01 Jul

A Message from Dr. Mirangela Buggs, D-E Director of Diversity & Equity Engagement: Family Resources to Explore this Summer

Dear D-E Families,

I write first to thank you for your patience, flexibility, and support of the school’s work to continue school life amid the challenges of a global pandemic. Thank you for lending us your children. It is a pleasure to work with them.

Many of you may know that I began my work as the Director of Equity and Diversity Engagement in the summer of 2017. It is common for schools like D-E to have a school wide leader to work full-time on many endeavors that deepen the school’s mission to embrace diversity. I am part of a network of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leaders working in school communities around the country. Our work is similar, in that we are charged with moving forward the DEI conversation and the day-to-day work of education around those topics. We all work to support students, to structure professional learning for faculty and staff, to assist with hiring more diverse teachers and staff, and to generally support our schools to commit to practices that create inclusive and equitable school cultures, where students and adults of many backgrounds and identities can feel they belong and can thrive. And, each school has their own culture in which DEI leaders participate. The culture at D-E is uniquely diverse; we are one of the most diverse schools in the New York City metro area. With that diversity comes so much excitement and growth, as well as particular challenges.

Our current historical moment has presented our entire nation with both a fraught and promising challenge. We are living in a global pandemic. Now, a global movement against anti-black racism has emerged in protest. For the past several years our country has seen the rise of racism targeting multiple communities of color, along with the rise of violent and deadly anti-Semitism. Our world, our society is at a crossroads. Will we embark upon a national healing process to transform injustice and inequity? Will our society affirm the lives and dignities of all? What work will schools do to aid in transformation? What work can we do at D-E?

During our days away from school during the pandemic, adults from all areas of the school and several Upper School students met weekly for “Equity Checks” – presentations and conversations around a range of DEI topics pertinent to our social and school-based contexts. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, we supported Black students and students of all racial identities to meet, to express their feelings and views, and to lead their peers in dialogues about being upstanders for justice. These recent gatherings flowed from the pain and the need to create community around what has been happening this spring, and they are connected to the range of equity and diversity conversations we have as adults and that we support among students at D-E.  You have chosen a school for your children that has a clear mission that guides us all to “. . . embrace diversity in order to develop the skills, values, and courage to meet the challenges of a changing world and make it better.” How will we, as a community, live this mission more fully in 2020 and beyond?

Dr. De Jarnett has uplifted us all with his thoughtful reflections on the work we need to do going forward. Also, D-E has publicized a Community Letter that commits us to re-double the efforts in our DEI work. Over 1600 members of our community– parents/families, alumni, faculty-staff – have pledged to this work of deepening/redoubling our understanding and efforts to create a more safe, inclusive, and equitable world. More signatories from these constituents come forward each day. As I was preparing this letter to send to you, Black alumni and current students have stated a list of recommendations that are aligned with the deepening/redoubling that school leaders are involved in and planning for D-E right now. We are thankful to our alumni and students for their clarity and for their insistence that we at D-E do the work necessary for true belonging and equity.

For those of us who educate your children, we are called to commit to the life-long learning our mission inspires us to foster in our students. We intend to build upon the work of creating the diverse community that D-E has become, and to build upon the DEI-focused professional development work we’ve been doing at D-E. Before the final end of the year for employees, adults who work at D-E were given summer professional development work to prepare them for next year’s school wide conversations around equity, unlearning bias, and being an inclusive school. We are designing the work for teachers and others to engage in professional learning about race and racism, why and how it exists today, and how we all, including our students of all ages, are impacted by a legacy of racial inequity. Addressing racism and how it lives on a spectrum and how it shapes the very fabric of our nation, and of our schools, is so important in all that we aspire to do in our embrace of diversity. This work is timely now, urgent. As a nation and as a school, we all must unlearn racism in all of its forms and wholly support all of our students in this endeavor. 

