A message from Head of School Charles M. Stillwell to the Episcopal community
June 8, 2020
Dear Members of the Episcopal Community,
Special thanks to all of you who have reached out to me and other faculty and staff since receiving my communications from the School this past week. I am grateful for the care and concern you have for the School and your desire to see us be the strongest community possible. I have been especially moved by several heartfelt exchanges with members of our Black and African American alumni during this difficult and emotional time. I also have appreciated receiving thoughtful notes from alumni from as far back as the Class of 1949 through our most recent graduates.
It is clear from several of these conversations that my message failed to capture as effectively as we had hoped our true emotions here on campus and our full intention to respond to this pivotal moment in our country’s history. Most painful for me, the conversations demonstrated that I could have better supported our Black and African American students, alumni, faculty, and staff during a time of enormous pain and anger. For that, I am truly sorry.
To be clear:
We know and believe Black Lives Matter, and we support those students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff who have lent their voices to the peaceful protests. Our core values and identity as an Episcopal school tie us to their cause.
We condemn the police brutality and racial violence that led to the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others this year as well as in years past.
We know we have an important responsibility in this moment to act. We are a school that benefitted from the work of enslaved African Americans in our early years and has been challenged, like many institutions in Virginia and the country, by the legacy of racial discrimination that has endured since the Civil War.
This moment demands that every institution and individual engage in self-examination and determine how we can do better. This past week, we have been discussing the best framework for moving forward. While we do not have all the answers, we do plan to take these steps:
We will examine the Episcopal student experience in all aspects and find ways to create an antiracist culture that more actively fights bigotry and prejudice and promotes caring, empathy, and respect. As with previous major EHS initiatives, we will soon develop a task force of faculty and staff to drive this effort, which will also call on students, parents, and alumni for their help. Already, a group of alumni led by some of our youngest graduates are putting together a productive set of ideas that we look forward to exploring.
We will continue and deepen our exploration of the School’s past. During our commemoration of 50 years of integration at EHS, we began a frank assessment of the School’s racial history. Our faculty have continued this exploration with students, but now, with your help, we must seize the opportunity to do more.
Faculty and staff here have been engaged in important conversations this past week to come up with concrete strategies to respond to this moment and to best bring about change. But we need your voices in this conversation as well. To that end, we will bring together our community, particularly Black and African American alumni and students, in forums beginning this summer so that those who have lived the Episcopal experience can help us interpret the School’s past and present and create the kind of culture that lives up to Episcopal’s great ideals.
I am deeply grateful for all in our school family for your loyalty to the School and constant commitment to its betterment. I look forward to the opportunity to work closely with you, as your talents and perspectives will be vital assets in this work.
We will be in touch with more information and invitations to our forums, but in the meantime, please let me know if you would like to share any thoughts about our next steps.