by Bernie Noe, head of school, and Carey Crutcher Smith, board chair
Dear members of the Lakeside community,
We want to update you on Lakeside’s evolving work in equity and inclusion and new efforts underway to examine and change Lakeside’s systems using anti-racist and social justice filters. We write today in recognition that much work remains to be done. This letter contains an overview of our progress over the last three years and plans for the year ahead; an introduction of a dashboard with details on our work; and an invitation to join us in our efforts.
Lakeside has a longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Generations of Lakesiders have played a role in this work, particularly T.J. Vassar, who led Lakeside’s diversity initiatives during the mission focus work in the early 2000s. Equity and inclusion are integral parts of our mission, and we are committed, through our re-envisioning process, to making them a core mindset for students. We make every effort to graduate students who will view it as their responsibility to make the world a more just and equitable place for everyone.
Our Work Together: Inclusion, Multiculturalism, Respect, our current equity and inclusion initiative, has led to significant changes at Lakeside since it was launched in 2018: we’ve revamped our student affinity group programs in the Middle School and in the Upper School, and added affinity groups for parents and guardians and for employees; trained faculty on facilitating intergroup dialogues; expanded our student programs, including creating a mentoring program connecting Black students and alumni; hosted a diversity career fair; and increased the size of the diversity, equity, and inclusion team to six people. In addition, the Board of Trustees added an equity and inclusion committee.
While we have met many of Our Work Together’s goals and objectives, we have revised and added others in response to what is happening in the world — particularly related to racism against Black and Indigenous people and communities. For Lakeside to take an active role in the national movement against racism, we must start by looking at ourselves and systemic and institutionalized biases and racism at Lakeside. Individually and collectively, we must all work with urgency to shift the culture of the school.
In summer 2020 — during a time of national reckoning about systemic racism and bias — many of us at Lakeside, including administrators and the board, listened and learned about the experience of members of the Lakeside community who identify as Black, African American, or African.
- At listening sessions, administrators heard from members of the Upper School Black Student Union, and separately, from members and guests of the Parents and Guardians Association (PGA) affinity group for parents and guardians of African, African American, and Caribbean students.
- We read all the stories and experiences shared on @BlackatLakeside and @nbpocatlakeside on Instagram.
- We reviewed a letter and materials regarding diversity and inclusion from alumni.
We want to thank every person who — by name or anonymously — shared their stories and experiences. Here are our main takeaways.
Our work moving forward
To graduate students with an equity and inclusion mindset, we — as individuals and as an institution — must live that mindset and question and change our own systems using anti-racist and social justice filters. We are committed to taking the actions necessary to improve the experiences of Black and Indigenous students at our school.
This year, we will change our approach to four key areas, with the goals of hiring faculty of color; transforming the curriculum and our ways of teaching; formalizing a system of DEI feedback and support in employee evaluations; and revamping the student discipline system.
Hiring faculty of color
Transforming the curriculum and our ways of teaching
Formalizing a system of DEI feedback and support in employee evaluations
Revamping the student discipline system
As part of our growth in this work, we will be more proactive and transparent in communicating our actions. Starting today, we are launching a dashboard for Our Work Together that tracks and measures how we are doing on each of the initiative’s four goals: what’s going well and what needs improvement. We’ll also share updates on our parents and guardians webpage, diversity, equity and inclusion page, and news page; proactively send information in email newsletters for current parents and guardians and for alumni; and share information on this work on social media.
We’ve highlighted some examples of the work underway, and more can be found on the Our Work Together dashboard, which we will update regularly. We hope that you — members of our community — will review what we have done and are planning and share your constructive ideas about actions we should consider taking.
We will also be proactively reaching out to members of our community, particularly to students and parents and guardians who identify as Black, to check on how we are doing.
We welcome feedback.
Here are some ways that you can get in touch with us and others.
- Reach Head of School Bernie Noe at Head'sOffice@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2714.
- Contact the board at firstname.lastname@example.org; that email goes to Board Chair Carey Crutcher Smith ’77 and Head’s Associate/Board Secretary Mae Waldron.
- Contact members of the diversity, equity, and inclusion team — including Director of Equity and Inclusion/Director of Student and Family Support Jamie Asaka and Assistant Director of Inclusion Debbie Bensadon — at email@example.com.
- If you are a parent or guardian of a Lakeside student who identifies as Black, African American, or African and you would like to be part of a listening session, or if you have questions about the sessions or groups participating, please contact PGA President April Joseph or PGA Vice President of Community, Equity, and Inclusion Winston Yeung. You can reach them at LakesidePGA@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2796 or find their personal email addresses in the Veracross directory. During the 2020-2021 school year, the focus of these sessions will be giving feedback to Lakeside administrators on the experience of students and how the school’s equity and inclusion work is impacting their experience at Lakeside.
- Get involved with the Parents and Guardians Association. Contact PGA President April Joseph; Vice President for Community, Equity, and Inclusion Winston Yeung; or PGA Administrative and Program Specialist Lani Carpenter. You can reach all three of them at LakesidePGA@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2796. All parents and guardians are invited to the Oct. 13 PGA general membership meeting, during which there will be an update about how the PGA is working to build community and support Our Work Together; a Zoom link will be emailed a few days prior. 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. This group supports the school community in its efforts to understand, embrace, and promote diversity and inclusion. The committee works to establish and maintain a safe environment for open discussion of issues. For more information, contact PGA Vice President of Community, Equity, and Inclusion Winston Yeung at LakesidePGA@lakesideschool.org. This year the committee will be creating a website with resources and information on PGA projects; developing an online diversity training module available to all parents and guardians; and producing a toolkit that parents and guardians will be able to use to recognize the diversity of our community and make sure that all families feel welcomed and included.
- Learn about Lakeside’s parent and guardian ongoing and new affinity groups. For parents and guardians of white students, the PGA is exploring creating a space for learning about white allyship for racial justice.
Thank you for your support of Lakeside, of our students — past and present — and of the critical work of building a more just and equitable world.
Head of School
|Carey Crutcher Smith ’77
On behalf of the Lakeside School Board of Trustees