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Jack Newman
Dear alumni of St. Mary's Hall and Doane Academy,

We have just concluded a momentous academic year with a series of events in recent weeks to honor our students and especially our graduates. As alumni of our school, I am sure you are interested to hear how we have navigated this challenging time, and I am thus writing to provide you with an update on our work.

First, congratulations to the class of 2020; we will forever be grateful for your resilience, positive attitude, and continued devotion to each other and to our school. We are proud to add you to our illustrious group of graduates. With our end-of-year celebrations largely behind us (but keeping in mind that we still have an outdoor graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 planned for July 25th), our thoughts here at Doane are turning to planning for the coming year. With the painful events of this spring still fresh in our mind, we recognize that we will be considering many different priorities this summer. Our planning for the reopening of school will be guided most of all by the importance of supporting the physical and emotional health of our community and the very clear mission of our school.

It is my hope to have a detailed reopening plan to share with the school community by the end of July. To achieve that goal, I have established eight planning teams, composed of members of our faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees, which are in the process of studying the impact of the pandemic on all aspects of our operations. They are processing input from a variety of sources: guidance issued by federal, state, and local health officials; the experiences of international independent schools that have already reopened; resources from our state and national independent school associations; and input from members of our community, which will include parents and students. We are cautiously optimistic that we will open our campus as scheduled for in-person learning in the fall, but the answer to this question will ultimately depend on the trajectory of the pandemic in our area and the regulations imposed upon schools by the state of New Jersey. The recent trend has been positive, but we will make plans for a variety of scenarios with the hope that we will have greater clarity about the impact of the pandemic on schools by mid-summer. I look forward to sharing these plans with you in early August.

In addition to processing the effects of the pandemic on our operations, all members of our school community have been impacted by the tragic events of the past four weeks, which have caused us to look both outward and inward, and in doing so to consider the experiences at Doane of our Black and Brown students and faculty members. In the immediate aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, I reached out to our students with a message that is excerpted below:

The events of the past seven days have been deeply painful for our community and for our country. Like you, I have watched what has transpired and felt a range of emotions -- frustration over our lack of progress in furthering social justice, anger over the killing of innocent individuals of color, and deep sadness over the violence that has been carried out in our cities. I am also keenly aware that the challenges of recent events have not been experienced equally by all members of our community. As our nation attempts to come to terms with these incidents during this time of physical distancing, our community, guided by our mission, must not isolate ourselves from these issues. Instead, we must commit to growing in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion, building our capacity as a community to empathize and care for one another....

While I know that we can be better, my hope is that you will see Doane Academy as a safe place where your voice is heard. Moreover, I hope that we can help you in your journey towards becoming strong leaders who can make a positive impact on our world. These recent events remind us all how much we need your voice and action.

In recent years, we have taken concrete steps to encourage conversation and action in our community to address issues of inequality and racism, including the identification of this work as a priority in our Strategic Plan that was published in 2018. Much of our faculty in-service last August was devoted to cultural competency education, and we subsequently made a major investment to work with the Sustained Dialogue organization to train our senior class to lead student conversations around issues of social justice, diversity, and inclusion during the winter months. Through the work of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, we recognized the importance of receiving direct feedback in order to hear perspectives from our students of color. This led us to establish both a quantitative and anecdotal feedback process for students, including an opportunity for students of color to share, in a meeting with the faculty this February, their experiences at Doane. This input was both challenging and affirming in equal measure, and it spurred important conversations among the faculty about issues of race and equity within our curriculum and community. In June, we have facilitated meetings for students to process and share their thoughts and emotions about recent events in our country. Those meetings will continue over the summer on a weekly basis, to be followed in the school year by ongoing affinity space conversations and inclusive meetings on important topics around diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition, under the leadership of co-chairs Allison Baratta and Julian Cook, our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force has shared with the faculty a collection of anti-racism resources that they will utilize in their work over the summer and in the coming year.

We are proud of the commitment we have made to ensure that Doane is an inclusive and equitable community. We have made significant progress in increasing the diversity of our Board of Trustees and our faculty, both of which are more diverse than at any time in our school's history, and we have made major changes to our curriculum in order for it to better reflect our social justice priorities.

We recognize that this work is an ongoing process, which is often uncomfortable and always difficult, but it is essential in order to ensure that we achieve our goals. At Doane Academy, we are committed to doing our part to end systemic racism in our country and we stand with our students as they seek to create a more just society.
Sincerely,
George B. Sanderson
Head of School
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