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Working Together: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Newsletter Belmont Hill School - FALL 2020

Dear Belmont Hill School Community,

Gregory J. Schneider

During my search process in 2018, the Belmont Hill community, along with the Board of Trustees, had clearly articulated continued progress in the area of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a critical strategic goal. We know that our mission of Developing Young Men of Character and our culture of Working Together call us to this endeavor and that this is not new for our school. Since its inception, Belmont Hill has worked diligently to form good men, and we know that the skills of empathy, cultural competency, and the ability to work with people from all different backgrounds will be a critical need for all of our boys in college and beyond.

Over the past summer, we received passionate and specific messaging from many of our younger alumni, particularly our alumni of color, regarding the need for Belmont Hill to further accelerate its role in creating leaders who will be able to help solve the national and global challenges of systemic racism. We were also challenged to look at our own institution through this urgent lens, and we continue to do so. The events of the past summer accelerated the path we were on, advancing a process of creating a formalized Diversity Action Plan that was recently approved by the Board of Trustees.

One clear takeaway from this past summer was that, in addition to needing to do more for our boys, we had not been doing as strong of a job in communicating our efforts in this area as we should. I learned from Caleb Collins '93, our Director of Community and Diversity, that Belmont Hill had previously authored a Community & Diversity Newsletter that was periodically sent to the community with updates on our progress. It felt important to revitalize this tradition in a new format, and we look forward to sharing a regular review of our activities moving forward in this manner.

We know that Belmont Hill has much good work ahead, and we are proud of the ways in which our community has dedicated such meaningful effort in this area during a global pandemic. We are also grateful to our Board and an alumni body who stand together in their desire to see Belmont Hill continually improve. My hope is that Belmont Hill becomes a leader in a dialogue about diversity and its critical connection to the concept of character. As a boys school, we have the ability to have this conversation in a special way, and we will continue to ensure that all voices are heard as part of this dialogue. I believe that word, dialogue, will be essential for our boys and our school moving forward. We need leaders who will not merely express their opinions but will demonstrate a capacity for empathy and listening. I hope you enjoy this first edition, and we thank you for all of your support of these amazing boys.

Sincerely,

Gregory J. Schneider

Ronald M. Druker '62 Head of School

Meet the Community and Diversity Staff

Fostering a community of respect, identity, and belonging through relationships and conversation.

Caleb Collins has served as director of community and diversity at Belmont Hill since 2012. This summer, the office expanded to include two additional positions. Sarah D’Annolfo, a second-year English teacher, and Bryson Rosser, a first-year faculty, will support the work of the community and diversity program. Learn a little more about the two new members, and Mr. Collins.

Caleb F. Collins '93, P '25

Caleb Collins is the director of community and diversity at Belmont Hill and a member of the math faculty. After graduating from Belmont Hill, Mr. Collins received a B.A. from Tuskegee University in mathematics. He then worked for Evergreen Investments and The Steppingstone Foundation, before returning to Belmont Hill in 2002. He teaches Geometry and Algebra 2 this year and is a director of the School’s Multicultural Alumni Partnership. Mr. Collins and his wife, Shauna, live in Belmont with their three children, their cat, and her dog.

Mr. Collins (Classroom photo, fall 2019)

Sarah D'Annolfo

Sarah D’Annolfo joined Belmont Hill in 2019. In addition to supporting the community and diversity program, she teaches Form II and IV English and coaches Middle School track. She holds a B.A. in English from Dartmouth College where she also was the captain of the women’s lacrosse team. In addition, she holds an M.A. in policy, organization, and leadership studies from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education.

Ms. D’Annolfo comes to Belmont Hill from Tufts University, where she was associate director of residential education responsible for the undergraduate residential curriculum and program. Her work at Tufts was to support communities of belonging, equity, and learning, and to design curriculum for leadership development. Before working at Tufts, she was the dean of students at the Taft School in Watertown, CT where in addition to teaching English she was a leader in building an inclusive community and designing a curriculum focused on ethics, wellness, and leadership skills. Ms. D'Annolfo and her husband, Casey, live in Arlington with their three young children—Oliver, Georgia, and Rory.

Ms. D'Annolfo (Classroom photo, fall 2019)

What am I most excited about?

Belmont Hill is a school of deep and caring relationships. The close-knit fabric of this community will allow us to have courageous conversations, to see one another in new and nuanced ways, and to learn how to stand up for one another for justice and equity. And, as a school, we also have the awesome opportunity to teach, to learn, and to practice it all over again!

Bryson Rosser

Bryson Rosser joins Belmont Hill from Knoxville Central High School in Knoxville, TN, where he was an administrator, academic interventionist, and the head football coach. With a coaching philosophy rooted in relationships, Mr. Rosser recorded six consecutive winning seasons including three state championship appearances and back-to-back Class 5A state championships. He graduated from Tennessee State University with a B.A. in elementary education in 2006 and an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2007. Mr. Rosser has served as an elementary, middle, and high school educator over the past 14 years, along with administrative responsibilities. He is in his first year at Belmont Hill, moving to Massachusetts in February of this year with his wife, Brook, and dog, Luke. At Belmont Hill, Mr. Rosser will support the community and diversity program, coach three seasons of sports, serve as assistant athletic director, and support health and wellness programming.

