To Our Families, Community, and All Friends of Collegiate Academies:
Saying we will all remember the year 2020 fails to capture the intensity and breadth of the crisis the Coronavirus pandemic and fight for racial justice has brought into all of our lives over the past few months. Because social turbulence so often affects some more than others, Collegiate Academies has spent its time not just filling in the disruptions in our usual services, but struggling to close the gaps in opportunities these months have added to the injustices we already fight. In particular: comparing our actions to the public shame that is the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd shows us coming up short. We are not doing enough. I am not doing enough.
Collegiate Academies’ schools are designed to give extraordinary experiences and lifelong opportunities to all of our students. But we cannot overlook the reality that our student bodies are largely composed of Black children, brilliant young people who deserve world-class schools and, frankly, a whole lot more.
And so we strive to create schools where our young people are challenged, loved, and celebrated for who they are. We strive to create schools where our students use their voices to impact change in their communities and beyond. We know that we still have work to do. We know we are still growing. We will always be growing.
Many of us might presume Collegiate Academies has pursued growth of this sort in the past. Facing the inequities created by our use of traditional discipline practices, particularly in the Black community, we launched a full restorative justice program in one semester, now one of our nation’s most studied and emulated. Recognizing the absence of high quality education services for teenagers and young adults with special needs, Newcomers with English Language needs, and court-involved or formerly-incarcerated youth, we created powerful programming, both within our existing schools and through new services and organizations we launched in response. When we worried our hiring and management biases were creating adult teams that did not look at all like our student bodies, we reversed the trend. We are now a majority Black team of extraordinary educators.
But none of these moments required us to make the moves we need to make now. All of them allowed us to believe ourselves to be heroes, without dwelling on our mistakes. All of them allowed us to take comfort in being “more equitable than others,” without having to focus on what true equity would mean. And none required white leaders like me to make sacrifices to their customs, comforts, and statuses in the ways we unconsciously expected the marginalized people we work with to do, daily.
We now must fight racism through every lever we control, both externally and inside our own organization. We are treating racism as the crisis and threat that it truly is: one that requires our best resources, skills, and efforts. We must build and become the world we hope our children will inhabit: a world that disavows racism in all its forms, that is truly inclusive of all people, that reflects mindsets, policies, and practices that support equity, and that is reflective of the diverse community of Louisiana.
We are developing and enacting plans that expand the anti-racism work we've done thus far. Our aim is to deepen our approach and shared understanding of anti-racism network-wide. This is critical work that touches every aspect of our organizational and school cultures. For the moment, we have designated Alexie Gaddis, Assistant Principal of Academics at Abramson Sci Academy, and Margo Bouchie, Chief of Schools, to lead the planning process for expanding and deepening anti-racism at Collegiate Academies. These leaders are crafting a strategic plan that reflects both short and long-term actions to sustain this work. Moving forward, we plan to seek out permanent leadership support and roles within our organization to ensure that the elimination of racism is not a project of our organization, but is foundational to our culture. While we believe every team member must be personally and vigilantly committed to making Collegiate an anti-racist organization, we also believe the guidance and expertise of a person dedicated solely to this role will be paramount if we are to achieve our mission.
We will be seeking more input from teammates, students, and families so that we can learn from their experiences and collaborate to create meaningful change. We want to move forward quickly, strategically, respectfully, and transparently. We know that this work will require additional time, accountability, financial resources, and energy, and we are making the plans to put all four of these components toward our path forward. Feedback from our community is invaluable. I encourage you to reach out with your input to help our organization evolve.
When I helped start a school of 80 students in 2008, I never thought about racism with the complexity I do now. Ten years in the future, I imagine I might say the same about myself today. But back then, I also never thought about how strange it might be if one day we had an organization serving thousands of Black children, employing hundreds of Black adults, but with the same white man occupying the chief role. Finding myself here, I must do a lot of learning and acting. I’d encourage others who find themselves in the same position to commit to learning about the ways that position has compromised the work and could do future injury, if left un-critiqued and unchanged.
As we move forward, one thing remains constant: we believe in our students. They are amazing and powerful individuals. To support them as they deserve to be supported, we are committed to getting better every day.
Benjamin A. Marcovitz
Chief Executive Officer, Collegiate Academies