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SPHERE Schools Hold Workshops on “Unmasking Racism”

Workshop presenters Joan Edwards, Senior Associate Director of Admission  and Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Competency Advisor at Kingswood Oxford, and Sheri Schmidt Director of Equity and Social Justice at Ethel Walker, smile for the camera.
Workshop presenters Joan Edwards, Senior Associate Director of Admission and Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Competency Advisor at Kingswood Oxford, and Sheri Schmidt Director of Equity and Social Justice at Ethel Walker, smile for the camera.

On November 20 at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Diversity Directors from four area independent schools led interactive workshops on systemic racism for their colleagues from fellow SPHERE schools.  

SPHERE is a consortium of 11 independent schools in the greater Hartford area who’ve come together with a multilayered mission, beginning with an unwavering commitment to creating and nurturing diverse and inclusive communities on each of their campuses.  SPHERE schools include Avon Old Farms, The Cobb School Montessori, Ethel Walker, Kingswood-Oxford, Loomis Chaffee, Miss Porter’s, Pomfret, Renbrook, Suffield Academy, Watkinson, and Westminster.

The organization founded in the early 1970s has redefined itself over the years, but its goal remains firm: to work individually and collectively to achieve diverse student bodies and school staffs and foster respect and understanding between and beyond all the people who are part of these unique, independent school communities.  SPHERE organizes programs for students and staffs and promotes service learning opportunities.  In sum, it binds these schools for the better.

November’s workshops were designed to explore systemic racism and its effects, particularly as an obstacle to building inclusive school communities.  The workshops explored the history of racism and the subtle ways racism plays out on school campuses every day.  As the title suggested, “Unmasking Racism” was about bringing to light the ways in which institutional oppression and indignities, actions or statements, intentional or unintentional, chip away at the well-being of schools and all their community members.

Following the workshop, Cobb School parent and workshop participant, Dr. Agnes Curry, remarked, “The presenters were very informative and engaging, and they created a safe space for a frank and searching discussion of these urgent issues.”  Cobb School Director of Admissions, Sallie Ann Jacobs, added, “It was really eye-opening.  I loved how the workshop brought together people from different backgrounds to talk about sensitive issues.”

To learn more about SPHERE, please visit www.sphereschools.org.  To learn more about its consortium schools, please visit their individual websites.  Job seekers are also invited to register for SPHERE’s annual hiring fair, this year on March 1 at 10am at Watkinson.  Kindly submit your résumé to: SPHERE@Renbrook.org, including your discipline(s) in the subject line. For more information, call Pam Garrett at (860) 738-1629, and for directions to Watkinson, visit www.watkinson.org/podium/default.aspx?t=26761.

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