Diversity and Inclusion

Racism is deep and widespread in society. It dehumanizes and divides people in ways that hurt us all. Mirroring much of the dialogue and action witnessed across our nation, Waldorf schools are undergoing an intense and overdue period of reckoning. A moment of reckoning that calls on us to:

  • Confront the specter of White Supremacy now exposed more regularly in a wide array of social life.
  • Critically question the subtleties, silences, and absences in policies, structures, and practices that traditionally shape the dynamics that shape our communities.
  • Reevaluate the pedagogical legacy of Waldorf education and Rudolf Steiner in a way that meets and reflects all families. 

In this context, The Waldorf School of Philadelphia, in its 25th year, stands at a crossroads. One, thankfully, that encourages new actions that favor peace and justice. In order for our school and Waldorf schools across the country to get better, we must all work from our own spheres of influence to take new actions that favor peace and justice, undoing racism and creating a community that is anti-oppressive. 

We strive for a community where all students feel nurtured and loved deeply enough to develop their talents in the fullness of their humanity. We want our families to feel both supported by the school and connected favorably to each other. Again, we are sorry for the hurt and harm families have experienced, and continue to work hard to heal those wounds. Action must take the form of mindful shifts in policy and practice. 

In June 2020, Concerned Parents of Color trusted our institution enough to openly speak against patterns that hurt our community. Since June, we have been working to lay a foundation for anti-oppressive teaching, learning, and leading. Prioritizing community reflections on undoing racism as a mindset, white fragility as a process, and anti-racism as a practice informs our institutional approach to this work today. Over this summer, the board, faculty, and staff have been working to meet the recommendations of these families to build a more equitable school community.  

At these crossroads, it is without question that school support for meaningful action is steadfast. We continue to recognize that racism and white supremacy anywhere (including within our school) is a crisis of epidemic proportions. And while we are working diligently to safely re-open the school and manage the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also been working equally as hard to make sure that families and children of color feel safe, supported, and included within this community. In this moment, we must directly face these dual pandemics: COVID-19 and racism. We can, and we will do both.  

We are urgently addressing the anti-oppression work facing our community as an institution, graciously informed by the experiences of Concerned Parents of Color. We also understand that when it comes to this work, because of the cost of getting it wrong, one can never do enough fast enough. We are grateful to families of color who have continued to participate in this process and encourage us to do better. We recognize and honor the additional emotional labor this can take -- please know that we continue to work thoughtfully on the ten recommendations named in the June letter. As reported below, we continue to make progress:  

Recommendation  Status
1 Retaliation protections for families and staff who speak out against racism. A Non-Retaliation Policy was implemented in September 2020.
2 An accountability plan for addressing discrimination complaints or concerns. A Racism, Discrimination, and Bias Incident Protocol was approved and implemented in September 2020 and continues to be refined based on feedback from our community.
3 A sustainability plan for retaining families of color. A comprehensive DEI-centered admissions strategy, including a sustainability plan for retaining families of color, is being developed and will be in place by the end of April 2021.
4 Adding diversity, equity, and inclusion practices to the teacher and faculty chair evaluations.   DEI practices will be incorporated into faculty and Faculty Chair evaluations. The new assessment tool will be used to assess and support all of our faculty this school year, starting in March 2021.
5 The hiring of a private independent consultant who can serve to facilitate accountability circles and address the ongoing need for education and capacity building of staff and others in the community (person must be certified and trained on issues of race and social justice). Following a comprehensive search, Julian McNeil was hired as our DEI Consultant in September 2020.
6 Hire a Diversity and Inclusion Director to provide ongoing support, management, and training for faculty, staff, parents, and the community. The search for our school’s inaugural DEI Director has been initiated. Mr. McNeil has helped to craft the job description and provided the school with a recruitment plan. The job posting can be found on the employment page of our website. Please consider supporting our school’s search by sharing the job posting with your networks. See the related update for more information about this action item.
7 Create transparent standards for how harmful incidents will be addressed. A Racism, Discrimination, and Bias Incident Protocol was approved and implemented in September 2020 and continues to be refined based on feedback from our community.
8 Teachers/FDG/Administrators should have evaluations reviewed and approved by the board. Board will form a personnel committee at their February board meeting that will support the review of employee evaluations.
9 A change of the board structure so the board supervises and provides oversight and accountability to the faculty chair. Board is currently reviewing proposed amendments to our organizational structure that will result in oversight and accountability. If approved, the Board will share details with the community in February 2021.    
10 A conflict of interest policy that requires all board and staff to state in writing any loyalty binds or dual relationships which will result in subsequent recusal from having the power to make decisions in matters of conflicting interest. A Conflict of Interest Policy was approved and implemented in July 2020.

We will continue to keep you updated as we progress. We will also share all new procedures and policies in the parent portal. Please join us in this work. Let us heal our community, and work to undo racism together. Email board@phillywaldorf.com to find out about opportunities to participate.  

This letter was written to the community at the Waldorf School of Philadelphia on August 19th, 2020, with gratitude from, Theresa Kaskey (President, WSP Board of Trustees); Brendon Jobs (Vice President, WSP Board of Trustees); Anthony deGuzman (Executive Director); Kelly Beekman (Faculty Chair); Zdenka Gottwaldova, Eniko Imredy, Kasea Myers, Nicole Rodriguez, Anna Ziegner (Faculty Development Group)

The recommendation table was updated on January 25th, 2021 by Theresa Kaskey (President, WSP Board of Trustees); Anthony deGuzman (Executive Director); and Kelly Beekman (Faculty Chair).

Our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

The Waldorf School of Philadelphia actively encourages and supports diversity and inclusion in our community. We strive to deepen our understandings of each other and the world as they relate to and are reflected through heritage and areas of social justice. We welcome people from (but not limited to) all races, gender, identities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, ages, and religions. Our community works to embrace and deepen our own understanding of both our strengths, which support our goals for the inclusion of all, as well as the challenges hindering our progress towards these goals.

In addition to our stated commitment to diversity, we have also adopted the position statements of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) and adhere to the Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS) Non-Discriminatory Policy as to Students.

Anti-Racism Resources for Parents

Many parents are looking for resources for talking about racial justice at this tragic time in our country. Here are some resources that we will keep updating or visit our page Anti-Racism Resources for Parents.

“Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Racism”
“They’re not too young to talk about race!”

“Talking with Young Children About Race”

A resource for talking about race with young children

Join our Work and Become Involved

Join our Diversity and Inclusion Committee. To contact the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at diversity@phillywaldorf.com.

   

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fund

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion designation of the Annual Fund is an unrestricted gift to allow our school to expand and evolve diversity, equity, and inclusion programming and services. Make a gift to the Annual Fund 2020-2021 today by visiting phillywaldorf.com/give