Our Work Together: Inclusion, Multiculturalism, Respect
While Lakeside has met many of the initiative’s goals and objectives, others have been revised or added. To graduate students with an equity and inclusion mindset, the school and all members of the community must live that mindset, using anti-racist and social justice filters to interrogate and change the school’s systems.
In summer 2020 — during a time of national reckoning about systemic racism and bias — we listened and learned about the experience of Lakeside community members who identify as Black, African American, or African.
At listening sessions, administrators heard from members of the Upper School Black Student Union, and separately, with parents and guardians of African, African American, and Caribbean students.
Our Work Together Dashboard
This dashboard tracks and measures how we are doing on Our Work Together’s four goals, including what’s going well and what needs improvement. Information is updated throughout the year, and key areas of work are highlighted in the videos below.
Efforts to make Lakeside a truly inclusive and equitable school are ongoing and evolving. Systemic and institutional change, and shifting the culture of an institution, take time. We are focused on taking actions that will have an immediate as well as a sustained impact.
- Goal 1: Increase the racial/ethnic diversity of the faculty, administrators, and trustees through focused recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies.
- Goal 2: Ensure faculty actively seek to understand their own implicit biases, use diverse pedagogies, and incorporate diverse perspectives into their curricula.
- Goal 3: Empower students, employees, and families to bring their full selves to Lakeside School and actively build relationships with people who are different from themselves.
- Goal 4: Continue to nurture a school culture that acknowledges and honors difference, leading to an increasingly inclusive school where every individual is listened to, respected, and valued.
What’s going well, 2020-2021: We’re casting a wider net in recruitment. We are using social media strategically for job postings, we hosted our first annual diversity career fair in February 2020, and administrators are attending diversity hiring fairs around the country. We have a racially and ethnically diverse leadership team and Board of Trustees. We have added protocols to cultivate leadership and advancement for employees of color, including affinity groups and support for attending conferences like the NAIS People of Color Conference.
What needs improvement, 2020-2021: For our students to see themselves in their teachers, we need to hire more faculty who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and/or LGBTQ+. We need to examine the process of exit interviews and gather data about attrition and retention. We need to collaborate with Lakeside’s faculty mentoring program to develop a robust onboarding program for new employees so they enter the school with a full understanding of the equity and inclusion resources and support that are available to them.
Summer 2021 update on hiring and retaining faculty of color
Assistant Head of School/Upper School Director Felicia Wilks and Director of Human Resources Sara Skinner looked at Lakeside’s current practices in hiring and retention through an anti-bias lens and an equity and inclusion mindset. The goal is to diversify Lakeside’s faculty and staff to ensure that we are building a community in which students see themselves in the adults on campus and where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued. View their fall 2020 update here.
Actions underway and recently completed, 2020-2021
- Completed: Twenty-one Lakeside employees attended the NAIS People of Color Conference. Our annual participation in this conference supports leadership cultivation and advancement for employees of color.
- Completed: Co-hosted the second regional Independent School Diversity Career Fair. This year’s virtual fair occurred in early February and 24 schools participated (up from 17 in 2020). Additionally, administrators continue to attend diversity hiring fairs around the country.
- Completed: Combined our general hiring guidelines with our DEI hiring resources so that hiring managers have all hiring information and resources in one place. This supports an inclusive and consistent hiring process.
- In progress: Develop an inclusive hiring and retention philosophy for Lakeside that reflects best practices.
- In progress: More targeted outreach to diverse candidates, locally and nationally, to ensure that we were reaching out to more people who might be interested in working at Lakeside.
- In progress: Build employee and stakeholder committees that are reflective of the racial and ethnic demographics of the adult community.
- In progress: Hiring committees follow best practices in culturally competent leadership in hiring, following training from 2019-2020.
- Upcoming: Examine the current exit interview process and implement a stay interview process. Assess responses from exit and stay interviews with an equity and inclusion lens to find areas for growth and areas of concern. This work is tied to efforts in goal 2, particularly using exit interviews with departing employees as a way to inform employee culture.
