Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the sixth in our series about the Eagle Rock strategic plan — Vision 2020. Below, Jeff Liddle, head of school, shares his insights and updates on our commitment to improving diversity and inclusion at Eagle Rock. If you’re interested in learning about the overall aim of the plan, please read Jeff’s first post in this series: News From The Rock: Vision 2020.
It’s no secret that inequity is a major issue in the United States. Clearly schools must think differently about how they recruit, select, develop and support staff and how they create inclusive environments that serve all young people. We count ourselves among those schools and are therefore also deepening our journey to become a more inclusive and equitable community. While cross-cultural understanding and living in respectful harmony with others have always been Eagle Rock values, our community has recognized that we have room to grow here.
In our Strategic Plan, Vision 2020, we committed to building a more inclusive culture and increasing the diversity of our staff. It is our intention to be a model organization in this regard, through long term, focused, intentional planning.
Recognizing the benefits of diversity and inclusion
Eagle Rock, which strives to be a model inclusive organization, serves a diverse student body with a diverse staff. It is our intention that staff and students, policies, practices, and programs all align toward the objective of contributing to a more just and equitable society. We are committed to diversity and inclusion for many reasons, including:
- Inclusive schools improve student outcomes and experiences.
- Research shows diversity in teachers and role models (our staff) improve student experiences and outcomes.
- Diversity brings a broader range of perspectives and ideas.
- Diversity improves the cultural competence of our staff, which is important in nurturing inclusion while opening students to the expanded possibilities and opportunities inherent in a more diverse population.
- Cultural competence, a product of living in a diverse and skillful community, remains with our students after they graduate, when they enter a world where being a leader and participant demands that they interact effectively with people who are sometimes very different from themselves.
- Cultural competence is integral to practicing Leadership For Justice and being an Engaged Global Citizen — two of our graduation requirements.
- Inclusive workplaces improve staff satisfaction and retention.
- Diversity among skilled educators improves student outcomes in public secondary education.
- And finally, it is just the right thing to do for all Eagle Rock community members.
Increasing staff diversity
In an effort to align work with the part of Vision 2020 that speaks to building a more inclusive culture and increasing the diversity of our staff, we have been focused on attracting and supporting a diverse composition of staff to serve students best. While our process is broadly inclusive, it is specifically focused on enhancing ethnic and racial diversity. We have adopted recruitment and hiring policies that are designed to attract a more diverse pool of highly qualified applicants, and we are optimistic that with a concerted and focused effort, we will start seeing our staff be more representative of our student population.
Historically, many of our staff members have been hired out of our pool of Public Allies Fellowship graduates. For this reason, we intend to focus heavily on diversifying our pool of Fellowship applicants. Diversifying our Public Allies Fellow cohort will serve four distinct purposes:
Purpose One: it will provide an avenue for diverse fellows to enter the teaching and youth services profession and get a year of powerful, relevant experience.
Purpose Two: It will diversify the pool of potential applicants for our full time positions.
Purpose Three: It will provide a diverse cohort of role models for our students.
Purpose Four: It will infuse our curriculum and community with a more diverse set of lived experiences.
Enhancing inclusion and cultural competency
At this point in our update, it’s important to point out that staff diversity is not our sole priority. We are also committed to strengthening our culture of inclusion and our collective cultural competence in order to support equity for all. To this end, our recent progress includes the following:
- We have engaged the support of Jones & Associates Consulting and are working closely with Stephen Jones to build a more culturally competent organization. An Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center staff member has attended Jones’ Strategic Diversity Institute in an effort to more fully integrate structural improvements that will support our efforts. As a result of our work with Dr. Jones and his organization, we are adapting the following 8-Point best-in-class approach to diversity and inclusion:
- Visible Institutional Commitment: Institutional commitment demonstrated through an approach driven from the board level and by the Head of School.
- Inclusive School Culture: Physical school environment, school traditions and scheduling are reviewed through a diversity lens.
- Diversity Leadership Infrastructure: Leadership drives culture change supported at the Board, staff, parents, and student levels.
- Diversity Representation: A focus on numbers as representation of ethnic, religious, socio-economic diversity at the Board, administration, staff, students, and families levels.
- Student Development: Students are equipped with the cultural competency skills to be effective 21st century global citizens.
- Multicultural Curriculum: A focus on multicultural education.
- Cultural Competency: Developing the knowledge, skills, and ability to support the board, administrators, staff, students, parents, and families to culturally competent leaders, educators, and community members.
- Parent / Alumni / Community Engagement: Equipping the extended school community with skills to effectively develop cultural competency.
- We have implemented orientation and ongoing support for our Public Allies Fellows as they integrate into the Eagle Rock community. Under the leadership of the director of our Public Allies program, Christi Kelston, and with previous support from former Fellow, Kelsey Baun, we are making meaningful progress on attracting and retaining Public Allies Fellows who represent the diversity of our student body.
- Led by Professional Development Center Associate, Sarah Bertucci and former Public Allies Fellow, Maya Edery and a class of Eagle Rock students, we hosted educators from around the country to participate in the Growing Equity Together Project. This class and the educator conference were all part of Sarah’s Deeper Learning and Equity Fellowship.
- 2015/2016 Public Allies Teaching Fellow In Outdoor Education, Monserrat Alvarez compiled a comprehensive diversity and inclusion handbook and curriculum guide for our outdoor education program.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention that this most recent progress is built on a tremendous amount of grassroots work that many Eagle Rock staff members have piloted over the years. From full community meetings, affinity groups, and various trainings, to staff book groups and countless 1:1 conversations, much has been done to set the stage for a more integrated, focused, long term building of an equitable, just, diverse, and inclusive culture at Eagle Rock.
While this work is not always easy, it is critically important, and we look forward to updating you as we progress toward achieving these objectives.
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About the Author: Jeff Liddle is the head of school at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center — a nationally recognized, tuition-free residential high school in Estes Park, Colo. The school offers a second chance to students who have not been able to succeed in a traditional high school setting, and a professional development center that supports high schools nationally in re-engaging youth in their own education. As head of school, Jeff is responsible for leading Eagle Rock’s school community and its leadership team; interfacing with the organization’s board of directors; and overseeing the vision and financial health of the organization.