Not your grandfather's Fenwick

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Rev. Richard Peddicord

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In Fenwick High School's quest for constant improvement, its board of directors, administration, and faculty are listening intently to the disturbing experiences that some of our students of color have encountered in the past. We will be better for our present and future generations of Friars by ensuring that students of all races and backgrounds feel safe and nurtured, so that they may achieve their full potential and become empowered servant leaders who affect change within our country and world.

A Wednesday Journal editorial recently called for Fenwick to repent for its sins of past racism. The administration and faculty are embarking on this process, which the editorial also acknowledged. We continue to pray for our alumni and past students who were victims of such ill treatment. As I wrote to our 7,414 living alumni last month, it is easy to state that Fenwick stands firmly against institutional racism and that it will not be tolerated at our Catholic high school. It is more difficult, however, to live the tenets of the Gospel and the life of Jesus Christ, to personify the moral truth that Black and Brown lives matter. Yet this is what we are intent on doing.

The aforementioned article could be read to imply that Fenwick operates in a non-diverse vacuum, "more likely to draw students from Western Springs than the adjacent West Side." It is important for us to highlight that, for the school year ended two months ago, our students came from 54 towns and 74 zip codes. The top nine cities represented in the Friars' student population were:

 

Chicago

185 students

16.3% of Student Body

Oak Park

103 students

9.1% of Student Body

Elmhurst

91 students

8.0% of Student Body

Western Springs

89 students

7.9% of Student Body

River Forest

87 students

7.7% of Student Body

Berwyn

74 students

6.5% of Student Body

Riverside

73 students

6.4% of Student Body

Elmwood Park

59 students

5.2% of Student Body

Hinsdale

55 students

4.9% of Student Body

 

Another noteworthy statistic, one that casual observers of the Fenwick Friars often do not realize, is nearly 30 percent of our students are young people of color. The ethnic/racial breakdown was as follows for the 2019-20 academic year:

 17% (193 Fenwick students) were Hispanic

 5.5% (62 Fenwick students) were Black.

 3.5% (40 Fenwick students) were Multiracial.

 1.7% (19 Fenwick students) were Asian.

Our board's new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee is in the process of establishing a formal charter. The aptly named DEI Committee (dei, the genitive of Deus, means "of God" in Latin) is charged with addressing racial/cultural and justice/equity issues around six key areas:

 Cultural Inclusion and Sensitivity Training

 Policy and Governing Practices

 Curriculum

 Student, Faculty, Staff Recruitment

 Admissions and Financial Aid

 Community Service

The DEI Committee's work will take some time, but Fenwick commits to the following right now:

1. A school-wide cultural sensitivity and inclusion training program for all students, faculty, staff, administration and the board will be implemented in the 2020-21 school year. Note: The board of directors has already scheduled cultural inclusion and sensitivity training for itself and a member of the DEI Committee is researching options for school-wide training.

2. Multidisciplinary curriculum changes to include a greater diversity of perspective and multicultural pedagogy. Note: A multiyear, multidisciplinary curriculum change has been announced to begin in the 2021-22 school year.

3. Fenwick will re-double its efforts to raise scholarship funds for underserved students. Note: Fenwick just formalized another scholarship fund for students matriculating to Fenwick from under-represented elementary schools.

Read more about Fenwick's newly formed DEI Committee: www.fenwickfriars.com/about/diversity-equity-inclusion.

Rev. Richard Peddicord, O.P., is entering his ninth year as president of Fenwick High School.

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Reader Comments

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Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2020 9:06 AM

We were told that lockdowns were necessary for 2 reasons: 1. Prevent the hospitals from being overwhelmed; and, 2. Protect compromised individuals. When someone still wants the schools shut down, which criteria are they using - 1. or 2.?

Judy Studenski  

Posted: August 6th, 2020 7:39 AM

Fenwick SHOULD NOT be opening to in-class instruction regardless of student body makeup. COVID is a threat to students, staff and faculty. Medical professionals are urging schools to stay closed and do remote learning.

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