- Upcoming: Examine the faculty mentoring program’s effectiveness in the areas of equity and inclusion, with the goal of onboarding new employees ready to engage with the equity and inclusion resources and support available to them.
- Upcoming: Changing the role of academic department heads in hiring and retention. The department head job description will incorporate DEI as part of their work and emphasize their role in onboarding faculty, to help new faculty members feel seen, heard, and valued for the skills and expertise they bring to the school. This is part of our work to deepen our culture of care.
Actions taken, 2018-2020
- All employees involved in hiring participated in a training on culturally competent leadership in hiring led by Cris Cullinan and Amani Reed. A handbook was created and followed for the 2020-2021 hiring season.
- Hosted the first regional Diversity Career Fair in February 2020; 57 people of color interested in working at independent schools connected with partnering representatives from 17 other regional independent schools and learned about current career opportunities.
- Administrators attended diversity hiring fairs around the country. This will continue to be part of our annual practice.
- Began to develop procedures to assist employees in reaching out to and maintaining relationships with potential candidates of color, through an increased use of social media, individual follow-up, and fostering long term connections with educators around the country.
- Lakeside employees took a leadership role in the 2019 NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC). Assistant Director of Equity and Inclusion Debbie Bensadon and Assistant Head of School/Upper School Director Felicia Wilks served on the PoCC planning committee and over 20 Lakeside employees attended.
- The Upper School director extended the first annual invitations to faculty, staff, and administrators of color to have individual meetings with her about what might improve their work environment.
- Created report investigating the creation of a two-year teaching-fellow program for new teachers interested in teaching in independent schools.
- Changed and expanded recruitment strategies for open positions, including formats, locations, and messages.
- Leaders at the school begin to build relationships with community centers, clergy, and university education programs as part of the outreach to identify potential teachers and administrators of color.
- Upper School department head selection process evaluated and changed; term limits established, and criteria established for training and growth in the areas of inclusive pedagogy and development of multicultural curricula.
- The Upper and Middle School directors extended the first annual invitations for all faculty members to have individual meetings with them about their interest in various roles at the school and potential advancement opportunities.
- Created an equity and inclusion committee of the Board of Trustees.
What’s going well, 2020-2021: We have developed and communicate regularly about an extensive catalogue of professional development opportunities, websites, articles, and books for faculty to use to investigate their implicit biases and evaluate their curriculum and pedagogy (teaching practices). All faculty engage in professional development in the areas of inclusion, equity, and justice, and submit reflections on how they use an inclusive pedagogy in their teaching. In 2020-2021, the diversity, equity, and inclusion team is leading a schoolwide professional development program focused on connection and intergroup dialogue; recent professional development topics for faculty included white privilege, equitable grading, and the impacts of redlining.
What needs improvement, 2020-2021: We need to include multiple voices, identities, and experiences in our 5-12 curriculum across all disciplines. We also need to ensure that every teacher is inclusive and culturally responsive in their teaching style and honors the diversity of our multicultural community in their curriculum. Across our curriculum, faculty need to teach students about the history and structure of the systems that created and maintain racial prejudice, racial discrimination, and racism. We also need to ensure that stories of oppression and struggle are balanced in our curriculum with information and stories of Black excellence and success. As an institution, we need to be accountable and establish a structure for students to report their experiences of microaggressions and unjust behaviors and attitudes, whether committed by adults or students in the community.
Coming up: We will share more details about upcoming work and what actions we have taken over the past three years.
Summer 2021 update on curriculum and ways of teaching (pedagogy)
Director of Equity and Inclusion Debbie Bensadon and Academic Dean 5-12/Upper School Assistant Director Hans de Grys have been evaluating the entire 5-12 program ( the curriculum and our educators’ ways of teaching), gaining a clearer sense of our strengths and areas for growth and improvement. Our goal is to provide an inclusive and equitable education for all of our students. View their fall 2020 update here.
