From the Head of School
A Message to the Pomfret Community from Tim Richards, Head of School | June 12, 2020
Dear Members of the Pomfret School Community,
This is an important moment in our country’s history. It is also an important moment in Pomfret’s history. Much has transpired since I sent this letter on June 1. Since that date, millions of people, including many members of the Pomfret School community, have invoked their first amendment rights to free speech and to protest.
The result has been a seismic shift in the call to finally and definitively end systemic racism and privilege. We are committed to this work, work that will challenge all members of the Pomfret School Community to acknowledge a history (and a present) that has not always welcomed BIPOC students and faculty to our community equally. This change is long overdue at Pomfret School. We acknowledge our past failures and pledge to hold ourselves accountable to them moving forward.
In the past week-and-a-half alone, I have spoken with current Black students (including our incoming student body president, Michaela Nsubuga) about their concerns and suggestions, with members of the board of trustees about how they can help chart a new path forward, and with the full faculty about our responsibility to dismantle systemic racism on the Pomfret campus. We have also met with current students and members of our alumni body about their grievances and hopes for their alma mater.
Black people in this community and across the country and the globe are rightfully hurt, angry, and demanding change, change that must come now. I wish to be clear; I must become better, and we as an institution must become better, at demonstrating that Black Lives Matter at Pomfret, and we must be more intentional in our efforts to eliminate racism.
I want to thank everyone who participated in these meetings, especially our students and alumni, for having the courage to come forward and share their thoughts. I also want to thank everyone who wrote and called, as well as those who posted comments on social media. Your words and actions have made a real and lasting impression on me.
In the days and weeks ahead, our senior leadership team, including the co-directors of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office, along with members of the Pomfret Board of Trustees, will develop a diversity action plan to address some of the key issues that have surfaced over the past ten days. That action plan will focus on what we can do to become a more inclusive and explicitly anti-racist institution that fosters belonging for all members of the Pomfret community. It will also seek to find ways to more intentionally engage our BIPOC alumni, not just in this process, but in the life of the School.
Though this plan will take some time to develop, I understand and appreciate the desire for actionable change right now. In that spirit, here are some initiatives we are committing to immediately:
- We will include the co-directors of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on the senior leadership team.
- We will evaluate and improve the process we use to recruit and retain faculty of color.
- We will hold SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) training for all members of the senior leadership team this summer.
- We will implement an orientation session for new BIPOC students, facilitated by current faculty, student leaders, and alumni, starting this summer.
- We will require all student-facing employees and all students to attend microaggression and anti-racism training.
- We will continue to audit our current roster of courses to ensure all voices are represented, and will add new classes on race and diversity to our core curriculum.
- We will create and communicate a clear protocol for students and employees to report incidents of racism and/or bias to school administrators.
- We will evolve our disciplinary process to include even more restorative justice practices.
- We will clarify and strengthen our policy positions and expectations on acts of racism in our employee and student handbooks.
- We will work with the Alumni Association Executive Council to do more outreach and to create more spaces for alumni of color to connect and speak up.
In addition to these future actions, I have also received some feedback that suggests we could be doing a better job of communicating the progress we have made in recent years. I want to be unambiguously clear: any recounting of past action or current practices is simply a point of information, not a declaration that we are doing everything we need to do. These are some of the positive strides we have made in the last nine years, and most within the last five.
All of these steps have provided incremental change, but clearly the time has come for more direct action. Moving forward, our focus now turns to developing the aforementioned plan of action in collaboration with students, alumni, parents, faculty, and friends of the School.
Our recently adopted institutional values — Community. Growth. Integrity. — are abundantly clear. This is what we believe:
We care for ourselves, the people around us, and the community in which we live. We come together to better address challenges and learn from each other. We champion diversity and inclusion, seeking to understand and be understood.
We thrive on creativity, innovation, and change. We inspire others with our engagement, determination, and optimism. We take calculated risks and rebound from failure with renewed energy.
We treat people with respect and compassion. We speak and act with sincerity, honesty, and civility. We dare to hold ourselves and others accountable to the values of Pomfret School.
Finally, and critically, we must also recognize the centrality of this work to Pomfret’s mission, which calls on us “to prepare students for college and to lead and learn in a diverse and increasingly interconnected society.” Now more than ever we must be accountable to our mission and our values. As we move forward, I invite and encourage you to partner with us. Send us your thoughts. Volunteer your time. Help us build the kind of school every community member can be proud of.
Head of School