In the past two weeks, I met with a group of students who shared their frustration and anger at the decision to hold school the day after Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nations. Some students also expressed disappointment with the all school assembly on Friday to celebrate the team’s win. It was clear that the decision hurt members of the ISD community and left many people feeling disrespected.
In my discussions with the students and other members of the community, I realized my lack of awareness of the cultural significance of the event negatively led to my decision to hold school that day. In addition, the students saw this event as a continuation of what they say is the school’s lack of respect for Senegalese holidays. Also, the group planning the school celebrations needs to be larger and include students. From my conversations, I learned that I need to expand my circle to make sure I am hearing from a wider group of community members particularly students.
Moving forward, I will be making the following changes in my practices and recommendations to the Board of Trustees.
1. I will create a Director’s Advisory Committee (DAC) for students. The purpose of the DAC will be to improve communication between the students and the Director. The DAC will have two students from elementary, middle, and high school and will meet with the Director every four to six weeks. Any student will be invited to submit questions or comments to the DAC for discussion through their student representative. Minutes of the discussion will be shared with all students. The students will apply to be on the DAC and the students will be selected by a team of school counselors and members of the Diversity and Inclusion Team.
One of the first agenda items will be a discussion on how the school calendar is developed and how the students can influence the Board’s decision when they approve the calendar.
We will start the DAC for students in March and Sandy McKenzie, the incoming Director, has committed to having a DAC for students next year as well.
2. The Board of Directors and the Administration will be looking at the Board policies related to school holidays as well as how the decision to close school for special events is made.
3. There will be a standing agenda item on the weekly Leadership Team meeting to look ahead at both events in Dakar and Senegal that could affect the school. The Leadership Team is comprised of a diverse team of administrators from all parts of the school.
I apologize to anyone in the ISD community who was hurt by the decision to hold school the day after Senegal’s victory. I have also apologized in person to the school’s support staff.
I am committed to improving my awareness and the Administrator’s awareness of cultural issues including celebrating Senegalese holidays. I also commit to increasing communication with the students and their involvement in planning school events and decisions that impact them. The Board and the Administration is committed to continuing to build an inclusive community that shows respect and awareness for all cultures as we continue to grow.