Summer 2021 update on employee oversight
Assistant Head of School/Chief Financial Officer Birage Tandon and Middle School Director Reem Abu Rahmeh looked at three main areas related to employee oversight: learning and training; community culture; and policies and systems. The goal is that all students and employees should feel a sense of belonging and the ability to bring their full selves to the Lakeside community. View their fall 2020 update here.
Actions planned, 2021-2022
- Lakeside will roll out a reporting tool and system that enables students and adults to report incidents of racial bias and aggression. This is the result of a year’s worth of work by the employee oversight committee, including sessions with experts and educational leaders in equity and inclusion work to collect information about strategies and pitfalls related to employee oversight. One takeaway was the challenges that students and adults of color face in reporting racial bias and aggressions. The team reviewed reporting systems that other educational institutions have in place and developed one for Lakeside that is aligned with our culture and values. The focus will be on support and helping build our community as a safe space.
- Administrators will align the definition of “excellence in teaching” in our employee handbook and faculty evaluation system, particularly as it relates to equity and inclusion.
- As part of faculty evaluations, collect information on collegiality (the cooperative relationship of colleagues). This includes communicating clearly, responsively, and professionally with colleagues (i.e., expresses opinions with courage and independence, and when disagrees, does so with respect and consideration); and modeling the values of the community and cooperating in supporting the school’s policies in all interactions with students and colleagues.
- Create a task force to conduct a review of staff evaluation systems to build in assessment and growth of an equity and inclusion mindset for staff across the institution, that mirrors the evaluation process for faculty.
- Expanding their work from the previous year, cross-divisional (Middle School and Upper School) departmental committees will identify ways to change their department’s curriculum to reflect culturally responsive teaching. Support educators’ skills in teaching with a culturally responsive lens and adopting equitable assessment practices.
- Administrators will work with faculty on their three-year professional development plans to help them adopt culturally responsive pedagogies. Each faculty member’s three-year professional development plan, prepared annually, asks them to forecast professional development plans over three areas: curriculum, teaching methods (pedagogy), and cultural awareness.
- Create a diversity, equity, and inclusion component in our faculty mentoring program to equip mentors with tools for supporting a diverse faculty. For example, faculty mentors will take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) or comparable assessment and be trained on cross cultural communication and culturally responsive curriculum development.
Actions taken, 2018-2021
- Formed cross-divisional (Middle School and Upper School) departmental committees to examine how students’ learning and practice of competencies and mindsets builds on itself as students progress through grades 5-12. Committee work will continue in 2021-2022.
- Explicitly communicated and guided faculty to understand how to use a social justice and equity lens to shift their curriculum and teaching methods (pedagogy). Faculty are supported and held accountable in this work. This work will continue in 2021-2022.
- Dedicated time in faculty professional development for deepening understanding of culturally responsive teaching and assessment methods; designing a curriculum that reflects those practices and frameworks; and teaching about systemic and institutional racism and oppression. This work will continue in 2021-2022.
- Began the process of ensuring that every Upper School department has one core class (that every student takes) with an anti-racist component, which means that it examines and addresses systems of power and oppression. This could take the form of a unit or project. This work will continue in 2021-2022.
- Members of the DEI team held one-on-one conversations with every faculty member to support each teacher’s growth in DEI; conducted classroom observation and feedback if requested by a teacher; and provided resources for professional development.
- Examined different assessment tools that provide feedback to faculty about their intercultural skills.
- Department heads completed an inventory of pedagogical practices and curriculum to identify areas of strength and areas for growth. This work is a partnership with the re-envisioning’s focus on competencies and mindsets.
- The DEI team reviewed the faculty evaluation process and expanded the student survey questions to include a section on culturally responsive teaching.
- All faculty took part in professional development on equitable grading and assessment practices, using Joe Feldman’s “Grading for Equity.”
- Evaluated how the re-envisioning process (and a new focus on competencies and mindsets) intersects with DEI work.
