InCommon September Update

InCommon September Update

Dear Members of the Commonwealth Community,

We, members of InCommon, write to update the community on our work since our inception in June 2020. InCommon was formed, shortly after the submission of the petition signed by more than 300 alumni, current students, parents, and current and former staff and teachers, to lead the way in addressing the concerns about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Commonwealth. Our group is John Dowd (Board Treasurer), Janique Parrott-Gaffney '04 (Alumna and Trustee), Mónica Schilder (Spanish Teacher and DEI leader), Sophia Meas (Director of College Counseling), and Rebecca Jackman (Assistant Head of School). We work collaboratively with Bill Wharton (Head of School) and Therese Hendricks (Chair of the Board of Trustees), who fully support and are keen to engage in the upcoming DEI work at Commonwealth.

We are deeply thankful to the young alumni and current students—Mosammat Faria Afreen '16, Iman Ali '18, Gueinah Carlie Blaise '16, Tristan Edwards '18, Kimberly Hoang '21, Alexis Domonique Mitchell '16, Ryan Phan '22, Alan Plotz '21, and Tarang Saluja '18—who stepped forward to press Commonwealth to take strategic action. The petition, the painful experiences shared, and subsequent discussions speak to the need for greater investment in and commitment to DEI at Commonwealth. It is critical that these efforts and initiatives are sustainable and long-lasting, so in the last few months, we have worked to determine how to move forward. 

Our main priorities this summer have been listening to constituents about their experiences and selecting a DEI consultant to guide the work during the 2020–2021 school year. We have spoken to the young alums and current students who wrote the petition, current students, and members of the Class of 1970. We identified the following tasks as priorities for the consultant:

  1. Conduct a listening tour to hear from students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, and trustees to determine the community's specific needs.
  2. Support the faculty and staff Equity and Anti-Racism Task Force (EAR) in assessing the culture, curriculum, and teaching methods and making needed adjustments.
  3. Provide data and recommendations to the Board and incoming Head of School to aid in the future hiring and scope of a Director of DEI.   

Our process to select a consultant was strategic and in depth. After reviewing a list of 80 individuals and organizations in The Boston Foundation directory, which provide racial equity capacity building services, in addition to several referrals, we contacted nine consultants and interviewed four. Out of the four, we selected two to submit a proposal based on their experience with consulting in independent schools and their ability to support Commonwealth in the specific areas that we outlined. After reading the proposals, we held the second round of interviews and conducted reference checks before making our final decision. 

We are pleased to announce that we have selected Nishant Mehta to consult with Commonwealth for the 2020–2021 school year. Nishant brings experience in DEI and school administration, having served as a Head of School for the past seven years. Nishant's experience in DEI is extensive: he has served on the faculty of the NAIS Diversity Leadership Institute and Student Diversity Leadership Conference. He has co-chaired the NAIS People of Color Conference twice; served on the NAIS Board; and he has mentored, coached, and worked with schools, heads, boards, and communities nationally for almost fifteen years. Nishant now works with schools full time, supporting their efforts to develop cultures of inclusion and belonging for all, and address current or past inequities in policies, programs, and practices. Nishant will be supported by Staci Williams Steeley, an experienced independent school leader, consultant, and current Board Chair of an independent school.

The work is just beginning. Now that we have selected consultants, the next step is for them to start engaging with members of the community. Nishant and Staci will kick off their work by interviewing key stakeholders in the community and then will embark on a listening tour in the early fall. 

InCommon will have a role in the upcoming Head of School interviews and will probe specifically each candidate's experience in and commitment to DEI matters. 

As the work progresses, we will post a monthly update on the school website to keep all members of the community abreast of the progress. 

We, along with the school leadership, are committed to DEI. We look forward to partnering with Nishant and Staci and the community to foster a more inclusive Commonwealth for all members. We appreciate your continued support. Please do not hesitate to contact us at incommon@commschool.org with questions.

Sincerely,

John Dowd, Janique Parrott-Gaffney '04, Mónica Schilder, Sophia Meas, Rebecca Jackman 
InCommon