September 5, 2018
by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School
“Each individual piece of our mosaic is essential to forming the beautiful whole. Our diversity in age, cultures, talents, interests, and personalities paints an array of colors that make our mosaic vibrant.”
As quoted from the introduction of the 2017-18 school yearbook, the yearbook committee presented a powerful visual image that so eloquently captures the essence of our school’s commitment to equity and inclusion. The students went on to describe each student as unique, their own piece of a beautiful mosaic, that when fitted together, form an exquisite piece of art.
As I look across the cafeteria at the faces of our Lower School students, I can’t help but think of them as a beautiful mosaic. Just over 30% of our student body identifies as persons of color and there are many other manifestations of identity that cannot always be noticed simply by looking at someone. Race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, ability, world view, socio-economic class, language, immigration status all bring a richness to our school community.
The school’s commitment to equity and inclusion is an integral part of our mission statement: We teach students to think independently, communicate effectively, and act with respect and integrity in a diverse community that models intellectual ambition, global responsibility, and the joy of learning. This commitment is not new to MPA but was a core principle of the founding of the school in 1982.
Since that time, we have continually evolved and reimagined what that means in light of today’s reality and the emerging needs of our students. For example, MPA was one of the first independent schools in the nation to create a non-discrimination employment policy based on sexual orientation. MPA was a leader nationally several years ago when we formulated a series of guidelines to welcome and respect transgender students and their families.
As our nation, state, and school become more diverse, we renew our commitment to equity and inclusion by striving to become a culturally competent community. In particular, the faculty, staff, and board have been on a multi-year journey to better understand how race and ethnicity impact our school culture and how we can become even more welcoming, respectful, and inclusive–a community that truly values all members and validates who they are and what they bring to the community.
Before students arrived this year, the entire faculty and staff read the book, A Good Time for the Truth, over the summer. A Good Time for the Truth, is an “anthology of stories written by people of color living in Minnesota that provides a multifaceted, dazzling view of life in the state beyond the stereotypes, under Minnesota Nice, and into the possibilities for our future.” After discussing the book in small groups, we loaded onto buses, traveling to the Minnesota History Center to experience an exhibit on the perspectives of Minnesotans from Somalia and their contribution in enriching our statewide culture.
Looking ahead to this year, the focus of the professional development of our faculty and staff will be equity and inclusion. Over the course of the year, nearly 28 hours will be dedicated to cultural competency with the guidance of outside consultants. Just last week, equity and inclusion was the primary topic of the Board of Trustees annual retreat. There will also be a series of parent education sessions throughout the year. The Administrative Team will also be looking at procedural and structural obstacles to equity and inclusion implicitly embedded in our hiring practices and decision-making.
The school’s commitment to equity and inclusion is on the minds of our community. Diversity is mentioned over fifty times in our ISACS accreditation self-study report. With 30% of our student body comprised of students of color, MPA strives to live up to the image of a mosaic of our students and families. At MPA, our differences do not divide us but rather connect us and together presents a beautiful mosaic to behold. If one tile, on piece of glass is missing, the work of art is incomplete.