Breadcrumbs

Task Forces: Race / Gender

Lessons in Healthy Relationships

A collaboration between an Upper School English teacher and PC's new health, wellness and human sexuality educator shows how topics of gender equity, sexuality and consent inform teaching and learning at Penn Charter.

Meet Teacher Emma

Emma Cohen-Westbrooke is Penn Charter’s first Health, Wellness and Human Sexuality Educator.

Penn Charter's two DEI task forces complete the discovery phase of their work and move forward to analysis and, then, recommendations. 

The Race & Equity Task Force was divided into four committees: parents/guardians; students; OPCs; and faculty, staff and administration. During the discovery phase of their work, in the 2020-21 academic year, students surveyed students about their experiences learning about race, discussing race and racial dynamics at PC, and the other groups surveyed parents, OPCs, faculty and staff. Next, the task force used empathy interviews to hear the stories and experiences of members of our community. Data gathered during discovery has been analyzed by an outside firm, and the task force will work to develop recommendations based on the findings. 

The Gender Equity, Sexuality & Consent Task Force has determined three priority areas of focus: curriculum, policies and procedures, and community healing.  The Curriculum working group partnered with the International Institute of Restorative Justice to train more than 20 students, faculty and administrators to conduct listening circles for students, faculty, OPCs and parents to reflect on Penn Charter’s curriculum related to the goals of the task force. With the help of outside consultants, the task force will identify central themes; following that analysis the group will make specific curriculum recommendations to administration.

For both task forces, this discovery phase was a first step toward identifying and addressing policies, procedures and practices that uphold systemic racism, sexism and other oppressive and discriminatory attitudes and beliefs at Penn Charter. 

Task Force Formation

Students and alumni have shared personal stories of pain experienced in our Penn Charter community (both on and off campus) around issues of racism, sexual harassment and assault. In the summer of 2020 the school reached out to the community to gather more information about these experiences, to acknowledge the pain of those affected, determine a way forward to heal as a community, inform you of our actions, adjust our curriculum, and improve the culture of Penn Charter. 

One of these actions was the formation of two task forces, Race & Equity and Gender Equity, Sexuality & Consent, which are focused on bringing about necessary change in our community.

Task Force Guiding Principles & Core Questions

The mission of Penn Charter is aspirational; more than describing a way of life, it focuses on an approach to life and the character of all of us as we go through life, seek fulfillment and make a difference in the lives of others. The issues we face, however, are real issues and they challenge us now. The challenges are not specific to Penn Charter; they are the same ones facing educational institutions across the country and society at large.  Success, therefore, must be considered in a broader context. We cannot pretend to "solve" these societal problems; however, we can be clear as to how Penn Charter seeks to address these issues, and, by engaging in thoughtful discussion around these issues, begin to shift community thinking, reinforce our Quaker heritage, and make real change in the lives of our students.  

We have created two task forces – Race & Equity and Gender Equity, Sexuality & Consent – to look at these issues in context, and with an understanding that we need to respond with clear visible actions to improve school climate at Penn Charter. The Race & Equity Task Force is clerked by Antonio Williams and Ben Robinson. The Gender Equity, Sexuality & Consent Task Force is clerked by Naté Hall, Alyson Goodner and Mark Hecker.  

Specifically, the work of the task forces addresses several core questions, including:

  • How can we better value and respect our Penn Charter students, including students of color?

  • How can we best foster an environment that promotes respect and healthy relationships and teaches students how to prevent and report sexual harassment and sexual violence?

  • Are there gaps in our curricular or co-curricular offerings regarding key social issues our students routinely confront and, if so, how can we appropriately fill them?

  • How can we reinforce care and support for students and community members impacted by racial or sexual harassment or violence and instill responsibility and accountability for individuals who violate school policies or the core tenets of our Quaker values?