Mr. Rosser. (Mr. Rosser and Mr. Martellini, Fall 2020 advisory)
What excites me the most about working with the Community and Diversity team is the intentionality by the Head of School, the administration, the faculty/staff, and the students to have meaningful conversations. I believe conversation is a skill we all possess and with the right foundation, the right message and the right intentions, conversations can create change. They create a community of not only respect, but of identity and belonging.

Dialogue and Civic Discourse

DEI Work Introduced into Weekly Advisory Time

Spurred by the tragic killing of George Floyd this past summer, a number of students and young alumni spoke up passionately to the School’s administration about the need for Belmont Hill to incorporate more diversity, equity, and inclusion training on campus. One of the themes expressed by students and young alumni was that a singular Diversity or Community Action Day was creating a perception that Belmont Hill only seriously discussed diversity issues one day per year. “While the pandemic created so many new challenges in our new schedule, one opportunity was to devote weekly time for these conversations in our advisory groupings as part of overall scheduled community time,” notes Greg Schneider, Ronald M. Druker ’62 Head of School. “This decision emerged during the schedule creation process over the summer.”

These sessions began in the opening weeks of school and the reaction appears to be quite positive. “We’re easing into it at the beginning,” says Caleb Collins ’93, director of community and diversity. “We’re trying to get students to be more aware of their emotions and feelings about certain issues. Our discussions will evolve. We haven’t yet talked about deeper issues such as race, religion, and sexual orientation.”

Sarah D’Annolfo, English teacher and a new addition to the community and diversity office, tries to get students in the right frame of mind for these sessions. “Where we are heading together, is—I hope—robust equity, meaningful inclusion, thriving for every community member, action and personal agency in our community toward greater justice.” She says that process starts by building skills and relationships to equip everyone for the path to make learning and growth possible. “The data and research prove this and as teachers we know this to our core: relationships matter. We also know that to learn and to thrive, students need to feel seen, valued, respected, loved, and safe.”

Another addition to the community and diversity office is Bryson Rosser, starting his first year at Belmont Hill. He says that one reason he was drawn to the School was the intentionality of the work to make an impact on the boys. “The DEI work on our campus continues to evolve as we look to supply our faculty, staff, and students with the proper content and variety of such in order to have courageous conversations,” Mr. Rosser notes. “I continue to be impressed with the maturity, intellect, and integrity of our students to lean in and have meaningful conversations with one another and with faculty.”

DEI Learning Targets for the Start of the Year:

  • Develop and deepen self-awareness
  • Build and practice the skills, habits, and mindsets that allow for deep learning: self-regulation, self-efficacy, communication, reflection, empathy, curiosity
  • Learn and practice how to give and receive feedback to interrupt and break cycles of silencing, pain, stereotyping
  • Cultivate humility

Examining Our Past: Historical Bell Removed From Campus

For many years, a large bell could be seen on scaffolding outside of MacPherson and adjacent to the Head of School’s office. But relatively few knew the origins of the bell and how it came to reside on Belmont Hill’s campus.

In 2017, David Hegarty’s Advanced Historical Research class began exploring the relationship between the School and the bell, and this inquiry continued under Juliette Zener’s direction the following year. With support from school archivist Caroline Cushman, the boys scoured resources in the school archives looking for a connection. This examination led to the discovery by a student, Justin O’Neil-Riley ’19, that the bell was gifted to the School in 1925 by W.G. Pullum, who was general manager of a sugar company owned by a founding family of Belmont Hill. While some of the details of the bell’s history remain unclear, the research clearly demonstrated that the bell had direct ties to sugar plantations in Cuba, suggesting it was likely used to summon enslaved workers at some point.

In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in May of 2020, many Belmont Hill students and young alumni spoke up passionately about the ongoing crisis of racial injustice in our nation, and they shared incidents of racism they had experienced at Belmont Hill as well. The existence of the bell on campus was referenced as a particularly disturbing symbol for many students of color to see each day at school. In a letter to the community this summer, President of the Board of Trustees, Jon Biotti ’87, noted that the School’s original plan was to keep the bell in place with signage installed detailing its history to provide historical context to its connection with Belmont Hill and the region. “After listening carefully to our current and former students in our Town Hall meetings, our opinion changed,” Mr. Biotti stated. “ The lessons from our history are eclipsed by the obligation to make our environment more comfortable and inclusive for all of our students. This decision was supported with a unanimous vote of our trustees.”

