On October 21, Windward sent a cohort to the Pollyanna Conference, a DEIB focused event bringing together teams of leaders from more than 30 schools.
The team was comprised of Windward administrators, parents, and students, including: Tom Gilder, Head of School; Eric Mandel, Assistant Head of School and Director of Middle School; Ryan Shelven, Assistant Director of DEIB; Ann-Marie Hobbs, Middle School Dean of Students; Sarah Musich, Collegiate Division Counselor; Trustees Chelsea Patterson and Viveca Paulin-Ferrell; Windward parents Mirna Cardenas and Chiara Eckhardt Slewett; and 8th grade student Mikaella K.
The theme for the 2023 conference was "Addressing Hate with Intention: Thoughtfully Combatting Attempts to Divide" with Natosha Reid Rice serving as the keynote speaker. Ms. Rice is passionate about providing a voice to the voiceless and opportunities to communities that have been historically disadvantaged. She is a frequent speaker and facilitator for community/civic organizations, churches, colleges and corporate events on topics such as the intersection of faith and justice, race and gender justice, leadership development, and community empowerment.
The conference also included a fireside chat conversation as a way to engage multiple perspectives. Dr. Saba Soomekh, Ph.D. joined the conference to have a conversation with Ms. Rice following her remarks. Dr. Soomekh is the Director of Training and Education for the American Jewish Committee (AJC). She is a scholar focusing her research on World Religions, Women and Religion, intersectionality and its impact on the Jewish community. In the Summer of 2019, Dr. Soomekh was a Scholar-in-Residence at Oxford University with the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.
Following the keynote speaker and fireside chat, Windward attendees had the opportunity to engage in conversations with colleagues in similar positions at different schools (Heads of School, Assistant Heads, teachers, trustees, etc.). Students also worked during this time to create presentations for the adults at the conference helping them better understand the student experiences at independent schools. Mikaella led one such discussion for those in attendance.
During the final 90 minutes, the Windward team had the opportunity to work together to share what they had learned, talking about where Windward was in its DEIB journey, and brainstorming steps the School can take to make Windward an even more welcoming community.
The Pollyanna Conference is an insightful experience year after year, and provided the School with a great opportunity to advance its work on Goal 1 of its new Strategic Plan.