Roles & Responsibilities

Each task force consists of two leadership groups:

  • The steering committee, which is made up of board members, administrators, faculty, staff, students, OPCs, parents and outside experts, is responsible for reviewing current programs, practices, policies, as well as, collecting and reviewing relevant data. The committee develops best practices, devises strategies, and identifies goals, priorities, and procedures to address inequities in Penn Charter’s educational program, school culture (for students) and work environment (for faculty, staff and administrators) as related to gender and race.

  • The planning committee, a larger group of faculty, staff, administrators, students, OPCs and parents, supports the work of the steering committee as it reviews data and establishes goals and priorities for the task force work. As work moves forward, members of the planning committee will lead and serve on work groups established by the steering committee and play an active role in creating and planning school improvement initiatives.

While the clerks of each task force determine the specific processes to be used for this essential work, the overarching approach for each task force involves systematic reviews of policies, procedures and practices currently used at Penn Charter as well as deep community engagement throughout the process.  Ultimately, each task force is responsible for recommending action steps to the board, head of school, and/or other school leadership groups, as appropriate, to improve Penn Charter’s educational program, school culture and work environment as related to race and gender. 

Committee Roles and Responsibilities

  • The steering committee’s role and responsibilities:

    • Examine Penn Charter’s current DEI strategies

    • Review the DEI mission statement and make recommendations (if any)

    • Collect and Analyze Data - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)

    • Identify Goals and Priorities

    • Devise a DEI strategy that will address the racial inequity in our programs, curriculum, culture, athletics, policies, etc.  
       

  • The planning committee’s role and responsibilities:

    • Examine and provide feedback on the data analyzed by the Steering Committee

    • Plan the implementation of a DEI strategy that will address the racial inequity in our programs, curriculum, culture, athletics, policies, etc. (via subcommittee work)

RACE & EQUITY TASK FORCE

Clerks:

Antonio Williams P '22, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Ben Robinson III OPC '82, Penn Charter Board Member

Steering Committee:

Amanda E.,
Class of '22
Alyson Schwartz P '21, 24
Caroline Wilkes OPC '08
Gabi Bembry OPC '14
Gabbi P., Class of '22
Howard Stevenson P '23
Lee Payton P '20, Assistant Director of Upper School
Leila W., Class of '22
Leon Caldwell OPC '87
Lisa Reedich, Lower School Counselor
Marcy Sosa P '18, '31, Director of Lower School
Naveena Bembry P '11 '14, Lower School Teacher, Diversity Coordinator
Ruth McGee, Upper School Teacher, Diversity Coordinator
Zora Johnson OPC '21
Liam LaBarge OPC ‘21
Peyton Parker OPC ‘21


GENDER EQUITY, SEXUALITY & CONSENT TASK FORCE

Clerks:

Alyson Goodner OPC '96, P '33 Director of the Center for Public Purpose
Naté Hall P '27 and '29, Associate Director of Admissions
Mark Hecker OPC '99, Penn Charter Board Member

Steering Committee:

Allen Vandegrift, Assistant Director of Middle School, Visual Arts Teacher, Basketball and Lacrosse Coach 
Amani R., Class of '22
Chris Burnett P '17, Lower School Teacher, Basketball Coach
Chris Rahill OPC '99, Senior Development Officer, Football Coach
Elizabeth Hitschler, Upper School Counselor
Haydn Sage OPC '21
Henry D., Class of '22
Holly Silberman, Middle School English Teacher
John Estok, Health & Physical Education Department Chair, Strength and Conditioning Coach
Justin Wilson OPC '20
Leilani B.,
Class of '23
Marjani Merritt P '32
Rachel Dyer OPC '92,  P '19, '21, '24, Upper School Registrar, Field Hockey and Lacrosse Coach
Rachel Malhotra P '23, '26, '34, Upper School English Teacher
Sabrina Shaffer OPC '20
Sharon Ahram,
11/12th Grade Dean, Assistant Director of the Center for Public Purpose