Dear Head-Royce Community,
Transitions are both refreshing and challenging. They toy with your sleep and meddle with the routine you thought you had memorized. For this life-long East Coaster, still on a 5:30 a.m. EST wakeup schedule, my first few weeks in Oakland were filled with even earlier mornings, routinely waking at 2:30 a.m. PST. Add this to dressing for the unique microclimate that is the Bay Area, hearing the local requisite adverb “hella” everywhere, the reality of earthquakes, the incessant hills, and well, you’ll find this big city fish fresh out of water, yet determined to learn the necessary tools to survive and also thrive in her new locale.
I feel an unspoken connection with every new student to Head-Royce, even the students who are starting in a brand new division. Nothing is the same, the introductions are plentiful, and you find yourself exhausted but excited for what’s next. There’s a sense of both fear and nervousness when people and places are new; it’s uncomfortable to put yourself out there repeatedly to connect with a community and a new routine. For me, however, that initial uneasiness was quickly calmed by gestures of kindness (including hi-fives from a few Lower School students at drop-off, gifts of lavender plants, and oh-so-many restaurant suggestions) that let me know I’d landed in the right place.
It has been a busy and full first few months. I’ve spent the semester visiting classes, hosting drop-in lunches to discuss individual anti-bias goals with colleagues, pulling my new office together, having snack time with students, engaging in the first DEI Bookclub with colleagues, speaking at Parent Coffees, attending Back to School Night and Open Houses, and meeting with Parent Affinity Group leaders as well as various other constituents to discuss involvement and partnering goals. Just recently I hosted a discussion in both the Upper and Middle Schools about the Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson cases to create space for dialogue and understanding. I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time with the Bridge to 2022 Strategic Plan and have begun to envision what Equity and Inclusion looks like in our curriculum, School culture, and broader Head-Royce community.
While I’ve navigated these transitions, I’ve also observed the growth of this role and this School as it pertains to Equity and Inclusion. From having one role, to this new model of a Director joined by Divisional Equity and Inclusion Deans––as well as a Senior Administrative team that has engaged in training––it’s clear that this community is fully engaged in the work and wants to move the School forward in a way that is thoughtful, adaptive, and supportive.
I hope that what might feel like growing pains (and groaning) in this work, turns into positive opportunities for growth, courageous conversation, and movement for our community. I’m excited to be here, going through this important transition with you all.
What’s coming for the second quarter? I’ll be working more with the faculty on inclusive classrooms and curriculum, attending school plays, counting down the days until Angie Thomas visits for the NIA speaker series (Wednesday, February 12!), and connecting with more members of the community.
I invite you to stop by my office to connect.
Johára brings a wealth of experience to her role as Head-Royce's Director of Equity & Inclusion. Formerly the Director of Equity and Inclusion at Worcester Academy, Johára has worked in three independent schools as a diversity practitioner. A graduate of the Peddie School in New Jersey, Johára’s academic background includes a B.A. from Wesleyan University, a J.D. from New York Law School and experience in the classroom as a history teacher in addition to her leadership roles working with students in community service and global travel programs.
At Worcester Academy, Johára oversaw DEI for both the Middle and Upper School and collaborated with faculty on creating an inclusive curriculum and program. She has developed professional development programs, created social justice curriculum for students and organized and implemented school-wide “Diversity Days” at all three schools where she has worked. Outside of her official role, Johára has researched trends on retention of faculty of color in independent schools and has presented that research at POCC and the Carney Sandoe Diversity FORUM. She has recently been selected to participate in NAIS’s Aspiring Heads Program, a nationally recognized program that seeks to cultivate and promote school leaders through leadership training and research-based practices.