In addition to the mission, vision, and philosophy animating the work of creating a more equitable school, our efforts can also be framed in terms of short-term impact, in contrast to those with a more sustainable focus for the longer term. Not surprisingly, a lot of the short-term components involve students, as their time at Saint Ann’s is circumscribed.
Below is a sampling of recent programming and initiatives. Some are spearheaded by the Director of Diversity and Institutional Equity, while others are collaborative across many divisions, departments, and offices in the school.
- Creation of expanded community time in the weekly schedule, which allows for a variety of programming when all students are not scheduled in classes. Some of this programming now includes: invited speakers; teaching-based or discussion-based workshops that introduce or expand upon key concepts related to identity, sociopolitically-based injustice, and inequity; and race-based affinity spaces, including a space for white-identifying students to explore the construct of race, racism, and anti-racism.
- Expansion or creation of additional programs that increase awareness or fluency around topics related to identity or equity. Many of these are student-generated or student-led. Some examples include a day-long internal conference where high school students lead discussion-based sessions with and for each other, and curricular efforts by our health department to expand upon topics related to identity and self in relation to society. Another recent health department initiative is a mentorship program between older high school students and middle school students.
- Our approach to child and adolescent development focuses on independence, self-advocacy, and risk-taking. We thus strive to support both our students’ academic and extracurricular interests. Saint Ann’s students commonly organize and advocate for what they care about, and the school supports various student-centered clubs such as those focused on race/ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+ identity, environmental activism, etc.
- The school also encourages or supports student participation in external organizations, events, or conferences that focus on topics related to diversity or equity, such as the city-wide Diversity Awareness Initiative for Student (DAIS), or the National Association of Independent Schools’s Student Diversity Leadership Conference.
- During the last few years the school has spent significant time and effort being more responsive to students’ voices around these issues. How administrators and faculty understand and respond to students’ experiences in and out of the classroom is continuously being recalibrated and expanded upon.
- Over the last few years, faculty, staff, and trustees have engaged much more explicitly and pointedly in dialogue, discussion and professional development around issues related to diversity and equity. One of these efforts is an internal speaker series that has brought to campus scholars, journalists, authors, artists, and activists, many of whom work directly on matters of diversity and equity, such as journalist/writer Nikole Hannah Jones, artist Dread Scott, journalist/writer Anand Giridharadas, philosopher Chris Lebron, education writer Carla Shalaby, and economist Julianne Malveaux, among others.
- Faculty, staff, and trustees regularly attend a variety of professional development opportunities off campus, occasionally in conjunction with students attending their own conference. Some of these include the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference, the White Privilege Conference, the Little Chairs Big Differences Conference, Center for Racial Justice in Education workshops, the Critical Analysis of Race in Learning and Education Institute, Community Roots Charter School workshops, the Dalton Diversity Conference, as well as many New York State Association of Independent Schools workshops and conferences.
- Opportunities for internal dialogue and discussion among faculty and staff have increased and become more structured, with many configurations of faculty and staff gatherings to discuss some of these topics, learn from each others’ experiences, inspire each other, and share strategies for change.
- In recent years, the school has also reexamined our official and unofficial policies, practices, and cultural norms with an equity lens. Some of these efforts have resulted in short-term policy changes, while others are ongoing examinations to ensure that we never assume that individuals’ experience within the institutional are equitable. Some examples include our hiring and onboarding practices, our faculty and staff mentoring and retention practices, our evaluation processes, our processes for student support and counseling-out, our admissions and financial aid processes, parent communication, orientation activities for students, academic scheduling and our policies around professional boundaries.
- Finally, our board of trustees has recently delved into the work of making Saint Ann’s a more equitable school. Some of the board’s work has overlapped with the examination of policies and practices outlined above, while other aspects have focused on larger governance matters.