It is with great excitement that CSG announces the appointment of Ms. Leisan C. Smith as our Chief Equity Officer.
Ms. Smith joins the CSG community with fifteen years of experience as a school administrator in both k-12 and university communities, having served most recently as the Director of Student and Community Engagement at Bexley City Schools. In this expansive role, Ms. Smith was tasked with ensuring that the academic programs of the Bexley schools were culturally responsive and student-centered. She partnered with the administrative team to address the overall wellness of students, led the district-wide school climate committee in identifying and mitigating non-academic barriers to success for students, and provided strategic leadership in the area of diversity and inclusion. Ms. Smith also created diversity, equity, and inclusion programming for students, faculty and staff, and parents. Some of her most rewarding work in Bexley's schools were her collaborations on community programming for the city of Bexley.
Prior to her five years in Bexley, Ms. Smith served as the inaugural Director of the LGBTQ Center at the University of Cincinnati, where she oversaw the Center's day-to-day operations. Recruiting, hiring, and evaluating staff, student workers, and volunteers, Ms. Smith also allocated the Center budget and served as an advocate for LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty on committees at the University. During the interview process, Ms. Smith stood out in a highly qualified, competitive field of candidates for her wide-ranging, student-centered approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion work. The search committee, as well as CSG's student, faculty/staff, and parent advisory committees found her to be warm, thoughtful, and approachable.
As we prepare to welcome Ms. Smith to campus, I am also pleased to share the results of a community study completed earlier this year at CSG and to announce our newly developed Anti-racism Task Force, MOSAIC Parent Affinity Group, and Black Alumnae Affinity Group. As you know, we enlisted the help of RAMA, a local community engagement firm, to learn more from our community about the tangible steps we need to take to develop an anti-racism action plan. Through this process, which focused on our students' lived experiences, our community identified six key areas where CSG should focus its attention:
- Culture & Climate
- Student Programming & Co-curriculars
- Training and Development (including hiring)
- Policies (including reporting and accountability)
CSG's Anti-racism Task Force will consider this information as they partner with Ms. Smith to refine and implement a strategic DEI plan. Composed of students, parents, faculty/staff, and alumnae, the task force will be charged with working in collaboration with the Diversity committee of the Board of Trustees to evaluate and recommend school-wide protocols, policies, systems, and infrastructure to ensure that CSG becomes an actively anti-racist school. Please see the full list of task force members here. I am so grateful to each of them for volunteering their time and sharing their perspectives as we develop and implement our plan.
In addition to the hiring of Ms. Smith and forming of the Anti-Racism task force, we have been working to more intentionally connect and support our parents and alumnae of color. Through those efforts, parents and alumnae helped us to create a MOSAIC Parent Affinity Group and Black Alumnae Affinity Group, meaningful steps as we build a culture where identity-development and belonging are celebrated, acknowledged, and achieved throughout CSG.
In a recent professional development opportunity, CSG's faculty and staff had the chance to hear from Jason Reynolds, who co-authored the book, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, with Ibram X. Kendi. When one of the educators moderating the conversation asked Mr. Reynolds about his younger self, Mr. Reynolds said, "Young Jason believed he could change the world." CSG students, too, believe they can change the world. It is incumbent upon us to make sure we give them the tools to do so. Whether you have participated in a focus group, responded to a survey, or joined us during the Chief Equity Officer search process, thank you. Ms. Smith begins her tenure at Columbus School for Girls on January 19, 2021. We can't wait for her to join our community!
In strength and grace,