Branksome Hall News

A Message from Principal Karen Jurjevich: Commitment to Action

We’d like to share with you the address I gave to employees and students in grades 5 - 11 in three separate Zoom assemblies today. We feel it is important that our entire Branksome community is aware of this important message.
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There is no doubt that the last few months, the last few days in particular, have been challenging.

Events in the U.S. and Canada around anti-Black racism have impacted us all and forced all of us to face some very tough and painful truths. It has shone a spotlight on every organization, and Branksome Hall is by no means immune.

There isn’t an institution and organization out there that isn’t asking what more could we have done and what more can we do?

And truthfully, all of this feedback and input has helped me. Thank you for your passion, for your good ideas, for your care, and for your honesty and concern for this issue.

We have listened to each and every one of your messages, read through your thoughtful emails and even your raw comments on social media, which can feel like great outlets for expression but bring their own added pressures. Meaningful action and change does not happen on social media. It takes hard work and active listening from each other and from research and perspectives from reputable sources and experts to broaden our understanding.

This is a learning moment.

The importance of listening, and learning, to better understand how to implement meaningful action is critical. We do not have all the answers, but we are committed to doing the work required to identify and implement short and long-term actions.

We are not afraid to be proud of what we have done as a school. And, we are not afraid to admit where we have fallen short.

We have an excellent track record of following through on our commitments and strategic priorities.

For example, we have done a lot of remarkable work in a number of important areas, such as Innovation, Social and Emotional Learning, and Values. These are in our DNA now. This work has been life-altering for the school and has laid the groundwork for the work we are doing now.

I stand behind the commitments the Senior Leadership Team and I made in our public statement on Tuesday.

Like the rest of the world, we were shocked and outraged by the killing of George Floyd, and we recognize that in our own city and community, issues of racial equity and social justice need to be addressed.

These world events, such as the ones we are bearing witness to, cause confusion, anger, grief and hurt, and can leave us wondering how we can help both ourselves and each other.

It’s uncomfortable. It hurts. It’s personal.

But our school community is strong. We are resilient.

We have heard you. We are with you. There is a call for action and it is real and we support it.

We may not have all the expertise required to address the systemic challenges that we know exist. But we do have the commitment and the will.

We are taking this very seriously, and we must respond thoughtfully and in a meaningful way.

We welcome and indeed, require, our entire community's engagement and support in these efforts. We will be reaching out to students, colleagues, alum and external resources to create and mobilize an immediate set of actions and, most importantly, a longer-term and sustainable plan.

We know white privilege exists. We recognize our lack of diversity. There is no hiding behind it. We’re not hiding behind our history. We are looking at the future and moving forward.

This is hard work. These are complex and multi-layered issues, so we are taking the time needed to do this in the right way, the Branksome way.

We are on a beginner’s journey. Listening and learning are actions too, and are important elements in our plan to address structural and institutional racism. This will become Branksome Hall’s strategic priority over this coming year.

To this we are committed.

There will be a number of immediate and long-term actions Branksome will implement. As we listen and learn, more actions are to come; however, for today’s purposes I will highlight the following actions:

Our Commitments to Taking Action
  • We will listen. Listening is an action. As a result, we will be hosting listening sessions for our community to learn about the lived experiences of our students, employees and alum. 
  • Branksome Hall will immediately begin Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for all employees. Resources have been made available and we will engage in summer reading on this topic. We will take the time to access expert external resources to enable onsite training for all employees when school re-opens. This will not be a one-off. We will commit to continue to expand our learning and make this a requirement for all Branksome Hall employees who will, in turn, expand and share their learnings with students.
  • We will immediately institute an employee drive to raise funds to support advocacy and action for several causes focused on addressing anti-Black racism.
  • Branksome Hall will conduct a review of its human resource policies and protocols for hiring to bring greater awareness and action to ensuring we have increased diversity on our staff.
  • Branksome Hall will require that all teachers bring a critical lens to our curricular offerings: we will support our teachers in their efforts to expand the range of diversity of content in our teaching materials.
  • We will support the work of the Diversity Council and other groups across the school.
  • Branksome Hall will access experts on race and diversity and look to partner with members of the Black community who can advise and ensure that our changes are sustainable and implementable.
  • Branksome Hall will continue to welcome suggestions for speakers. This week, we received a list of suggested speakers from one of our students. We will continue to support the inclusion of diverse speakers and perspectives. Next week at the Grade 8 Celebration, we will welcome the return of Black poet, arts educator and mentor, Joshua Watkis. Joshua is a frequent speaker in assembly and in English classes.

The most important question to any of these actions is, how do we ensure that these changes are sustainable?

This is possible through continued commitment and joint action on the part of every community member.

To conclude, I want to emphasize how important you are as a student body. These commitments go hand in hand with ongoing conversations with you, conversations that I intend to have with you, as do other members of the administration, as well as your teachers.

I have great pride in the Branksome Hall student body and confidence in the future of our school. I would like to thank you for your attention during this assembly, and I look forward to doing this work together as a community.

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We welcome your questions, feedback and comments. Please email principal@branksome.on.ca.

Warm Regards,

Karen L. Jurjevich
Principal
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Branksome Hall

10 Elm Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada
M4W 1N4
Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years, IB World School.
Study abroad in grade 9.