At the outset of the 2020 school year, Noble set a bold and ambitious goal of becoming a more antiracist organization. Since then, Noble announced our antiracism commitment (ARC), we engaged thousands of families in surveys and feedback to guide a reexamination of policies and practice. Since February, grounded in that feedback from parents, students, and alumni, ARC design teams have been meeting to guide the way forward on Noble policy and practice as it relates to our student code of conduct, uniform, promotion and graduation requirements, curriculum design and more. Those design teams then shared draft proposals with groups of Noble stakeholders for intensive feedback – hundreds of Noble family members, staff, students, and alumni engaged in these refine team spaces. This post is part of a series of updates on that work in progress.
Stephanie Oliva is the Director of Data at Noble, in her day job she and her team create the systems and dashboards that help Noble teachers and staff understand how to best support students. In the past few months, Stephanie has engaged as a member of the DEI Steering committee which has been one of the spaces acting as a “refine team” providing feedback and input into draft proposals.
We sat down with Stephanie Oliva to have a conversation about her role in the ARC design and refine work this year:
Director of Data +
DEI Steering Committee Member
Q. Can you describe the ARC work you’ve been engaging in this year?
A. We began our ARC work by building a statement that identified not just Noble’s commitment to anti-racism but also listed the changes we’re committing to making. After that was completed (and reviewed/discussed with various stakeholders) we began reviewing all of our survey data from the past year to identify common themes related to student, staff, alumni, family, and community experiences with Noble. This exercise is helping us to identify goals, strategies, and accountability pieces that would help guide Noble’s ongoing ARC work. It’s incredibly challenging work and I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear from amazing and diverse voices from all parts of Noble.
Q. How did you decide this was the right type of work for you?
A. I typically enjoy working out difficult problems and seeing the different intersecting angles, imagining the implementation, and predicting where barriers will lie. I was excited to work on such a challenging issue and hopeful for the change it would bring to our students and families. What’s been the most gratifying (and formidable) aspect of this work has been the call for introspection and the continued questioning of one’s beliefs. Racism is so deeply woven into our society that it’s not just about dismantling policies or creating a commitment statement. To do this work right, you must question your own biases, the racism you’ve faced, the racism you may have exhibited/allowed to happen, and overall the racism you may have accepted as part of life. This work has pushed me to confront my assimilationist experiences and identify the changes that would have made it possible for me to learn and grow without feeling the need to conform to norms I didn’t fully understand in my formative years. I thought I knew what I was signing up for, but in reality, my experience has been much more enlightening than I could have imagined when I first applied to the committee.
Q. Can you share any piece of the work that you are particularly proud of?
A. Our anti-racist commitment statement. I vividly remember sitting in on the first meeting and feeling the weight of being tasked, collectively, to draft a statement. I immediately thought about all that would go into reaching consensus, discussing wording, identifying the most important pieces to include, the list went on. As we continued to meet in smaller groups, each developing their own draft, we began to see that across different groups, we consistently valued the same ideas. Each group on its own defined anti-racism for Noble, acknowledged past harm, and some statements began identifying the overarching commitments, that if achieved, would pave the way for an anti-racist Noble. It was inspiring to see that we were largely in agreement, that we each had a similar vision of what Noble could be, and suddenly an overwhelming task became one more step in our journey.
Q. Have you been able to see the impact of this work yet?
A. I think in this early stage, the impact of this work that I can see is hope. Hope of experiencing an anti-racist Noble, the hope of upending dominant group culture and norms, hope that our students feel secure to express their true selves, and most importantly hope that the hard work we’re doing now will yield phenomenal results for our families.
Q. If you could paint a picture of what this work looks like when successfully implemented, what would it look like (in a classroom, on a department team, in practice)?
A. Ideally this work would touch every interaction at Noble, beginning with campuses consistently meeting students where they’re at, acknowledging the capital they’ve accumulated by navigating racist spaces and creating an environment where assimilationist expectations are no longer the norm. I envision judgment-free spaces for campus and network staff as well, allowing them to freely and confidently question policy with an anti-racist lens, bring forth their experiences without fear, do away with any code-switching and other assimilationist norms that take up so much energy and be a truly welcoming space for everyone.
Q. Why do you think this ARC work is so important?
A. It’s not so much a question of why this work is important, but rather why it is needed. Marginalized groups have consistently throughout time been parted with their agency either forcefully or through a carefully curated network of systems and institutions (e.g. redlining). Non-dominant groups, however, have power, they have agency, but have been, in many circumstances, forced into silence. As an institution, we wield quite a lot of influence, as an institution we have agency, and as we guide families and students of diverse backgrounds in a world that was not created for them – we are positioned to lift them up, share that agency and help them hold on to it.
Take a more in-depth look via our monthly updates – also in our monthly e-newsletter –
Have other ideas of stories we should share? Please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org