St. James’ is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive community that empowers its students and families to celebrate their cultural identities, faiths, backgrounds, and heritages. We value this commitment and work actively to weave these elements throughout our philosophy, curriculum, volunteerism, and community service. Our partnership with our sister schools in Haiti and Korea have inspired us to expand our efforts within our local and global communities.
DEI & Equity Team Initiatives
By Chenelle Geoffroy-Lindsey
During the 2020-2021 school year, amidst a global pandemic, our teachers managed to juggle a number of new responsibilities, as well as the continued blurring of their home lives and work lives. All the while our Equity Team and teachers continued to prioritize tasks and initiatives regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and social justice. Some of these initiatives included professional development, book clubs, Staffulty Affinity Groups, and Equity Partnerships.
The Equity Team is a group of educators volunteering their time to ensure that equity and inclusion continue to be woven into every aspect of school life, as established in the school’s mission statement. Each team member is dedicated to continuing education and is tasked with leading in-house professional development for staffulty, as well as serving as a constant support and resource for teachers. For our newest initiative, called Equity Partnerships, each team member partnered with a teacher to develop and implement at least one lesson around any DEI topic. What started as a simple exercise in curriculum development quickly grew into an incredible display of collaboration and idea-sharing. With the assistance and guidance of an Equity Team member, teachers grew even more confident and, as a result, were compelled to challenge themselves and evolve their curriculum to examine topics like identity, family, stereotypes, and activists and activism. This new program proved so successful that it has been installed as a permanent exercise for teachers to engage in every trimester.
In addition to Equity Partnerships, staffulty participated in book clubs where we read Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. During this school year, we also launched Staffulty Affinity Groups. Affinity Groups are safe spaces where individuals can celebrate and explore their racial identity and engage in conversation with others who identify as they do. In addition to being best practice for DEI work in Independent Schools, Affinity Groups give participants a space unlike any other in the school community, where their voices can be heard and their experiences and feelings can be validated. This practice serves the needs of our teachers, which in turn allows them to serve the needs of students as best as possible.
Looking ahead to the 2021-2022 school year, the Equity Team aims to include members from St. James’ Preschool, to introduce new and relevant options for book clubs (with a focus on topics such as AAPI and gender identity), and to offer Family Affinity Groups. We are excited to partner with the Parent Association to sponsor speakers to support our work in building affinity group space for our families and to support and frame healthy gender identity for our students.