Dear Prep Families and Friends,
In June 2020, when Prep launched its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative, our Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, and administration pledged to listen to our community, understand and analyze our needs, and align our actions with the values we cherish.
As foundational statements, our mission, honor code, and philosophy exhort us to develop the community values necessary for an engaged and responsible life, a life that honors each person’s individuality and uniqueness. It is our responsibility as educators to nurture the desire and the skills to positively impact the world, to engage generously, honestly, kindly, and, above all, with deep respect for others. Our school philosophy states, “we believe in the essential value of diversity.” We must live this belief through real action and daily effort.
During the coming year, the Board of Trustees and school leadership are engaging in a comprehensive strategic planning process that will generate an expanded vision for Prep’s future growth. Commitment to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive Prep community will be an integral part of this planning process. We expect to see a completed strategic design document in fall 2022.
As we begin the new school year, we would like to offer an update on recent efforts and outline immediate plans for this fall related to our DEI Initiative. Over the last year, Prep collaborated with Christina Hale-Elliott to engage in a process of reflection and assessment. Ms. Hale-Elliott collected data, hosted focus groups, and visited classes, faculty and staff meetings, board meetings, and school events to understand the Prep experience. As a result of that process, we identified areas for immediate action, which include expanded student support services; continuing faculty, staff, and community training; and student advocacy, as well as areas for future analysis and growth that will inform our strategic planning process. This was only the first of many planned opportunities for our community to share feedback about the Prep experience and to help us understand our community’s greatest needs.
Toward creating a fully inclusive and supportive community, we are already working on several initiatives, outlined below.
Student Advocacy and Support
Our new student support center opens in August with a charter to develop and deliver a curriculum of social-emotional learning, enhanced counseling, and expanded learning support, ensuring all Prep students have access to the mentoring, skills training, and personal support needed to thrive. The center is home to a larger staff, including a full-time learning specialist and a school counselor, allowing us to strengthen the supportive services for students.
- The school will embark on a two-year partnership with the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning to expand our advisory program, including 7th, 8th, and 9th grades in 2021-2022 and expanding to the full high school in the year to come. Creating spaces for students to share their unique perspectives, joys, and challenges, advisory groups encourage students to be brave, self-aware, and compassionate friends, classmates, and community members.
- In 2021-2022, we look forward to the expansion of Prep’s Student Diversity Leadership Conference cohort, inviting attendees to work with our Student Life Committee, advisory groups, and Big 4 student organizations, Student Senate, Athletic Council on Leadership (ACL), Student Community Action Council (SCAC), and Flintridge Leadership Initiative (FLINT), throughout the winter and spring to create opportunities for expanded impact.
- Despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic, club life at Prep served as a powerful vehicle for student agency and advocacy in 2020-2021. For example, Prep’s Black Student Union Amnesty Coffeehouse supported the Equal Justice Initiative. The Cultural Education Club promoted discussion and awareness with guest speakers and monthly newsletters, and partnered with the Near Eastern Student Association (NESA) to bring environmental engineer Michelle Chebeir to speak to our community for Arab-American Heritage Month. Active administrative support for student organizations furthers the school mission by encouraging students to use their power to impact and shape their world.
Providing consistent, meaningful dialogue and educational opportunities for faculty, staff, students, and parents is at the heart of fostering a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. The school has contracted with Dr. Elizabeth Denevi to provide professional growth and facilitation over the course of the next school year.
- Dr. Denevi, a recognized specialist in diversity, equity, and inclusion, will work with our faculty and staff throughout the year providing both large-group sessions and monthly support for faculty and staff in facilitating difficult conversations and fostering open dialogue, especially around issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, neurodiversity, culture, physical ability, and socioeconomic status.
- In response to student feedback and recommendations of our strengths and needs assessment, Dr. Denevi will offer programs in the fall and spring for students and families devoted to building healthy relationships. In this program, Dr. Denevi will examine how individual actions can strengthen and build relationships, honoring diverse perspectives and experiences, or create barriers. She will address the skills needed to repair and rebuild relationships that have been harmed, offering tools for social growth.
As a part of our ongoing assessment and development of our curriculum, we will work to design an academic program that is meaningfully challenging, creative, and responsive to how students learn best. Students should have the opportunity both to see themselves reflected in course content and to expand their world view by exploring ideas that differ markedly from their own.
- Examples of recent curricular changes include the reimagination of our senior Identity course with a focus on student engagement, agency, and activism. In 2021-2022, sophomores will have a new history option, Advanced Topics in World History, which will broaden students’ perspective on modern, global issues. Our new Mandarin program, now in its second year, continues to expand with third-year language courses and a senior elective incorporating culture and society.
- Last year, the Prep Global Studies initiative hosted Cuban artist Angel Delgado and promoted a student-designed panel from the USC Institute for Armenian Studies that was coordinated by the Near Eastern Student Association. Photography students created artwork with peers in Ecuador and Costa Rica. In the coming year, look for presentations related to our Prep Reads book, Persepolis, as our Global Studies initiative continues to deepen its programming and invites us to share our stories, hear the stories of others, and connect with communities outside our own.
Additional Areas for Growth
- Prep’s search for a director of admissions and enrollment management for 2022-2023 affords us the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our admissions policies and practices and to address barriers to achieving this goal. Inherent to this work is a continued commitment to need-based financial assistance.
- In cooperation with our current volunteer leadership, Prep will assess our parent and alumni engagement program, including our orientation processes for new families and welcome events. We will design a dynamic, communal volunteer program in which all parents, guardians, and alumni feel included.
- The school will administer a climate survey this year and in succeeding years will regularly offer the opportunity for community members to share perspectives and experiences specifically related to their sense of belonging so that we can use these insights to guide Prep’s further development and action.
As we welcome our community back to campus this fall, we recognize that much of what we’ve described in this message aligns with the primary goal outlined in our summer communications—to Only Connect. We must promote a sense of connection that will be experienced equitably by all members of the Prep family. We must address crisis recovery and foster hope after our prolonged time apart. We must commit ourselves to supporting one another’s healing, honoring one another’s boundaries, celebrating one another’s joys, and eliminating barriers that prevent community members from feeling fully present and accepted.
We are heartened that the efforts of our community this year have paved the way for even more positive change in the years to come. We don’t have all the answers. We still have lots of listening, learning, and strategic planning before us to reach our goals. But we are committed to a Prep that welcomes, sees, champions, and inspires every community member to thrive.
Head of School
Associate Head of School
Assistant Head for Student Life