Creating the World We Want
“During my first learning journey with MMS students to South Africa in 2009, I was struck by the fact that the South Africans I met spoke so openly about race, apartheid, and the ongoing process of reconciliation and healing,” commented MMS Director of Upper School Shannon Kelly. “I realize how seldom I had engaged in similar conversations at home, and how this country would not be able to begin to heal from the trauma of slavery and systemic racism until citizens were able to have honest dialogue about racism, anti-racism and how to be an ally.
“My awareness of the importance of a clearly articulated and visible message of equity and inclusion grew more recently, as I began to work with the Santa Cruz County Safe Schools Task Force,” Kelly continued. “As educators, we strive to create safe classrooms and schools where students, staff, faculty and families feel a sense of belonging. Unfortunately, as we know, this is not always the case.
“While I consider Mount Madonna School to be a loving and inclusive environment, through speaking with community members, I realized that we needed to be more explicit in stating this intention and doing the difficult work of evaluating where we are successful and where we fall short. The work of the equity and inclusion committee is to help align our intentions as a school with the experience of our students, faculty, staff and families. The equity and inclusion statement is the first step in making this a reality.”
Work on crafting the statement began in July 2020. The school’s Equity and Inclusion Committee included school administrators, faculty, staff, parents and alumni. The committee members are Kelly, AnMei Dasbach-Prisk (‘20), Chrislaine Miller, Christie Orozco, Jen Astone, Jill Kayne, and Masina Hunnicutt.
“I am honored to have been asked to be a member of this committee,” shared Masina Hunnicutt. “As a relatively recent immigrant to the United States, I am very much aware of the privilege and burden of living in this country. As a member of the MMS community, it is important to me that everyone who enters these gates are accepted and seen for their humanity and how we all enrich each other’s’ lives as a community.
“I also want to help dispel the notion out there that MMS is ‘too white’,” continued Hunnicutt. “As a community, we must continue to examine how we – and the school – are portrayed in the broader community. I have hopes that this committee will delve deep into our institutional biases and evaluate our own progressive ideals and whether they are helping our people of color and LGBTQ community members. In the past six to eight months we have done exactly this, and continue to do so.
“As a mother and community member who knows that how we raise our children is fundamental to making the world a better place, I wanted to join this group,” commented Jen Astone. “The group has reinvigorated our collective understanding of what it means to prioritize inclusive values and equity in our learning environment, an important step forward for action in building a stronger, healthier community.
“Participating in a process to ensure that our mission and values reflect the equity and inclusivity of Mount Madonna School’s teaching and principles has been a gift. I have been honored and humbled to be part of this diverse, woman-led committee. We have work to do as a country and we can start here in our community to take the steps towards modeling the kind of relationships and culture necessary to address the systemic racism that pervades our culture.”
Mount Madonna School is committed to providing an inclusive and equitable learning environment. This is an inherent core value of our school. As a diverse community of learners, we believe that an inclusive and equitable education system is critical in unlocking the full potential of each and every student, faculty and staff member at Mount Madonna School.
What we have learned in over 40 years is that we cannot have equity without inclusion. We also recognize that creating an equitable and inclusive school is an iterative process. We are committed to engaging in this important work in several ways:
- By continually exploring the ways in which teaching and learning are used to bring awareness of unjust and harmful systems of oppression, and how they can also be used to help develop empathy and compassion
- Exploring the structural ways that Mount Madonna School can actively support equity and inclusion
- Helping our students and ourselves reflect on our own knowledge and experience of race, color, ancestry, culture, religion, ability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and socioeconomics
- Focusing on developing behaviors, forms of communication, and relationships that reinforce our commitment to equity and inclusion
- Dismantling conditions that prevent everyone from inhabiting the educational space, and feeling seen, heard, and valued
Equity is generally defined as “fairness.” At Mount Madonna School this means that students can access the same quality education regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, gender or other facets of their identity. Because of Mount Madonna’s small class sizes, teachers are able to provide individualized support to each student and strive to see them as their authentic selves.
We are constantly learning and improving as our world evolves. Our ultimate goal is that each individual who enters our gates is embraced for who they are, treated with humanity and dignity, and supported on their journey. This includes, and is not limited to, the academic, social, emotional, as well as spiritual, religious, and ethical dimensions of human life.
Below are some of the active steps that we are taking to realize the goals that we have set out for ourselves.
- We provide financial support to more than half of our student body
- We are committed to providing student and family education
- We have an active, student led, Gay-Straight Alliance club. The club’s mission is to pursue the betterment of our school and greater community by creating a safe space for the LGBTQI+ community
- We have a parent education committee that organizes or partners with other organizations to provide educational opportunities for our parent community
- We have an Equity and Inclusion Committee made up of faculty, staff, administration, parent, board and alumni voices
- We are committed to incorporating the voices of our students in all that we do. We will invite our upper school students to review and discuss our mission and values at the start of each year. We are also in the process of establishing a Student Climate Committee
- We are doing an equity and inclusion audit of our Pre/K-12 curriculum and incorporating the social justice standards from the Teaching Tolerance anti-bias framework
- We are committed to continual faculty and staff professional development that supports our equity and inclusion goals. To date, we have worked with https://www.genderspectrum.org and http://www.enidlee.com
For 2020-21, Mount Madonna School reports that 56% of its students receive some form of financial assistance; over $1 million in financial assistance was awarded this year; 35% of its students are students of color. The school’s students come from Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Clara counties.
“COVID-19 has unmasked systemic racism in our country,” observed Head of School Ann Goewert, “and MMS is committed to working towards creating an equitable and inclusive learning and working environment.”
Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.