We also would like to involve parents in these conversations next year. Many families in our community already have these discussions at home. Many would like to learn more and to have more of these discussions in their families. There are many, many resources that help people think and talk about race, racial identities and racism from many perspectives – history, psychology/social emotional lenses, sociology, political science, cultural studies, etc. Please take a look at the following curated list of resources that we hope are helpful and practical for D-E families wanting to explore alongside educators this summer. Some of these pieces will give insight about having conversations with your children about happenings in the world:

Resources to help you talk with your children (and adults):

Resources for adults and older students wanting to have a sense of various conversations about race, history, the present and schools:

For those interested in the conversation about what it means to be white/European-American:

Ultimately, the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion exists to create more connected, more kind communities where people from many backgrounds are able to create authentic bonds and to better bridge to each other’s worlds. Creating anti-racist cultures is core to DEI work in schools. While talking about race and racism can be uncomfortable, what awaits us on the other side of the process is a more knowledgeable, understanding and supportive community.

With best wishes for a restorative and healthy summer,

Dr. Mirangela Buggs

01 Jul

Message from Joe Algrant, US Principal

Dear Upper School Families,

Spring has turned to summer, and I have been looking back to see where the time has gone from March 12 to now. That was the last day we were in school together, and the time that has flown by so quickly seems simultaneously like so long ago. Our world has changed pretty dramatically in these months, and the summer does bring some time to reflect on that, much as we are already deeply into planning what the fall might look like for our school, and for society in general. 

We’ll have more to say about the fall in a few days, and you’ll hear from Dr. De Jarnett with our current thinking, but I wanted to take a moment to look back over the last few months and comment on how adept our students were at struggling through the simultaneous difficulties with which they were presented. The pandemic was certainly enough for them to process, and without a longer term perspective on world issues it was hard for them to see how this moment in time compared to other crises that the world has endured, and pulled out of in some ways better off than before. We hope this is the case with COVID-19, but that does remain to be seen, and what happens in the next few weeks nationally with the data on the coronavirus’ transmission will determine a lot about how we are able to return in the fall.

Then you add the dramatic international reactions to the horrific racist murders of George Floyd and others, and your children had a very emotionally challenging ending to an already tough semester. We tried the best we could, considering that we were all at home, to provide some safe space to talk, and many of your children took the opportunity to come to meetings and participate in the different kinds of conversations that took place. Because of student interest, some of those groups are continuing into the summer, and that will help us be more prepared for the fall when school starts again, in whatever form that takes. Please read the letter from Dr. Mirangela Buggs, our Director of Equity and Diversity Inclusion (click here), that summarizes what we have been doing on the subject of race, what we are asking the faculty to do over the summer, and what we anticipate starting in the fall. Having seen the comments from the #blackatdwightenglewood Instagram site, we know how important this work is, more so than ever.

In terms of fall athletics, we remain in a holding pattern until we see what the regulations are from public health officials and the state, and we consider what makes the most sense for the School. This will not be an easy decision, and should we be able to offer our fall competitive athletic program, there will certainly be various restrictions on what is allowed, so that we do not violate any of the necessary health and safety rules that have allowed the case numbers in our area to decline. 

That vigilance will remain critical throughout next year, and as you will hear more about in several days, our life in school will necessarily be altered to accommodate our mutual health and safety. And while it may feel quite different, at least we hope to be somewhat physically together, if in smaller groups than usual, but being able to be on campus.

Many thanks again for your support of our work with your children. Your responses to the various surveys and questionnaires were critical in the decisions we made to schedule and then reschedule the school, and to help keep students engaged while understanding the surreal factors that were impeding on our regular learning. There will likely be more moments where we check in and ask your opinions as we prepare for September.

Best wishes for some relaxation and rest, and times with less stress.


Joe Algrant,

US Principal

P.S. A quick note for all Junior (Class of 2021) Families: You should have received by now an Email  from the College Counseling Office (CCO) about Summer college admissions preparations (click here to view). I encourage you to also (if you missed it) watch the video of a recent CCO-hosted Zoom session, featuring Adam Ingersoll (Compass Education Group) on the topic of standardized testing and the impact of COVID-19.