Dear Stella, Kennedy, Carter & all of the individuals who signed the open letter,
First, thank you for taking the time to compile your concerns and ideas. As Padua’s Principal and a longtime faculty member your actions as strong and enlightened persons make me proud. You have successfully advocated your ideas in an effort to affect change and that is incredibly admirable.
Your concerns certainly highlight that we have work to do to make our school the place where everyone feels that they are always heard and supported. Please know that we are listening carefully to the criticisms and appreciate receiving ideas and recommendations from the school and larger community. An intentional discussion began over six months ago, and we are hopeful that even as we implement changes, we can continue to work productively with students, faculty, alumnae, and parents to respond to concerns. We are blessed by your engagement, and the engagement of the full Padua community, in creating and sustaining an institution that can become ever more rooted in justice and dignity.
If at any point in your time as part of the Padua community you experienced or witnessed marginalization based on race, I apologize. Such experiences are inexcusable and undeniably undermine the Christian community we strive to build. But today, we as an institution unequivocally state that there is no place for hate or racial discrimination at 905 N. Broom Street. Our Catholic tradition calls us to seek justice, and certainly, this is a time to step into an increased commitment to justice for all. As you clearly pointed out, this is an opportunity to be the change we want to see, and that we desperately need, in our world.
Padua has undertaken steps to create a more inclusive learning environment. In an effort to complement the curricular additions of Social Justice, Tales of Pride, Prejudice and Progress, and Power, Privilege, and Difference to our academic repertoire over the past few years, we continue work to enhance other areas of study.
Our Social Studies Department will soon be introducing a curriculum that more accurately reflects the true breadth of our nation’s history, both domestically and abroad. We are continuing to make curriculum improvements in areas such as the English and Art Departments, where we are diversifying the works that students read and the art and artists they study.
We selected Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson as our students’ required summer reading, and are engaging in small group discussions with all students to address the topics raised in the book. In addition, we have created a reading list for our faculty that explores various books by authors of color and topics that will prompt a larger conversation surrounding racism, prejudice, and systemic injustice. The books chosen for the faculty are Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks, We Got This: Equity, Access and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor, and Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Bryan N. Massingale. We intend to start our faculty professional development this fall with a program on unconscious bias which was originally scheduled for last March but had to be postponed because of the pandemic.
We formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee and will be inviting students and alumnae representation to assist with planning for professional development and student programming. There are curriculum reviews that are occurring within the academic departments. We have students organizations, including the BSU (Black Student Union) and I.D.E.A. (inclusivity, diversity, equity, and awareness), whose input we continue to seek and whose voices we will continue to listen to. These groups and other opportunities for student involvement will certainly help us collectively move forward to make Padua stronger and more welcoming. It is also our hope to diversify our faculty with future hires.
And I intend that this is just the beginning. I am committed to working with the greater Padua community to use lessons learned from our past and from this present moment to create a more equitable environment and a brighter future.
Pope Francis wrote in his 2018 letter to young people, “Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard”. Well, YOUR voices have already begun to change the world. You are contributing to change on North Broom Street, and together, if we build upon our choir of voices, the world will in fact, stop to listen.
Our mission is to challenge our students to live Christ-centered lives of leadership and service. We will continue to embrace that mission with new strategies, and thank you for how you are using your voice to inspire and care for future Padua students.
Let us use our collective momentum during this historic moment to move forward in a meaningful way. I ask that you stay in touch by email or by phone.
Never forget how powerful your words can be. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.
Dr. Mary McClory