An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Stephanie Wright, faculty equity programs coordinator/Upper School history teacher and department head

Lakeside’s community wide commitment to equity and inclusion work is supported by a robust diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) team. The six person team works with students, faculty, staff, and parents and guardians on a variety of projects and undertakings, most notably, the initiative Our Work Together: Inclusion, Multiculturalism, Respect.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion team

Here is a rundown of who is on the team and our areas of focus.

  • Jamie Asaka, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion and director of student and family support, leads this work at an institutional level, particularly regarding school-wide policies and practices. She guides the implementation of Our Work Together and collaborates with other administrators, the Board of Trustees, and the Parents and Guardians Association to implement efforts to make Lakeside a place where each person feels a part of the community.
  • Debbie Bensadon, assistant director of diversity, equity, and inclusion and Upper School Spanish teacher, leads the work around student programming at the Middle and Upper school, and supports inclusive hiring at both divisions. She also represents Lakeside’s DEI office in the larger educational community – for example, Bensadon sits on the planning committee for the 2019 NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC), which will take place in Seattle this December.
  • Myself (Stephanie Wright) and Middle School science and math teacher and science department head Nancy Canino serve as faculty equity coordinators. We work with faculty on both campuses, providing feedback on academic curricula (what faculty are teaching) as well inclusive teaching practices. Additionally, we help faculty identify professional development opportunities and readings specific to teachers’ interests and areas for growth.
  • Upper School math teacher Ben McKinley and Middle School history teacher Merissa Reed are the student equity program coordinators. McKinley 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, Reed is the lead for the affinity group program, develops dialogue plans and helps Middle School faculty execute them. Reed will also be the point person for regional student retreats for middle schoolers and related off-campus opportunities.

You can reach members of the DEI team at

The DEI team works with other established groups including student-led affinity and alliance groups, the all-school diversity committee (composed of faculty, staff, and administrators), and the T.J. Vassar diversity and community committee of the Parents and Guardians Association.

Priorities for 2019-2020

Lakeside is in the second full year of implementing strategies of Our Work Together. Major projects for the coming year include piloting a mentoring program for Black, African, and African American students (which launched in September); hosting the first regional Independent School Diversity Career Fair in February 2020; continuing work on training employees around inclusive hiring practices and protocols; training faculty and staff in the art of facilitation and dialogue; and taking a leadership role in the People of Color conference, including hosting PoCC participants.

Other student focused priorities include developing student leadership by sending Upper School and Middle School students to conferences and diversity leadership retreats and offering a variety of expanded DEI student programming in both divisions. 

Get involved

This is the fourth year of parent and guardian affinity groups (gatherings of individuals who share an identity, e.g., race, sexual orientation, gender). Sponsored by the Parents and Guardians Association and in partnership with the office of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the parent and guardian affinity groups are designed to support families whose backgrounds historically have been underrepresented in the school.

For detailed information, see the email that Bernie Noe recently emailed to parents and guardians. If you would like to participate in one or more of these groups, please complete this brief questionnaire. Once you’ve shared your preferred group, the group facilitator will reach out to you with more information about the date, time, and location for the meetings.

Stephanie Wright is a faculty equity programs coordinator at Lakeside, in addition to teaching Upper School history and chairing that department. You can reach her at