Dear Alumni, Parents, Students, Faculty, and Members of our BSA Community,
We are writing in follow-up to our July correspondence concerning the anti-racist and the Black Lives Matter movements at the Baltimore School for the Arts.
Over the last several weeks, we have heard from many of you — current students, parents, faculty, and alumni. In your messages, you have expressed your urgency to see, and be closely connected to, anti-racist action at BSA.
At the administrative and faculty levels, we have had multiple conversations over these last few weeks, beginning a comprehensive review of all aspects of school life — curriculum, scheduling, hiring, professional development, culture, safety, parent engagement and more — in order to identify specific actions and opportunities.
We write you today to tell you that we will do more and do better in our anti-racist work. We know that we must do this work on behalf of all current and future BSA students, and for our community. We set forth below comments and steps on ten topics raised in recent conversations and communications from our community. We describe specific steps BSA will take in the immediate and longer-term future.
Two years ago, we commissioned an equity audit because we were aware of inequity in the school. With the support of the Board, we raised money to engage the consulting firm, Sage Wellness, to help us identify problems and begin to have a deeper understanding of racial issues in our school. We accomplished several months of anti-racist workshops before Covid-19 shut schools down.
BSA – its administration, staff, and board, unequivocally supports the Black Lives Matter movement. We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the violence that is regularly perpetrated against Black people in our country and community. That must change.
BSA will enter the next school year committed to asking tough questions of ourselves, to lean into difficult conversations, and to affect change in both the short-term and in the future.
BSA is currently working with BCPSS, as we are required to do, to identify the partner who will work with our community on anti-racist training for staff, students, and board. We will prioritize this work and devote the time and financial resources necessary to drive significant improvement. We expect to have the partner identified by the beginning of the school year.
Curriculum and Guest Artists
Several faculty members have spent time this summer revising curriculum and restructuring courses to include Black histories, artists, creators, thinkers, and anti-racist content. Teachers have also been engaged in professional development over the summer to expand their knowledge about these topics and will make immediate changes at the beginning of this school year.
The BSA Foundation has also secured funding over the summer to invest in a curriculum audit which will help to determine the most effective process for reconstructing an academic and arts curriculum that reflects, represents, and honors the race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation of all BSA students.
Equally important, the curriculum audit will address the learning disparities of some BSA students with a commitment to providing academic intervention programs to help students overcome their challenges and achieve success.
The task of deconstructing a curriculum that has been exclusionary will require time, energy, and learning for our staff. We will have clear first steps in place in September, but we expect that this work, done well, will take months or years, not weeks.
BSA will also focus on bringing our students into contact with guest artists with expertise in non-western curriculum during the 2020-21 school year. We are so fortunate to have engaged alumni from all over the country who have come together and indicated they are willing and able to donate their expertise and time to this endeavor. We see this as a way to provide immediate and valuable experiences for our students.
Advanced Placement Courses
BSA’s Advanced Placement courses are not as diverse as we want them to be. A demographic chart for the last 5 school years is below.
Students Enrolled in Advanced Placement Courses, 2015-2020
|School Year||# of Enrolled Students||Students of Color||Percentage|
|15-16||81 Students||27 Students||33%|
|16-17||79 Students||34 Students||43%|
|17-18||68 Students||28 Students||41%|
|18-19||75 Students||30 Students||40%|
|19-20||109 Students||44 Students||40%|
In the past few years, BSA has actively worked to move toward demographics in these classes that reflect our school as a whole. This work has focused on sharing an understanding of the value of these more intense courses and helping students prepare to flourish in that environment. This preparatory work goes far beyond a selection process for the classes. We understand that there is more work to do and we are committed to doing that work for continued progress.
Similarly, BSA has endeavored to move our faculty and staff demographics toward representation that reflects our city. We believe this is essential for many reasons, and that the inclusion of diverse, professional voices is critical for BSA’s students and for the long-term future of the school. A table with current demographics is below.
Employee Category and Self-Identification
|Employee Category||% Male||% Female||% Black||% White||% Asian||% LatinX|
|BCPS full-time faculty & staff||32%||68%||36%||57%||4%||4%|
|High School part-time Arts||49%||51%||26%||67%||2%||5%|
|TWIGS part-time arts||49%||51%||39%||56%||2%||2%|
|Total, across all categories||46%||54%||31%||62%||3%||4%|
|Employee Category||# Male||# Female||# Black||# White||# Asian||# LatinX|
|BCPS full-time faculty & staff||9||19||10||16||1||1|
|High School part-time Arts||40||42||21||55||2||4|
|TWIGS part-time arts||20||21||16||23||1||1|
|Total, across all categories||69||82||47||94||4||6|
As positions become available, we will plan to post job openings on the school’s website and other on-line hiring sites. We also will be actively encouraging our alumni and parents to network within their professional communities so that we can make sure we have a diverse pool of qualified candidates for BSA employment.
