On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Head of School Thomas Dillow sent an email informing the KO community that former Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. Donique McIntosh is no longer working at KO. This left many students with questions, wondering about the future of KO’s Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) program.
In his email, Mr. Dillow assured that Dr. McIntosh’s absence would not halt KO’s commitment to making our school a place where everyone feels they belong. Mr. Dillow stated that they will evaluate what qualities they are looking for in the next candidate to fill this position, with the help of student input, while continuing to support affinity groups on campus in the meantime.
In her time at KO, Dr. McIntosh helped to advise KO’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance. Sophomore and leader of GSA Raine Wang worked with Dr. McIntosh to coordinate and plan club events. “She helped a lot with making everyone feel safe and asking what people needed from her in order to feel that way and make the club successful,” Raine said. “I think everyone in GSA will really miss her.”
The club had planned to attend an event in the spring with other schools in the area, but they are now unsure if they will be able to attend. Further, the sudden nature of Dr. McIntosh’s departure from KO has made it difficult for GSA to achieve the club’s goals of making sure queer students feel accepted at KO. They had planned to meet with faculty in February to talk about the queer student experience, but now GSA is unsure when or even if this meeting will happen. Speaking with faculty about these issues is of utmost importance in order to meet KO’s equity goals, and now they are left wondering if they will be able to share their voices. Students like Raine had no prior knowledge that Dr. McIntosh would be leaving and this left them scrambling to continue to effectively run their clubs. Recently, Raine has found a new advisor to lead the club, English teacher Erin McQuiston. With Dr. McIntosh’s absence, KO must continue to support these affinity groups and their members.
Many students are curious about who will fill Dr. McIntosh’s role and are considering what qualities the school will look for in a successful candidate. We feel that there is a place for student opinions in deciding what the school needs for a new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. While we understand that the hiring process is something that administrators usually keep under wraps, we believe that it is important for students to voice their concerns and hopes for the next DEIB directors.
There is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page on KO’s website which states KO’s commitment to maintaining an environment where every member of the community can reach their full potential. It includes five categories in which KO has strived to promote inclusivity: leadership, community engagement, faculty and staff, student life, and curriculum. The page includes a link to Mr. Dillow and Trustee and Chair of the DEI Committee Doug Harris’s DEIB update letter which was published in April 2021. In an effort to have a more recent update on KO’s work towards fostering belonging, we encourage more communication to be provided to students, staff, and families about recent initiatives and future goals.
In recent years, KO has looked to diversify its curriculum; the history, English, and art departments have all introduced initiatives to educate students on different cultures, include broader representation, and guide students in learning about the experiences of marginalized groups from a local lens. The importance of seamlessly incorporating diversity into classes that every student takes cannot be understated. Many times, the classes that focus on diverse topics are electives, which means only a select group of students take these classes. We urge KO to continue developing its core curriculum to foster students’ engagement with diverse perspectives and narratives.
We feel that KO should emphasize student involvement in Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging, and keep students aware of the status of a new DEIB Director. Because of the recent loss of Dr. McIntosh, it feels like the perfect opportunity for KO to reevaluate its diversity efforts and community as a whole. There is always room for improvement, and this presents an excellent chance for KO to become a more belonging place for students and faculty alike.