Fall Reflections

I hope this message finds you well and enjoying the onset of fall.  I, for one, am grateful for the crisper air and the less pungent odors of the street that this season brings.  I also hope that you and your children have settled into the rhythm of the new school year with ease and fulfillment.  As a new member of the community, I have been paying close attention to the words that permeate our discourse, and over the past three weeks, I have come to realize that the “Bank Street Way” means many things to many people.  Always at the center, however, is a deep commitment to learning—with and from each other.

Since the start of school, I have had the good fortune of meeting and interacting with many of you—in the lobby, in meetings, and in the corridors.  I appreciate your warm welcome and your well wishes for me and my family; the embrace has been wonderful.

In many conversations across various contexts, I have also shared additional information about our efforts to ensure the physical safety of our community.  In light of recent events in Tulsa and Charlotte, and just yesterday at an elementary school in South Carolina, I am writing to update the entire community on Bank Street’s efforts along these lines.

  • After the publication of the first New York Post article on July 1, there was considerable activity on various social media platforms about our school’s philosophy and approach to teaching about social justice.
  • We immediately collaborated with local law enforcement officials to ensure that they were aware of the situation and on hand to provide support if needed.
  • On our own accord and as a precautionary measure, given that summer camp and the Family Center were in session, we hired security guards for two weeks to stand at the entrance to the school and the summer camp location three blocks away.

In August, with the start of school nearing and as an added precaution, we hired Kroll, an internationally-acclaimed security firm based in New York, to assist us in three distinct ways:

    1. They more fully investigated a small subset of social media posts in response to the first Post article and determined that there was no credible threat based upon that activity.
    2. They positioned an onsite, experienced Security Director who for the past three weeks has been observing our practices and providing individual coaching and training to each member of our security team.
    3. In the coming weeks, they will be providing guidance and recommendations to help us improve our overall security practices, including building entry and exit, fire drills, and our lockdown and shelter-in-place procedures.

As I mentioned in my August letter, in addition to our efforts to ensure that our building is physically safe, we are also committed to the psychological and emotional safety of our community.  For many, this summer’s New York Post articles were an assault on the very values that bring us to Bank Street in the first place—decency, trust, and community—and we clearly have some healing to do.

So that we, as adults, can come together, share our perspectives, and make meaning of the events of this summer, I would like to call your attention to and strongly encourage you to participate in the following opportunities over the coming months:

  • On Friday, October 14 and Friday, November 11 from 8-9 AM, Coy Dailey, Director of Diversity and Equity, and I will be providing coffee and carbs to any parents who want to (a) share your experiences with and reactions to the Post articles; and (b) generate ideas and feedback about our social justice and equity work.
  • On Monday, October 17 from 6-8 PM, the SFC and the PA are co-sponsoring Raising Children for Social Justice, an interactive workshop led by Border Crossers aimed at equipping parents with skills, knowledge, and tools to speak with their children about race and racism.
  • On Monday, November 28 from 6-8 PM, we will be holding a Community Forum on Social Justice and Equity to discuss the results of the Community Questionnaire, share feedback from the Border Crossers training, and dig more deeply into Bank Street’s vision for and teaching about racial justice and advocacy.

Needless to say, the work of restoration is neither easy nor linear, and it will require a sustained commitment, and the presumption of positive intentions, over time.  Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Bank Street’s founder, profoundly believed, “Our work is based on the faith that human beings can improve the society that they created.”  Never has there been a better opportunity than now to make good on this prophecy.I look forward to the important work that lies ahead.  After all, isn’t this the Bank Street Way?

–Jed Lippard, Dean of Children’s Programs