We will begin a search for our next Director in the Fall. The school has engaged Edgility Consulting which was chosen out of many candidates because of their commitment to diversity and emphasis on equity and inclusion at each stage of the hiring process.
We are confident that through our network of alumni, working artists, and our national reputation, we will attract a leader to suit the needs of our community.
All members of our community will be able to have a voice in the search through town hall meetings, small group listening forums, group surveys, and more.
You will receive more information about the search and our process in early October.
BSA’s social media accounts were originally created to promote and highlight the work of the school and its community.
During the time that the school has been closed down due to the coronavirus, the need to share information via social media has grown significantly. We recognize social media’s value as a communication tool.
We are also delighted to announce that a Black Student Union representative has agreed to work alongside our Social Media Director starting in September. There will be additional opportunities for a diverse group of students to collaborate with our communications team to ensure permanent student intern positions and partnerships.
Regarding the important role of our alumni, we propose two initiatives: #AlumniinAction and #BSAArtActivism. We’re so proud of our extended BSA family of alumni who are active in their fields and communities. We propose to highlight them regularly for work that breaks down stereotypes and barriers, and educates. These personal stories of transformative art and activism, heard directly from the voices of our alumni will empower and encourage current and future students of BSA.
By creating bridges between students and foundation staff, all communications content will represent and better support all members of the BSA community, particularly our students.
Avenues for Student Reporting
We must develop a safe process for students to bring forward concerns anonymously. Understanding that it may be challenging for students to be comfortable bringing some concerns to school staff, we will be speaking to the BCPSS Office of Family and Student Engagement to seek their advice and assistance in this matter.
Student Affinity Groups
Student affinity groups support an inclusive community by providing the space for diverse groups to self-identify, unite openly, and engage together. The student support team at BSA will actively participate in the creation and implementation of affinity groups for students and parents looking to participate in this form of community building.
The creation of these affinity groups will be supported and respected by faculty and staff in their organizing efforts and have a seat at the table in school-wide discussions about anti-racism and harmful bias.
Student delegates from these affinity groups, including but but not limited to, the BSU, will be invited to participate in faculty, staff and board meetings to offer updates and insight from their work.
Parents are a critical part of the BSA community and their insights and experiences need to be brought forward to improve our community.
BSA will institute a monthly series of parent meetings to discuss and share thoughts about the school, its culture, curriculum, and environment. Those meetings will begin in September of 2020.
Aiming to help BSA students through the Baltimore School for the Arts experience, we will create an Alumni Council to help foster a spirit of loyalty, promote the general welfare, and support of the school.
The Alumni Council, in partnership with the BSA Foundation staff, will continue to deepen alumni engagement with our current students and, among other activities, will institute a mentoring program for current students. The Alumni mentoring program will connect current students with diverse professional opportunities and professional communities.
There are currently four alumni on The BSA Board of Trustees. These alumni board members will participate in group conversations and town hall meetings four times a year to hear and address concerns from our alumni community.
Board of Trustees
We recognize there is confusion about the roles of the Baltimore School for the Arts Foundation and the Baltimore City Public School System. To bring clarity to these roles, we need to spend time discussing the roles and responsibilities.
Communication about the Foundation’s role and the work of the Trustees will be a priority during the 2020-2021 school year. A monthly communication will be shared to specifically discuss the roles of our Board and the Foundation and their activities.
In addition to the already-established working committees of the Board, the Board of Trustees will now create a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee which will come together in September.
The committee will meet to discuss, communicate, and offer support to BSA’s administration with the goal of enhancing the environment for diversity, equity, and inclusion across all of BSA. While this will be a committee run by the Board of Trustees, members of the BSU, faculty, and parents will be invited to be part of this important work.
We will commit to specific anti-racist practices and actions to ensure the safety and well-being of Black students, staff, alumni, and community members. We will also be inclusive of other non-Black people of color and indigenous community members.
Increasing the diversity of our Board will remain a focus.
BSA will live up to its values tomorrow by confronting who we are today. We are earnest about effectively and sensitively serving young Baltimoreans from every neighborhood and demographic in our city. The work described above will help us to come closer to achieving that goal.
Chris Ford – Director
Li-Wen Kang ’88 – Chair of the Board of Trustees