlier this year, I went with the sophomore class to the Museum of African American History and Culture, and in recent days I keep hearing in my head the words of Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, a recording of whose famous comment plays in one part of the museum: “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Certainly, that is a sentiment playing out right now among Americans of color — exhaustion at being treated as other or lesser, fatigue at living in fear and being debased.
So how do we respond? How do we process the persistence of racially motivated violence? What do we as parents say to our children? What do we say to our fellow Landon Bears – especially those who may have black or brown skin and who, for no other reason than that, are feeling “sick and tired” right now? How do we support one another and effect change?
pretend to have answers. But I do know we start by standing together, with and for one another, and standing actively against bigotry and racism and hate. We start by embracing the endless hope Dr. King spoke of in his 1964 Nobel Prize speech, when he said: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.” And we start by striving to understand how others are feeling, by talking with and, more importantly, listening to and supporting one another.
At graduation three years ago, I referenced John Donne’s famous “Meditation 17” – a poem that Donne wrote while recovering from an epidemic illness in 1623. This is an interesting thing to note given not only that we are in the midst of this pandemic but also that it is disproportionately impacting Black and Latino communities, reflecting again the systemic inequities undergirding the frustrations that are now being given voice. At that time in the early 17th century, a church bell was rung or “tolled” when a person died to let the community know that someone had been lost. The poem – which to me has always been a powerful statement of our common humanity, our human frailty, and perhaps even our shared brokenness – ends with the famous lines:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in Mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.
And that is where we find ourselves today. There is no need to ask for whom any bell or shout or cry is tolling. We need not ask if it rings for Mr. Floyd, Mr. Arbery, or countless others. The answer is it rings for all of them. And because of that, it rings for all of us. For their deaths lessen us, lessen our communities, lessen our trust in one another, lessen our belief in equality and in ethical principles, lessen our hope for King’s “bright daybreak.” All of us are diminished by the injustices that leads one person to be more vulnerable simply because of the color of his or her skin. It rings for all of us.
This past Sunday, I sat watching mass online in my living room with the thoughts of the violence from the previous evening in my mind, and I was struck by the relevant nature of the readings I was hearing. For they spoke of relationship and of understanding one another and of the ability to communicate with those different from us and of the interconnected nature of our existence. They articulated an aspirational hope for a better world, a hope I think many find themselves feeling right now.
Which leads us to this moment, wherein there is something of, as I heard one speaker put it, “a personal and spiritual accounting” for each of us. Meaning, as I see it, we oughtn’t do nothing. I share my personal thoughts on this perhaps as a reminder of the accountability to and for one another that we might now show as members of the Landon community. This is a moment when the brotherhood of which we talk so proudly should mean something. Certainly, as a place rooted in the core value of respect, Landon stands against bigotry, racism, and any acts that hurt, denigrate, or objectify another. So let us say so. Let us reach out to and extend words of care for one another – especially to those who may be feeling particular, personal hurt at this moment.
We exist to educate our young men about certain high-minded principles and the need to have the moral courage to stand up for them. And right now, we want not only to be that place, but also to be a source of healing for members of our community who are hurting – a place where all Landon boys, faculty, families, and alums – no matter what the color of their skin – feel at home. As we strive for these things, may we all stand together in solidarity to define and enrich what it means to be in community with and for one another.
I know more conversations will need to take place and more work will need to be done. And our goal will be to develop and host programming and discussions in the weeks and months ahead as we work to promote community, create curricular content, and offer additional resources – all this to ensure that our boys are prepared to lead and live out the honor and respect and civility embodied in our codes; to ensure they are healthy and whole; to ensure they are committed to ethical and just principles; and to ensure that they do so with caring, compassion, hope, and courage as they step into the broader world beyond Landon.
Dear Landon Community,
Today I write, at the tail end of what has been a year unlike any other, to look ahead to next year and contextualize how we are approaching it.
But before I do, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to reflect briefly on this past Monday’s Memorial Day. Certainly it had extra meaning this year as we honored not only those who have served in our armed forces but also, in a special way, those who are serving so selflessly on the front lines of the current pandemic — caring for the sick and helping to keep our communities functioning — as well as those whom we have lost to the virus.
I am also mindful that this year’s Memorial Day came amidst yet another spate of terrible, racially charged incidents around our country, from Georgia to Minnesota. I want to give voice to the deep hurt, concern, and anger these events have brought about and how they impact all members of our community.
At Landon, our core values of respect and civility call on us to stand against any event — pandemic or no pandemic — that objectifies, denigrates, or otherwise treats another human being as “other.” The heart-rending recurrence of these events is difficult for adults and students alike to process. I am saddened that the current distance learning posture has made our ability to respond to and address these things as a community much more difficult that it might otherwise be.
I thank our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Joe Canty for the steps he has been taking in recent weeks to provide opportunities for conversation and programming around these topics for students and faculty alike. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion section of BearNet includes resources that may prove helpful in addressing these situations at home, and I know we will be working to develop plans for the coming year to discuss such events in intentional and fulsome ways as we work to continue to support our families and build community at Landon.
Suffice it to say that this year’s Memorial Day was hardly a typical one, at a complex moment in our history, and there are many to remember and for many and different reasons.