In Practice

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 ongoing practices and programming. These include long-term institutional commitments as well as specific programming initiatives that focus on short-term impact and responding directly to the voices of students, whose time at Saint Ann’s is circumscribed.



In recent years, the school has invested in expanded resources for equity work. This included a substantial increase in professional development workshops for faculty and staff. We increased staffing for the office of Diversity and Institutional Equity, including part-time positions in programming and support and the addition of a new full-time position primarily focused on Preschool, Kindergarten, and Lower School. Despite the financial challenges of the Covid pandemic, we have sustained our commitment to need-based financial aid, both tuition and non-tuition assistance, as a way to increase the socio-economic diversity of our school. 

Policies and Practices

The school regularly reviews 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’ experiences within the institution are equitable. 

Examples of policies and practices that we review on an ongoing basis include hiring, onboarding, retention and mentoring of faculty and staff, professional boundaries policies, evaluation processes, processes for student support and guidance, admissions and financial aid processes, parent communication, orientation activities for students, and academic scheduling, among others.

During the 2020-2021 school year we introduced a new set of protocols to respond to incidents of bias—including creating greater consistency in who is involved in the efforts to address an incident after it has taken place—through the introduction of an advisory council. Part of our commitment to responding to incidents more robustly includes more transparency, while respecting each individual’s privacy. 


Our board of trustees has 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. 

  • In the summer of 2020, the Board created a Working Group on Racial Equity as a locus of board planning, accountability, and education, and as a means of partnering with the administration to fulfill the commitments outlined by the Head of School. 
  • The Board inaugurated a formal Young Alumni Trustee program to add the voices and perspectives of recent Saint Ann’s alumni to the Board. The first two Young Alumni Trustees began their initial 3-year terms in the fall of 2020; a third joined in 2021.
  • Facilitated by experts in the field, trustees have spent a considerable amount of time on training related to inclusive governance practices, including understanding implicit bias and how microaggressions impact constituencies in our community. 


The school has directed significant time and effort toward 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. 

Our approach to child and adolescent development focuses on independence, self-advocacy, and risk-taking, and our mission centers student voices. It is common for students to organize and advocate for what they care for, and the school supports various student-centered groups such as those focused on race/ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+ identity, academic interests, environmental activism, and so on.

For middle and high school students, the creation of expanded community time in the weekly schedule allows for a variety of programming when all students are not scheduled in classes. Some of this programming now includes:

  • teaching-based or discussion-based workshops that introduce or expand on key concepts related to identity, injustice, and inequity;
  • affinity spaces, both race-based and those based on other identifiers, including a space for white-identifying students to explore the construct of race, racism, and anti-racism
  • invited speakers

Below is a sampling of recent student-centered programming and initiatives. Some are spearheaded by the Office of Diversity and Institutional Equity, while others are collaborative across many divisions, departments, and offices in the school.

Lower Middle School Workshops

Fourth and fifth graders participate in periodic workshops with staff from the Diversity and Institutional Equity Office that cover foundational concepts in equity work, including how to listen to each other and disagree productively, defining and understanding categories of social identifiers (e.g. nationality, religion, age, race, gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and ability), and understanding the difference between generalizations and stereotypes. 

Upper Middle School Affinity Spaces and Community Meeting

In the Upper Middle School, Community Meeting is a once-a-week session facilitated by Saint Ann’s faculty that all students are expected to attend. It has two components: workshops on DEI topics and student affinity spaces. The workshop component happens in stable grade-level groups, while the affinity spaces are cross-grade. Upper middle school affinity spaces are not limited to racial identity, and may include identifiers such as religion or gender. In recent years,  spaces around the following identifiers have run in the Upper Middle School: Black, Asian, BiMultiracial, White, Hispanic/Latinx, Jewish, Girls, Boys, Disability, Religion, LGBTQ+, and Transgender/Non-Binary.

High School Affinity Spaces and Friday Meeting

In the High School, Friday Meeting, a time when no students have scheduled classes, continues to be a cornerstone of diversity and equity programming. Race-based affinity spaces that take place in that block were recently expanded to accommodate student feedback. In alternating weeks, Friday Meeting hosts speakers or student-led workshops on topics related to diversity and equity. 


GUST, Get Uncomfortable and Start Talking, is a student-led mini-conference originally created by students of color from the class of 2015. High school students create, organize and facilitate workshops for their peers that explore topics around identity, diversity, and equity. Since its inception, GUST has expanded to two half-day conferences per year along with a few “MiniGUSTs” (one-period workshops) in between. The middle school recently held its first MS GUST as well. 

Student-Led Groups and Spaces

Other recent groups and spaces in the middle and high schools include Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), Women in Math and Science, Black Student Union (BSU), Asian Student Union (ASU), Jewish Student Alliance (JSA), and a middle school Equity Book Club, among others. These student-generated, student-led groups and spaces involve faculty in an advising capacity.

Middle School/High School Mentoring

In response to student requests, our Health Department began a supervised mentorship program between older high school students and middle school students.

External Events and Conferences 

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 Students (DAIS), or the National Association of Independent Schools’s Student Diversity Leadership Conference. 

Faculty and Staff

In recent years, faculty and staff have engaged much more explicitly and pointedly in dialogue, discussion, and professional development around issues related to diversity and equity. 

Professional Development for Faculty and Staff

The school has invested in expanded professional development for faculty and staff, some required, some optional. On-campus workshops have explored the following subject areas, among others:

  • Culturally responsive teaching, an approach that centers relationships and seeing all aspects of students’ lives. 
  • Creating anti-racist and equitable classroom practices and cultures.
  • Creating and utilizing norms or guidelines to foster an anti-racist classroom culture.
  • Recognizing, responding to, and preventing bias-related incidents.
  • Restorative justice practices, both preventative and responsive to harm.
  • Racial justice in early childhood education.
  • Understanding transgender and non-binary students and pronouns.
  • Creating equitable department cultures and mentoring with an equity lens.

Faculty and staff also 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, the Dalton Diversity Conference, and workshops with organizations like the Center for Racial Justice in Education, the Critical Analysis of Race in Learning and Education Institute, Community Roots Charter School, and many New York State Association of Independent Schools workshops, conferences, and speakers. 

An internal speaker series regularly brings to campus scholars, journalists, authors, artists, and activists. Many of these guests work directly on matters of diversity and equity, such as journalist Nikole Hannah Jones, artist Dread Scott, author Anand Giridharadas, philosopher Chris Lebron, education writer Carla Shalaby, and economist Julianne Malveaux, among others. 

Curricular Review

In the fall of 2020, Saint Ann’s launched a comprehensive curriculum review. Every department asked itself what equity-related skills it wanted students to possess and when and how it was equipping them with those skills. We believe giving faculty who are experts in their discipline agency and space to construct together how this work unfolds in their own classrooms best reflects who we are as a school and will translate into more authentic and enduring change in the learning experience of our students, and so we reject approaches that feature mandates or simplistic checklist assessments. 

In our younger divisions, curriculum reviews took the form of creating a framework for equity-related skills and content. Teachers took stock of their existing curricula as a starting point, both in terms of themes and content, and considered new tools that will support the goal of creating and sustaining rigorous, inclusive and anti-racist classrooms. 

Knowing that reflective practice is a feature of all great teaching, we anticipate this work will continue for the foreseeable future.