It has been a year since we assumed our roles as Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement and DEI Consultant. Unquestionably, Ransom Everglades School is not yet where we want to be, but as John Newton once wrote, we are certainly not where we used to be.
This has been a year of recovery and growth. As former members of the Anti-Racism Task Force, created during the incomparable summer of 2020, we used the task force’s recommendations to ground our endeavor. At the start of the school year, we had intentional discussions with administrators, faculty, trustees and students to identify our school’s immediate needs. The fall semester focused on recruitment and retention. In January’s Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement Report, we announced to the school’s board of trustees the expansion of RE feeder schools to attract more students of color in the local Miami community and the creation of the RE Teaching Fellowship program to assist in the recruitment of faculty of color.
We established a student-monitoring and advising program to enable us to provide immediate academic-support services to students in need. We initiated a free tutoring program for students receiving financial aid and established a Helping Hands Emergency Fund for students who need assistance in buying small items, such as textbooks. We hosted several “firsts,” such as the welcome reception for our Black families and a monthly get-together for our faculty of color. We centered our work on addressing our community’s most immediate needs.
The winter and spring were about transparency and community-building. We invited Jessica Lam to train our faculty in LGBTQ+ issues. We worked with an RE data scientist to assess metrics of performance and inclusion of students of color. We commissioned Carney Sandoe to conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (SWOT) Analysis with the faculty and staff. We wrote an inclusion policy designed to provide a formal channel to quickly open an investigation if a member of our community has been the victim of any unfair act based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or some other protected status.
“With the support of the administration, our office has become integrated into the critical decision-making processes related to the employment of faculty and the admission and retention of students of color.”
Wendell Graham ’74 and Victoria Beatty ’00
Our community events were particularly notable. In conjunction with the chair of the board of trustees, we hosted a reception with the advancement office and the first alumni reception for Black RE alumni. We invited David Lawrence, former publisher of the Miami Herald
and founder of the Children’s Trust, to speak to an all-school assembly; we worked with the Black Students Association to host Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones, who also spoke to students during a school assembly (see page 32). We’ve come to learn David Lawrence’s speech at RE has been preserved not only in our Ransom Everglades archives but also by Vital Speeches of the Day, an organization formed in 1934 that publishes the most salient speeches on the most important issues of our time.
With the support of administration, our office has become integrated into the critical decision-making processes related to the employment of faculty and the admission and retention of students of color. We participated in 90 percent of the interviews of new faculty, assisted in the creation of individualized learning plans for students in academic trouble, helped construct a summer enrichment program for students in need of additional resources, and expanded our free tutoring services for students in need of additional help. By the end of the 2021-22 school year, Ransom Everglades increased the faculty of color by six and our Black student population by 20. We have purchased books for students and provided free tutoring services from current RE faculty to more than 15 students.
We did a lot. But there is so much more. This fall, we have begun rolling out affinity groups, and creating a summer academic enrichment program teaching critical skills such as writing along with subjects like algebra and biology. We are always expanding our tutoring services to incorporate more subjects and expanding our recruitment of faculty and students of color. This year we are also incorporating more service-oriented learning projects for the school, particularly during Black History Month.
To say it has been a pleasure would be an understatement. This work would not have been possible without the complete support and backing of the trustees, administration, faculty, staff and alumni. So, we press on … thankful for our past successes, but with a hopeful expectation for the future.