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Catherine Cook Diversity Statement

Catherine Cook School is committed to creating and sustaining a diverse and compassionate community grounded in a culture of integrity.

Catherine Cook School faculty, staff, and middle school students have chosen diversity as one of the five core values that characterizes the culture of the Catherine Cook School. The term diversity has a range of connotations and meanings, but in the context of this initiative, we define diversity as the range of differences between people, but most commonly: racial; socio-economic; cultural or ethnic/language; physical ability; age; gender and gender identity; sexual identity; and religious differences.

Diversity sustains and promotes the health of an organization. Catherine Cook School will enhance the diversity of the school by intentionally cultivating an empathic and open climate to foster relationships of integrity between the children and families in our school community. The organizational benefits of a diverse community of families, faculty, and staff include increased adaptability, critical thinking, and more effective and innovative problem solving. A diverse school reflects and enriches the community in which it exists.

There is an inherent conflict between the selective nature of an independent school and our ability to be accessible to a diverse community. There are limitations on the extent of educational, family, and financial support the school can provide. We are committed to supporting our current students, and we will continue to enhance the diversity of the school through a variety of initiatives, including, but not limited to: making diversity a consideration in all of our hiring decisions; making financial assistance available to lower income families and raising the community’s awareness about the importance of tuition assistance; providing our faculty with effective tools for engaging with a diverse student and parent community.

Our 2013 Strategic Plan states that we will: “Create and implement an authentic diversity initiative with clear/understandable goals, including support and education components to ensure successful implementation.” This means that we commit to the following strategic goals:

Strategic Goals

1. Seek, support, and retain families, faculty, staff, and board members from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in elite institutions or in positions of power due to their race, ethnicity/language, age, religion, physical ability, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, or socioeconomic class. Tuition assistance will be used strategically to maintain and enhance diversity in the school.

2. Build our own cultural competence through formal and informal professional development in order to create a welcoming environment for all children and adults and to maintain a vibrant and stimulating learning atmosphere for children and adults. Cultural competence skills are critical learning skills. We define them as the social-emotional and critical thinking skills that enable us to:

a. Notice our own assumptions and beliefs about people from other cultures, races, gender identities, sexual identity, religions, socio-economic groups, abilities, and ages

b. Commit to questioning our own beliefs/assumptions and of testing them for accuracy

c. Reflect on our discomfort with others who seem different

d. Choose to have courageous conversations about our discomfort, without blaming/shaming

e. Become aware of our own power and privilege

f. Understand what it means to share power

g. Cultivate flexible and reflective thinking about our place in the world.

3. Develop and implement curriculum that enables children to become culturally competent.

4. Incorporate mechanisms or systems to measure the school’s progress.

Diversity in the Curriculum

The diversity and inclusion curriculum at Catherine Cook fosters exploration of identity and development of key cultural competencies, such as having respectful discussions about our differences and working toward social justice. Teachers use the framework to develop age-appropriate curricula across subject areas.

  • Multicultural Curricula
    • Areas of diversity
    • Wide range of historical and geographic content
    • Non-dominant perspectives
  • Anti-Bias Curricula
    • Identity
    • Diversity
    • Justice
    • Action
  • Courageous Conversations
    • Practicing difficult conversations
    • Ethical decision making
    • Standing up for ourselves and others
  • Community Connections
    • Bringing families together
    • Authentic community involvement
    • Service learning

Parent and Guardian Involvement

Parents and guardians are invited and encouraged to participate in diversity work through the Diversity Committee. The current sub-committees are working to promote Community Connections, foster Family Support, and develop our Affinity and Alliance Groups.

The Catherine Cook Parent Education Committee organizes lectures, book discussions, movie viewings, and other events to help our parents stay informed about diversity, equity, and other topics. These events allow parents to see a topic from a new perspective, learn about the history of that topic or where the future will lead us, and how to talk to their child(ren) about it.

Additionally, Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) is a program that invites faculty, staff, and parents to reflect on and discuss their experiences with systems of power, privilege, and oppression.

Affinity/Alliance Groups

In 2015, one of the goals of the Diversity Committee was to establish supportive affinity and alliance groups in the Middle School. Affinity Groups and Alliance Groups are gatherings for people with similar identity characteristics to connect, talk, and share experiences.

Affinity groups speak from an “I” perspective about the identity characteristics, while members of alliance groups may speak from the “I” perspective or be supporters of people in the identity group. Driven by student interest, these groups have expanded over the years to include the following:

The Adoption Affinity Group provides a space for adopted children in Lower School and Middle School to share their adoption stories and experiences. Students also discuss ways to educate the community about adoption and share their personal journeys.

The Families in Transition (FIT) Affinity Group is for students who are facing, or have faced, transitions in their home lives, such as divorce/separation, an absent parent, or death of a family member. FIT provides a safe environment in which students can talk about their experiences, gain and offer support, and use problem solving skills.

The Food Allergy Affinity Group creates a safe space for Lower School and Middle School students with food allergies, Celiac, EoE, or other food-related conditions to come together and talk about their experiences with others just like them.

The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) provides a place for Middle School students to learn about people who identify as LGBTQ+ and to learn ways to be a good LGBTQ+ ally. Topics of conversation have ranged from discussions about language around LGBTQ+ issues to learning about LGBTQ+ activism.

The Jewish Students Affinity Group provides a safe space for Middle School students to discuss experiences, issues, and current events through the lens of their Jewish identity.

The Learning Differences Affinity Group provides a space for Lower School and Middle School students with learning differences (LD) to share experiences, understand how they learn best, and to build, value, and leverage their unique strengths.

The Students of Color Affinity Groups provide spaces for conversation and connection among Lower School and Middle School students who identify as people of color. Students appreciate the opportunity to explore their racial identities and share experiences through a variety of activities.

New affinity and alliance groups may arise from year to year in response to student and community needs. This is meant to be an evolving part of our school culture. We are excited to support the growth and deepening of these groups as they offer real space for our students to explore their identities and create a safe and welcoming environment for all students.

In addition to student affinity and alliance groups, Catherine Cook also celebrates the diversity of its faculty and staff with affinity groups for those who identify as People of Color and/or LGBTQ+.