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Racial Justice at O’Dowd

A Message from President J.D. Childs and Board of Regents Chair Kevin Kelly

Dear O’Dowd Community,

Our recent letter, “​A More Just, Joyful, Sustainable World​,” acknowledged and shared our communal grief following the killing of George Floyd. Today we want to share more about our school’s ongoing equity and inclusion work and the commitments we are now undertaking in that regard.

Black lives matter. Black lives enrich our community and make us alive and gifted in ways that we could not otherwise be. Black students and families, Black alumni, and Black teachers and staff members bless this institution by their presence and vitality. ​And justice demands their full and equitable inclusion in the total life of the school.

O’Dowd is committed to identifying and dismantling systems that create obstacles to full equity, inclusion, and belonging for Black, Indigenous, and people of color within the O’Dowd community. This work includes fully articulating, addressing, and changing systematic racism at O’Dowd. It is in this spirit of deep reflection and conversion that we commit to a deeper realization of justice at O’Dowd that creates an environment of opportunity for our students. This long-term work requires sustained discipline and commitment for organizational change.

Where We Are, What We’ve Learned As part of our accreditation process, we identified and created plans to address equity and inclusion challenges. This ongoing work includes:

  1. Implementing relevant professional development for teachers and staff related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

  2. Facilitating student listening circles with Black, Indigenous, and students of color to hear their experiences.

  3. Conducting faculty and staff focus groups to begin identifying areas of improvement for our school.

  4. Implementing schedule changes to enhance connection and belonging for students.

  5. Creating affinity spaces where Black, Indigenous, and students of color feel affirmed, safe, and can become empowered, offering their gifts for the benefit of the community.

Leadership This work will be structured, coordinated, and facilitated through an internal working group led by Academic Dean Patrice Wakeley ‘01 in partnership with other O’Dowd educators who have responsibility in these areas. Ms. Wakeley will also serve on the school’s administrative leadership team.

Initial Plans and Actions We recognize this is only the beginning of a long journey. We are committed to deepening and accelerating our efforts. We will begin with the following:

  1. Collecting and evaluating data in areas throughout the institution to identify and dismantle systems, practices, and policies that inhibit full equity, inclusion, and belonging. This information will be used to inform future action and to measure progress in identified areas.

  2. Continuing our commitment to listening; specifically, engaging O’Dowd’s Black, Indigenous, and people of color — students, parents and guardians, faculty and staff, and alumni — to hear their experiences, to learn about their specific needs, to understand their aspirations, to identify our school’s challenges, and to respond with an appropriate plan of action.

  3. Developing policies and practices for hiring with the intention of building an adult community of administrators, teachers, staff, and coaches who reflect the rich diversity of our student community.

  4. Explicitly including Black people and people of color in the school’s administrative decision-making.

  5. Creating a prioritized action plan with annual goals and measurable outcomes that we will communicate to our O’Dowd community members.

Creating Sustained Institutional Change O’Dowd’s administration and Board of Regents are committed to addressing systemic racism and to dedicating resources that facilitate transformative change in our community. We share the conviction that this work will benefit the entirety of our school, enabling us to see and serve all students more fully, within a more just and equitable school culture.

As a Catholic community, we are confident that in this work we will discover God anew in our community, through our reflection and actions. We undertake this work so that current and future generations of O’Dowd students may ever more powerfully build a more “just, joyful, and sustainable world.” We are ready for the long work our mission calls us to and we look forward to sharing more specific steps in the months ahead.


J.D. Childs President

Kevin Kelly President of Board of Regents

Note: We invite you to read an important message from Oakland Diocese and Bishop Barber about the Catholic Church’s commitment to Black Lives Matter and the fight for justice.


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