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.
Ivory Duncan is the Assistant Principal of Culture & Operations at Gary Comer College Prep, in her day job she and her team work to ensure every Gary Comer senior has access to the post-secondary plans of their choice – which means thousands and college and scholarship applications and hundreds of advising appointments. In the past few months, Ivory 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 Ivory Duncan to have a conversation about her role in the ARC design and refine work this year:
Q. Can you describe the ARC work you’ve been engaging in this year?
A. Upon being accepted into the steering committee, we first embarked upon defining what anti-racism means for Noble and developing a commitment. As a committee, we had to acknowledge the damage we’ve done in the past and be bold about the vision we had for the future.
Assistant Principal of Culture & Operations at Gary Comer College Prep
After rolling out a commitment that included staff, students, and stakeholders as our guiding force, we then used the commitment as our road map to inform how we will reimagine policies moving forward. After analyzing survey results regarding Noble’s mission, vision, and student code of conduct, we took what alumni, students, parents, staff, and community members said and began developing a long-term plan. I sit on the Staff experience & retention subcommittee, where we are developing objectives and strategies towards recruiting and retaining diverse, talented staff committed to anti-racism, social-emotional learning, and culturally relevant teaching.
Q. How did you decide this was the right type of work for you?
A. I am a first-generation college graduate and an African American woman who grew up in a low-income community. I do not have the privilege of opting out of this work. I learned early that your racial background coupled with your socio-economic status determined the level of access one would have to quality food, housing, safety, and education. I witnessed many around me perish because of systematic racism. I was lucky that despite the lack of resources, my mother taught me the power of reading, and I had a few good teachers who guided me along the way. Because of this, I am responsible to the students I serve.
Q. Can you share any piece of the work that you are particularly proud of?
A. The Anti-Racist Commitment. We were thoughtful and intentional about what we wanted to say, the message we wanted to send, and knew that commitment would hold us all accountable. I am proud to be a part of curating words that would set a standard for years to come.
Q. Have you been able to see the impact of this work yet?
A. The impact lives in the vision and momentum of staff across campuses. Specifically, we have built an antiracist steering committee here at Gary Comer College Prep to inform and guide our work for school year 21-22. With the Noble anti-racism commitment as our guide, we are infusing anti-racism, social-emotional learning, and culturally affirming experiences within staff culture and development and staff and student engagement.
Q. Why do you think this ARC work is so important?
A. The antiracist work is important because we can no longer utilize the educational space to conform and assimilate black and brown students. Our job as educators is to enlighten the minds of our scholars so they can liberate themselves. We can not decide the lives our students should live. Instead, we help eliminate barriers and provide access to opportunities students can decide for themselves; this Anti-Racist work holds us accountable for doing this. Our students and alumni have spoken loud and clear; they want us to honor their decisions and affirm their identities.