A Message from the Chair of Our Advisory BoardBy Stephan Blanford | July 12, 2020
Dear Integrated Schools Family:
The last time I wrote to you in my role as board chair, back in late January, we were reeling from the loss of our Executive Director and founder, Courtney Mykytyn. At that time, we were grappling with the uncertain viability of the organization as well as blinding grief in the wake of her tragic loss. And whereas many of us continue to have unresolved grief associated with her abrupt departure, our lives have also been overtaken by the Covid pandemic and more recently, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the resulting protests and potential societal shifts emerging from their deaths. I’m reminded of the saying “sometimes you live a decade in one year.” It seems like we have endured a decade in the last 6 months!
But I am happy to report that Integrated Schools has made significant strides despite a half year of turbulence. You may remember that back in January, I appointed a Transition Committee of 5 parent leaders from across the country to help manage any number of operational issues confronting IS. Since then, we have met weekly to keep activities on track, interface with chapter leaders and continue the impressive momentum that we have built. I am so grateful to Bridget Gernander from Minneapolis, Ali Takata in Austin and Molly Wheeler in New Haven. And a special thanks goes out to Andrew Lefkowits, who has not only maintained the quality of the podcasts despite the loss of his cohost but expanded our reach substantially (more on this below). Special thanks also to Anna Lodder, who has led the Transition Committee and been the solution-oriented “go-to” for any number of issues that have confronted us.
Among the many accomplishments that we can all take pride in:
- We have expanded our reach and now have Integrated Schools chapters in 25 cities, including newly established chapters in Pasadena, New Haven and Baltimore and chapters in process in Chicago, Boston and Richmond. a big thank you to all our incredible chapter leaders who are engaging new & current members and working on-the-ground to build our 3.5%
- Our online book club has increased the number of participants over the Spring and grappled with provocative books like We Gon’ Be Alright by Jeff Chang and Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey. Eve Ewing’s Ghosts in the Schoolyard is on deck for the September book club meeting.
- The popularity of the Integrated Schools podcast continues to astound. We eclipsed 100,000 total downloads back in May and see almost 8,000 downloads for each episode.
- Almost 500 people have registered for a newly redesigned Workshop/Webinar, set for July 13th at 8pm ET/5pm PT. Special thanks go out to all those that have been involved in multiple meetings and design sessions to produce a workshop that shares our message and strategies to engage with communities across the nation.
- The Awkward Conversations Guide, designed to support parents through difficult dialogues with other parents about their enrollment decisions, is completed and available online. Although we haven’t publicized its availability, nearly 100 individuals in our Integrated Schools family have signed up to download it, validating our believe that this type of resource is sorely needed.
- Integrated Schools is immensely popular on social media. We more than tripled the number of Instagram followers since mid-March, have nearly 4,500 Facebook followers and increased our followers, mentions, profile visits and tweet impressions on Twitter by similarly impressive increments.
And despite the fact that we have not yet embarked on any significant fundraising activities, we have added to our coffers since the beginning of the year (with only a few small expenses during the same time). So, given the substantial progress that we have seen in the first half of this year, I have asked the Transition Committee to continue its role providing oversight of Integrated Schools for an additional 6 months while we determine changes to the staffing and governance structures of the organization. During this time, we will engage with internal and external stakeholders to design the best structure for Integrated Schools going forward and will announce any significant changes before year’s end.
As our nation’s public schools contemplate reopening, and as they grapple with the challenge of becoming antiracist, our message is needed more than ever. I am so grateful to everyone in the Integrated Schools family who has volunteered their time and shared their gifts to ensure that Courtney’s vision of a grassroots movement of families intentionally and humbly enrolling their children in integrating schools becomes a reality.
Dr. Stephan Blanford
Board Chair, Integrated Schools
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Integrated Schools is growing a grassroots movement of, by and for parents who are intentionally, joyfully and humbly enrolling their children in integrating schools. Learn more >