What’s going well, 2020-2021: In its second year, the Black, African, and African American Mentoring program for students doubled in size, and expanded to alumni mentors from beyond the region. Thirty-two students are connecting with alumni located around the world. Faculty participated in an intergroup dialogue facilitation training to provide them with tools in conflict resolution and aid them in facilitating conversations around political and intellectual diversity. We created a variety of spaces for students to gather, including the Upper School Student Center. And we expanded our affinity group program for students and parents and guardians. Recently added student groups include the interfaith and spirituality affinity group, South Asian affinity group, chronic illness and disability affinity group, and anti-racist students alliance group.
What needs improvement, 2020-2021: In collaboration with the PGA, we need to expand their onboarding process for new families to include required equity and inclusion training for all parents and guardians at the school. We need to provide further training for teachers and advisors so that different perspectives, experiences, and opinions can be shared and respected by students and adults. We need to review the advisory curriculum and handbooks at the Middle and Upper schools and adjust as needed to include conflict resolution, inventory of ability/disability, communication styles, and gender identity language. And we need to identify and implement systems and practices that best support community members of all races, genders, sexual orientations and religions.
Summer 2021 update on discipline practices and policies; advisory programs; and community expectations
Upper School Associate Director Betty Benson and Middle School Assistant Director Robert Blackwell led a team employing a DEI mindset to audit Lakeside’s discipline practices, policies, advisory programs, and community expectations. Goals were to ensure that our policies, practices, and internal and external communications are in full alignment with our mission and foster interactions that enable all voices in our community to be heard, especially those that have historically been marginalized. View their fall 2020 update here.
Actions underway and recently completed, 2020-2021
- Completed: The Statement of Community Expectations has been refocused on how Lakeside is welcoming people, representing the school, and identifying our community. Language is clear and accessible to all community members. The new version will debut in summer 2021.
- Completed: The Parents and Guardians Association’s T.J. Vassar Diversity and Community Committee launched a set of webpages that include information about the committee; parent and guardian affinity groups; and a comprehensive list of resources available for the entire school community to explore and learn.
- Completed: The PGA started two new groups: Active Allies, a group of parents/guardians actively learning about allyship and anti-racism; and the T.J. Vassar Diversity and Community Committee Book Club, which fosters discussions about books about equity and inclusion.
- Completed: A new Upper School affinity group, Chronic Illness and Disability Affinity (CIDA), launched to provide a welcoming community space for all students on the disability spectrum, where members can engage in meaningful discussion about ability and illness, bond and connect with other students experiencing disability or chronic illness, and feel supported during times of need. The Latinx-Hispanic affinity group rebranded as LATISPA: a place for Latinx and Hispanic students to hang out, talk about experiences, and learn about each other’s cultures.
- Completed: Based on what we learned about Lakeside students’ social-emotional wellbeing through the Assessment of Inclusion and Multiculturalism, Independent School Health Check, Making Caring Common, and Challenge Success, designed and implemented professional development for teachers, advisors, and coaches. This knowledge fed into the development of a new curriculum for personal development and wellness.
- Completed: With leadership from librarians and history departments, provided a balanced introduction to the Republican and Democratic platforms, as well as those of smaller parties, during the 2020 election. This included classroom work; advisory programming, messages to the community; a talk from Senator June Robinson about voting; and programming on media literacy. During the presidential election week, teachers provided space for students who wanted to debrief national events.
- Completed: Collected and analyzed racial/ethnic demographic information of peer tutors and students working with peer tutors over the last four years to find overrepresentation and underrepresentation of students compared to the student body.
- In progress: All employees participated in professional development about the intersections of sex, gender, sexual orientation, and race with the goal of supporting students and colleagues in an inclusive community. More work is needed in this area.
- In progress: Continue with intergroup dialogue facilitation training to employees in conflict resolution and participation in conversations, specifically around political and intellectual diversity.
- In progress: Revamp Lakeside’s advisory program and curriculum (grades 5-12) to focus on creating an inclusive community and a sense of belonging for all students. Train and support advisors to be intentional bridges between home and school, enabling students to bring more of their full selves to the Lakeside community.
