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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.

While we strive to be fully accessible to a diverse community, there are limitations to the extent of financial, educational, and family support the school can provide at this time. We are committed to supporting all of our students to the best of our ability, 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; and providing our faculty and staff 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.

DEI Council

In alignment with our Mission Statement and Diversity Statement, Catherine Cook is developing a DEI Council for the 2019-2020 school year comprised of parents/guardians, faculty, staff, administration, and trustees. Members of the DEI Council will provide a reflective and critical eye toward areas such as community policies and procedures, curriculum, family action, and community outreach as they relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The following community members will comprise the 2019-2020 DEI Council:

  • Stacy Ackley, Parent and Parent Association Treasurer
  • Karla Beard-Leroy, Early Childhood/Lower School Music Teacher and Parent
  • Darren Bell, Senior Kindergarten Teacher Assistant
  • Lori-Anne Brogdon, Head of School and Parent
  • Marta Delgado, Parent and Trustee
  • Tony Johnson, Associate Director of Marketing and DEI Communications
  • William Peek, Middle School Humanities Teacher
  • Carlos Rodriguez, Facilities Manager
  • Cory Stutts, Head of Middle School

The Council will meet once per month to discuss areas of focus and to assist in planning and communicating initiatives, and members will also serve at the subcommittee level. The DEI Council will therefore operate as an umbrella to the following subcommittees, each of which will meet as determined necessary by the subcommittee chairs in order to appropriately plan for events and meetings throughout the school year:

Policies and Procedures
This subcommittee will meet to review current policies and procedures and make suggestions for consideration to edit and/or develop new policies to further promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. These suggestions will be considered by the Board and administration, who must also ensure with families in mind that the policy incorporates both the necessary legal aspects and best practices for implementation. This group will be comprised of administration, trustees, faculty, staff, and parents/guardians.


This subcommittee will review current curriculum and make suggestions for alignment and best practice using resources such as Social Justice Standards from Teaching Tolerance. This group will be comprised of faculty, staff, and administration.

Family Action

This subcommittee will meet to determine topics for discussions open to the community, the careful and inclusive planning of Catherine Cook’s first Multicultural Community Celebration, and the establishment of affinity groups as determined by the subcommittee. This group is open to parents/guardians, faculty, staff, and trustees.

Community Outreach

This subcommittee will review, through a DEI lens, the ways in which Catherine Cook interacts with our community outside of school. With whom do we work to grow our school community, and where do we seek to make connections outside of Catherine Cook’s doors? This group is open to administration, trustees, faculty, staff, and parents/guardians.

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

Professional Development

Professional development in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion is critical to maintaining a welcoming and culturally competent school community. Faculty, staff, and administration regularly attend training and conferences to strengthen their knowledge of DEI concepts and proficiently apply them in the classroom. Recent professional development in DEI has included, but is not limited to:

    • Cultural Competency 101 with Dr. Derrick Gay
    • Socioeconomic Inclusion with Lauren Collins
    • NAIS Diversity Leadership Institute
    • NAIS People of Color Conference
    • ISACS Diversity Summit
    • White Privilege Conference
    • Courageous Conversation Chicago Regional Summit

Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) is a program that invites faculty, staff, and parents/guardians to reflect on and discuss their experiences with systems of power, privilege, and oppression. Monthly cohort meetings allow for continuous exploration of topics such as gender, race, class, and more.

Parent/Guardian Education and Engagement

In coordination with the Parent Education Committee and other school groups, Catherine Cook regularly invites and encourages parents/guardians to explore DEI topics together and with faculty and staff at a variety of events. These special events have included, but are not limited to:
    • Raising Children In a Global Society with Dr. Derrick Gay
    • Book discussion for Waking Up White by Debby Irving
    • Group outing to the RACE exhibit at the Chicago History Museum
    • Diversity Discussions covering topics such as socioeconomic diversity, microaggressions, and gender identity

Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) is a program that invites faculty, staff, and parents/guardians to reflect on and discuss their experiences with systems of power, privilege, and oppression. Monthly cohort meetings allow for continuous exploration of topics such as gender, race, class, and more.

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 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 an affinity group for those who identify as People of Color.