from Director of Equity & Community Kalil Oldham

August 16, 2021

Dear LREI Community,

Greetings to all students, parents, guardians, faculty, staff, and members of the board. It is an honor and a privilege to introduce myself as your new Director of Equity and Community. I join this incredible community with great humility, anticipation, and purpose, and I’m eager to get to know each of you, to begin the urgent and essential work of cultivating inclusion, equity, and justice together.

I come to you most recently from the Episcopal Academy outside of Philadelphia, with many years at Horace Mann in the Bronx prior to that. I’ve worn several hats during more than two decades in education: university professor, history teacher, outdoor educator, and DEI coordinator, among others. On a personal note, my spouse is a professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College, where she teaches classes on the intersection between education, humanitarianism, and conflict around the world. We are a family of passionate educators! I’m also a new father to a wonderful 10-month-old named Jamal. As a multi-racial, heterosexual, cisgender man, I work daily to acknowledge my privilege, to illuminate my blind spots, and to remain keenly aware of the many ways that identity can affect our community members’ ability to live, learn, and thrive. I look forward to the opportunity to build fellowship and solidarity with this remarkable community.

A global pandemic, an international movement for racial justice, a harrowing and violent election season, intense national and local disputes over how to educate our children; the past year has felt extraordinary and bewildering. These events are also, however, only the most recent manifestations of systems of oppression and inequality — in health care, policing, education, and voting — that many have lived with for generations. As a school community with a commitment to engaged citizenship and social justice, we are well positioned to participate in the work of dismantling and defeating these systems, including the pervasive threats of systemic racism and white supremacy, which have adapted, evolved, and reappeared with each effort to vanquish them. 

In addition to my own role, members of LREI’s DEI facilitator team are located in each division: Charlene Cruz-Cerdas in the high school, Sara Momii Roberts in the middle school, and Tammy Dunn in the lower school. Over the past twelve months, the DEI facilitators have created a remarkable set of meaningful workshops for the LREI faculty, they have led important conversations in each division, and they have provided invaluable insight and advice to the principals and other members of the administration working toward the goal of a more equitable, inclusive, and just community. Moreover, in conversation with community members since April, I have worked to understand better our school’s progressive mission and history, the priorities of each division, and the tremendous gifts of our amazing students, dedicated families, and experienced and talented faculty and staff. As Director of Equity and Community my job will be to support the excellent work that has been ongoing for decades at LREI in every area the school, to coordinate this work across all areas of the institution, to identify and to begin to fill in any gaps or missing pieces in our framework, and to tend to the well-being of each student in the school. In the coming weeks you’ll be hearing more from myself, the principals, and our DEI facilitators about the specific programs planned for each division.

Advancing the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice at LREI will require a sustained and ongoing commitment to personal and institutional reflection and growth, with a recognition that each of us — children and adults alike — approach this work from our own personal, subjective point of view, informed by a diversity of beliefs, values, and experiences. Notwithstanding our diversity, we strive for common goals. First, a community in which all members are seen, heard, protected, and treated fairly. Second, a continued focus on the mission of the school: to cultivate active citizenship in a world that feels increasingly confusing, divided, and dangerous. Third, to build and develop a clear sense of social justice, a recognition that peace and prosperity are unattainable in an unjust world. Each of these goals is firmly rooted in LREI’s history and mission, and each member of our community is essential to seeing them through. 

I will be a regular presence in every division and section of LREI; my primary office is in the lobby of the high school and I will have a dedicated meeting space when I am at the Sixth Avenue building, down the hall from the cafeteria. You will see me around, and I hope you’ll say hello! Additionally, this fall I will look to continue the conversation by inviting students, parents, faculty, and staff from every area of the school to share their experiences, ideas, suggestions, and concerns with me as I get to know the community. The Equity and Community team will develop and facilitate an array of programs, conversations, workshops, and other offerings to aid in our personal and institutional growth. With an eye toward upholding the values and vision of LREI’s founding principles, we will work to weave seamlessly the principles of equity, inclusion, and justice into the cultural fabric of the school.

I hope these late summer days are filled with relaxation, joy, and connection with family and friends. I am humbled and energized by the opportunities and challenges that await at LREI. I’ve long been an admirer of this community: its history of progressive, experiential education, the cultivation of active citizenship, and a commitment to social justice. Thank you for reading this letter; I’m truly honored to be joining you. To colleagues, parents, and students: please reach out by email, stop by my office on the first floor of the Charlton Street campus, or find me at Sixth Avenue.

With warm thoughts and sincere best wishes,

Kalil Oldham, PhD
Director of Equity and Community