- In progress: The PGA launched the We Are Lakeside project, in which all parents and guardians with students enrolled for the 2021-2022 school year were asked to commit to the same learning journey as students and school employees through Our Work Together. As part of this commitment, parents and guardians were asked to complete a short survey so that DEI leadership can construct a learning program that is attuned to the community’s needs for achieving greater equity, social justice, and anti-racism awareness. That learning program will roll out at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
- Coming up: As part of the We Are Lakeside project, the PGA will mail an exercise on identity and inclusion to all families.
Actions taken, 2018-2020
- Launched a mentoring program for students who identify as Black, African, and African American. Fourteen students were paired with Lakeside alumni during the first year.
- Three new affinity groups were added at the Upper School: a South Asian Affinity Group (SAAG), an anti-racist student group, and an interfaith and spirituality affinity group.
- Updated the curriculum for the Middle School affinity group program. The revamped program creates space for student dialogue and activities to support students’ understanding of their racial identity and what it means in a larger societal context, while developing a positive sense of identity and self.
- Provided intergroup dialogue facilitation training to employees in conflict resolution and participation in conversations specifically around political and intellectual diversity.
- Working with department heads, designed and implemented a reflective piece into all faculty professional development plans. This work needs to continue moving forward.
- In collaboration with the Parents and Guardians Association, gathered feedback on strengths and areas of growth in the PGA’s educational programming. This feedback was used in designing resources that launched in February 2021.
- Professional development system for staff was reviewed and protocols were added for approving and tracking. This made the system more equitable with faculty and administrator professional development.
- Staff began to participate in an annual training focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Created a variety of spaces for students to gather, including the Upper School Student Center.
- College counseling, student support, and Lakeside Athletics began the process of transforming their programs to offer an equitable experience to students of all racial/ethnic identities and ensuring they offer a wide range of options that reflect the demographics of the student body.
- Created the role of Parents and Guardians Association equity and inclusion vice president; the position has a two-year term, which helps ensure continuity. Working closely with Lakeside’s director of equity and inclusion, this person coordinates the PGA’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work.
What’s going well, 2020-2021: We added school traditions that celebrate and honor the richness of our multicultural community: a back-to-school picnic to welcome all families, and a widely attended family potluck and community night for all Middle School families, where families share aspects of their cultures and traditions. We grew our student retreat programs by creating a second Student Awareness Council (SAC) retreat and by supporting student attendance at annual regional retreats with other schools. At these events, students engage, connect, and learn together and from each other.
What needs improvement, 2020-2021: We need to research and implement best practices for supporting the well-being and retention of students from underrepresented groups in the school. We need to develop a means to regularly collect qualitative and quantitative data about the academic and social-emotional experiences of underrepresented students and their families, as well as recent alumni and their families. We need to identify and understand commonalities in their experiences and let students’ and families’ feedback guide us in our next steps.
Coming up: We will share more details about upcoming work and what actions we have taken over the past three years.
Lakeside has a five-person team focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can reach members of the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Equity and Inclusion Debbie Bensadon leads this work at an institutional level, particularly regarding school-wide policies and practices. She guides the implementation of the Our Work Together initiative, actively supports inclusive hiring, and collaborates with administrators and trustees to implement efforts to make Lakeside a place where each person feels a part of the community. She represents Lakeside’s DEI office in the larger educational community.
Merissa Reed and Kyle Cook serve as faculty equity coordinators. They work with faculty on both campuses, providing feedback on academic curricula (what faculty are teaching) as well inclusive teaching practices (pedagogy). Additionally, they help faculty identify professional development opportunities and readings specific to teachers’ interests and areas for growth.
Latasia Lanier and Yvette Avila are the student equity program coordinators. Lanier advises the Upper School student affinity group leadership team (SALT), helps develop and coordinate the Upper School student dialogues, and coordinates and chaperones national and regional student diversity conferences. At the Middle School, Avila is the lead for the affinity group program, develops dialogue plans, and helps Middle School faculty execute them. Avila is also the point person for regional student retreats for middle schoolers and related off-campus opportunities.