Greg Schneider, Ronald M. Druker ’62 Head of School expressed, “As the history of the bell was uncovered, its presence on our campus made it increasingly challenging to deliver our mission fully to all of our students.” To ensure that the School does not erase its history, Mr. Schneider shared that the removal of the bell is only the beginning of an important journey for the school. A task force led by trustees Gretchen Cook-Anderson and Emmett Lyne ’77, and including faculty members Chris Zellner and Juliette Zener, has been established to review Belmont Hill’s history, in addition to its symbols, signage, awards, and building names. The plan is for students to also be included in this work. Mr. Schneider said that the bell will hopefully end up in a location where its story might continue to be instructive to many and that Belmont Hill boys will have the opportunity to continue to learn from its history.

Mr. Schneider strongly articulated, “In no way do we intend to avoid or change our history at Belmont Hill, but we do seek to engage with our history more fully and to learn from it.”

Admission Programming: Getting to Know Belmont Hill

Each fall, the Admission and Community & Diversity teams collaborate to host a program for families to learn more about the DEI initiatives at Belmont Hill School. This event included faculty speakers as well as a student panel. The format of the program allowed guests to engage with faculty, students, and admission representatives. A similar event is hosted during the admission yield season for accepted students.

Student Panel moderated by Mr. Masiiwa

This event included an overview of the School's mission to educate young men of character, specifically focusing on how the community works together to create a positive and inclusive school environment for students and families of all identities. Guidance on navigating the admission process including the application and financial aid was shared by Director of Admission and Enrollment Steve Carr '93.

Faculty Speakers

A recording of the November program is available below.

Student Leadership

At the start of the school year, students hosted a DEI focused Chapel. Learn more in the video below.

In November, Justin Santana '21 addressed the school on the topic of his Native American heritage.

In advisory on November 12, Justin Santana '21 spoke about his Native American Nipmuc heritage and shared how he received the name Brave Wolf. He also presented historical information about Massachusetts' tribes and the contributions of Native Americans that are often overlooked in history textbooks. Click here to watch his presentation.
"I challenge our entire community to work together to put the Native American picture into our minds and into our curriculum." - Justin Santana '21
The Nipmuc are recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Parent Activities

Parents Fostering Diversity

The mission of Parents Fostering Diversity (PFD), a subcommittee of our Parents' Council, is to promote and to support the efforts of Belmont Hill's Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, and staff to embrace the rich diversity of our community. All parents of students and recent alumni are welcome to join Parents Fostering Diversity. Members of PFD are valuable and trusted resources for students, mentors for new parents, and partners with other programs within the community.

This year, Parents Fostering Diversity is chaired by Julie Gomes, Carmen Rodriguez, and Shelle Santana.

2020-2021 Virtual Event and Meeting Calendar

  • Oct. 13: Opening Meeting
  • Nov. 17: Sharing our Origin Stories: Where We Come From, Who We Are
  • Jan. 19: Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Evening: Discussion of the film "A Most Beautiful Thing." based on the memoir by Arshay Cooper. Parents will have the opportunity to preview the film prior to the event with Mr. Cooper.
  • Feb. 23: Topic to be announced
  • April 23: Topic to be announced

Alumni Events and Initiatives

Belmont Hill’s Multicultural Alumni Partnership (MAP) strengthens relations among all of Belmont Hill’s alumni to enhance the diversity, openness, and climate of the greater school community. MAP realizes these objectives through targeted programs, networking events, and community outreach — all in collaboration with past and present students, parents, faculty, staff, and trustees.

MAP Directors Golf Outing

October 19, 2020. Belmont Country Club.

MAP Speaker Series Kicks Off with Caroline Randall Williams

The Multicultural Alumni Partnership (MAP) Speaker Series funded by the Diversity Initiative Fund aims to partner with speakers whose views, work, and experience aligns with our mission as a school to develop men of good character by educating them in mind, body, and spirit. Understanding the power of diversity is a critical part of building character. As such, the MAP Speaker Series strives to bring insightful speakers focused on diversity and inclusion directly to the Belmont Hill community. The series will serve as a collective of voices with a diverse range of backgrounds, thoughts, and experiences. This collective will engage the boys on the topic of diversity and inclusion while enriching their development of true character.

Caroline Randall Williams is an award-winning poet, young adult novelist, and cookbook author as well as an activist, public intellectual, performance artist, and scholar. She is the author of “Lucy Negro, Redux” and “Soul Food Love,” and a writer in residence at Vanderbilt University.

On October 29, students heard from author, educator, activist Caroline Randall Williams. Belmont Hill Trustee and MAP Director Will Forde '05 moderated the discussion and Caleb Collins '93 posed questions from students.

Upcoming Speaker: Ibram X. Kendi, Feb. 1, 2021

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, a #1 New York Times best-selling author, and the youngest-ever winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction. He is also a 2020–2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where he will continue work on his next historical monograph, Bones of Inequity: A Narrative History of Racist Policies in America.

Ibram X. Kendi
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