A Message to Parents, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Students, and the entire Country Day community from the Charlotte Country Day School Board of Trustees
It has never been the practice of the Board of Trustees to address this community directly. That’s the role of the Head of School and Administrative Leadership Team. But, just as Mark Reed shared last week, these are not ordinary times. Remaining silent is not an option. We—as a board—want to speak directly to this community.
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. The names of these most recent unjustifiable deaths remind us painfully of the racial injustice and racism in our country. We are sickened that events like these keep happening. Our nation, our state, our city, and our very own Country Day families are dealing with deep-seated pain, fear, and much sadness.
Over the past two weeks, the board has heard things about Country Day that are disheartening. We acknowledge that our efforts to build a more inclusive community have not always been successful. We can see that both implicit bias and explicit racism exist in our country, including at Country Day. To our Black students, alumni, faculty, staff, families, and friends, we apologize, and we are listening. We want to be very clear that we stand against racism, and we stand for equity and inclusion in our school community. We also acknowledge that actions speak louder than words. As a board, we stand committed to not only listen to you but be better for you.
Long before the collective awareness and support that we now see in our nation, Mark Reed and this leadership team made many significant strides toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. Over the last ten years, the school has increased its faculty of color significantly, including important leadership roles of the head of school, curriculum director, athletic director, deans, and the alumni director. The Board of Trustees is comprised of 23% people of color. We have increased our enrollment of students of color to 20% overall, and 27% of newly enrolled students this year were students of color. We also created a Board Diversity Initiative four years ago, allocating $1.4 million per year to recruiting, retaining, and supporting diverse students. The school has added significant diversity, equity, and inclusion programming to its curriculum. We encourage you to visit the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion website for more information and specific data.
The board fully supports Mark Reed’s leadership efforts, and we are proud of this progress. However, together with the administration, we understand that it is not enough. We collectively acknowledge the privilege that often divides our community, and the need to build a stronger culture of racial inclusion at Country Day. We also recognize the urgent need to be better at making Charlotte Country Day School a fully inclusive place for all students.
Changing these behaviors will only work if we, as members of the Country Day community, accept the charge to be more empathetic and introspective about our individual actions and words in school and outside of school. Our school is confronting a chronic, national systemic problem, but our community of families can be a force for change, to be more intentional about anti-racist behaviors, and to collectively build a culture of inclusivity. We need to be better if we expect our children to be better.
As we look forward to the next chapter of Country Day’s focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, we steadfastly support Mark Reed and this leadership team in their efforts. As we partner with the school, we have organized the Board of Trustees actions and plans to date around three pillars and remain open to additional work and possibilities that have not yet been identified.
- Listen. We are convening people from throughout our community involving a variety of voices, including students and alumni, in thoughtful conversations to understand where we can improve. The school has already begun some of this work, which will also include engaging a third-party consultant to guide our efforts.
- Understand and acknowledge. We will do extended work focused on the diversity, equity, and inclusion challenges that we face. This work will require honest, transparent discussions and will be led by a third-party facilitator. This work will begin immediately.
- Renew our commitment and act. We recognize the need to rethink and renew our commitment to the principles found in our Affirmation of Community. A special committee of the board will take on this work and will elevate our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion as we begin school-wide, long term strategic planning in the Fall. We also will include feedback and direction from our students and alumni in this work.
- Report back. The school will report back to the community, outlining their findings, and the steps the school intends to take.
We know it will not be easy. We know it will not be fast. The cost is too great to not make these commitments and act with urgency. As the school moves forward to address the inequities that exist for our Black community members, we know we are making our whole community stronger.
2019–20 Board of Trustees
Scott R. Stevens, Chair, David M. Benson '85, Vice Chair, Edison Cassels '87, Vice Chair, Todd A. Gorelick '82, Vice Chair, Dr. Ameesha P. Kansupada, Vice Chair, Walker L. Poole, Vice Chair, A. Wellford Tabor Sr., Vice Chair, Andrew W. Tate, Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. Adelle Anthony-Williams, Howard C. Bissell, Dr. Lauren I. Browne, Christina N. Byron, George S. Dewey IV '90, Ronald E. Eliasek, Jr., Alex D. Funderburg, Kenneth V. Garcia, Amanda S. Houser, Shanon Jones, J. Scott Mattei, Leigh F. Moran, Mary Claudia Belk Pilon '92, Steven L. Purdy '87, Sally Cannon Saussy '67, Stoney D. Sellars, R. Glenn Sherrill Jr. '89, Stephenson P. Shuford, Catherine S. Stempien, Dr. Lisa M. Toppin, Jennifer Ward, William H. Zimmern '95