The DEI team works with other established groups including Lakeside’s all-school diversity committee (composed of faculty, staff, and administrators) and student-led affinity and alliance groups. They work closely with parents and guardians through the Parents and Guardians Association (PGA). The PGA Vice President for Community, Equity, and Inclusion sits on the PGA executive committee and oversees the T.J. Vassar diversity and community committee and the parent/guardian affinity group program. Find more information about these committees on the PGA DEI webpage.
Reach out to the student equity programs coordinators Latasia Lanier (Upper School) and Yvette Avila (Middle School) to learn about leading and participating in affinity groups, attending student retreats, and (for Upper School students) being trained to facilitate and lead Middle School affinity groups.
Upper School affinity groups for the 2020-2021 school year included:
- Native American Student Alliance (NASA).
- Latinx-Hispanic Affinity group (LATISPA).
- South Asian Affinity Group (SAAG).
- Black Student Union (BSU) affinity group.
- Multicultural Initiators eXperiencing and Encouraging Diversity (MIxED), an affinity group for students who identify as multiracial or multiethnic.
- Lakeside Asian-Pacific Students (LAPS) affinity group.
- Student Awareness Council (SAC), for all students interested in increasing awareness, conversation, and action about a wide spectrum of socio-political issues.
- Interfaith and Spirituality affinity group.
- Chronic Illness and Disability Affinity group (CIDA).
- Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever (GLOW), a LGBTQ+ alliance group open to all students.
- Lakeside Anti-Racist Students (LARS).
- Get involved with the Parents and Guardians Association. Contact PGA President Katie Traverse; Vice President for Community, Equity, and Inclusion Sheila Talwar; or PGA Administrative and Program Specialist Lani Carpenter. You can reach them at LakesidePGA@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2796. Visit the PGA webpage to learn more about grade-level meetings, lectures, and other opportunities to connect.
- Attend a meeting of the PGA T.J. Vassar diversity and community committee. Every member of the Lakeside parent and guardian community is welcome to participate in this alliance group, which focuses on supporting the school community in its efforts to understand, embrace, and promote diversity and inclusion. For more information, contact PGA Vice President of Community, Equity, and Inclusion Shelia Talwar at LakesidePGA@lakesideschool.org.
- Check out the DEI resources webpage and a lending library for parents and guardians. Materials represent a variety of perspectives, tools, and vehicles to help community members develop an equity and inclusion mindset.
- Learn about Lakeside’s parent and guardian ongoing and new affinity and alliance groups. In 2020-2021 the PGA hosted affinity groups for parents and guardians of Black, African American, African, or Afro Caribbean students; parents and guardians of Latino/a or Hispanic students; parents and guardians of Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander students; parents and guardians of South Asian students; same-sex parents and guardians and/or parents and guardians of LGBTQ+ students; parents and guardians of multiracial students; parents and guardians of students with learning differences. The PGA also hosts an alliance group, Active Allies, a group actively learning about allyship and anti-racism.
- Participate in the We Are Lakeside project, in which all parents and guardians commit to actively engage at home in learning about equity, inclusion, and anti-racism — the same learning journey as students and school employees. More information about this project will be released this fall.
- Reach out to Alumni Relations Director Kelly Poort (email@example.com) or members of the Lakeside/St. Nicholas Alumni Board with questions and to learn how to get involved.
- Black alumni interested in participating in or learning more about a mentoring program for students who identify as Black, African, or African American can get in touch with LEEP Director/Family Support Liaison Latasia Lanier ’90 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Connect with Lakeside alumni who identify as Black, African, or African American at Black Family Reunion gatherings. For more information, email Lakeside trustee Brandon Vaughan ’06, LEEP Director/Family Support Liaison Latasia Lanier ’90, and Alumni Relations Director Kelly Poort at email@example.com.