Dear Good Shepherd Families,
"Our Future Is Strong" is a series of brief, informative emails/posts which began on April 30, 2020 to keep the community informed about our preparations for our return to campus. We plan to return in late July and early August with on-campus summer camps.
For this sixth edition, we will review some of the information received from the back-to-school parent survey. We will also discuss the important work we are doing around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Hot Topics from Parent Survey
Thank you for taking the time to respond to the back-to-school survey in the fifth edition of “Our Future Is Strong.” It was heartening to read so many positive responses about our research, plans, and communications as we make decisions about our unprecedented school year. We also appreciate the questions you left for us, as we want to continue to communicate relevant information to you. In reviewing the comments, there were a handful of questions you consistently asked:
Masks - Will students and teachers be required to wear masks? Are face shields acceptable alternatives?
Social distancing - How will this work with young children? What will happen when students leave the classroom?
Exposure - Will parents know if someone has been exposed? Will the entire school temporarily close for one illness?
Rhythm of the school day - Will there be too much time in one place? What are the plans for recess, PE, and specials? Will our children still have the opportunity to be active?
Distance learning - How will distance learning differ from last year? Will I be able to opt-in to distance learning if my child needs to stay home due to exposure?
Screening - What will the school do to make sure students and teachers are healthy prior to arriving on campus?
Cleaning - How will the school keep our campus clean and the buildings healthy?
Your questions will be addressed over the next few editions of “Our Future Is Strong.” Our leadership team is working closely with Dallas-area independent schools, our Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff, as well as reviewing reopening plans with guidance from the CDC, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Dallas County Health Department, and schools across the nation and the world, to create our protocols to keep our community healthy while aligning with our school environment. As you can imagine, there will be difficult decisions ahead of us. Our goal for the Good Shepherd community is to maintain an on-campus consistency for our students, families, faculty, and staff. Accomplishing this lofty goal in this uncertain time will take much effort, and much cooperation, from all of us. In making any decisions that are important to our students, our families, and our future, there will be give and take. Our students, your children, are well worth this effort!
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work
A year ago, a new position was identified to intentionally support our Episcopal identity as an inclusive community. Good Shepherd selected Mary Torres as its first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). While the position officially began July 1st, Mary was hard at work last school year engaging our board, faculty and alumni in important conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice within our school. I joined Mary at one of the first DEI workshops she attended, along with Father Mills, and last year’s Board of Trustees President Catherine Bowe. The Board of Trustees is committed to embracing and honoring diverse peoples, as well as providing room for important and, sometimes, difficult conversations so our students can become stewards for positive change.
Our first year of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work involves intentional listening to, and designing for, the needs of our Good Shepherd community which includes students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni. We will be collecting data using the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) survey from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Along with this data, we will conduct empathy interviews to seek out stories from our students and families. DEI work relies heavily on reviewing and examining systems and practices already in place which are critical to sustaining an inclusive community. Some of those areas include, but are not limited to, developing cultural artifacts, recruiting and hiring practices, communication, and curriculum. While there will be much background work happening, you and your children will notice the intentional integration of culturally sensitive literature, projects and narratives which feature and celebrate people of color.
While we know this DEI journey will be difficult and uncomfortable at times, it is a necessary one on which we must embark together. We are grateful to have Mary lead us through this vital process. Please watch for more information from the school about ways in which we are engaging in these important conversations.
Please expect the next edition in this series in two weeks, or sooner, if there is information to report. We have also posted the series on our Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage for your reference.
Together we are #gsesStrong,
Julie McLeod, Ph.D.
Head of School