An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Debbie Bensadon, director of equity and inclusion

Lakeside’s work in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have been ongoing and evolving for more than a half-century. As many of you know, our current equity and inclusion initiative is Our Work Together: Inclusion, Multiculturalism, Respect. We hope that many of you are finding ways to engage in this work, including through the PGA’s We Are Lakeside project, which has information and resources curated for Lakeside parents and guardians.

Employees at the school — as well as parents and guardians and students — are leading multiple projects under the umbrella of Our Work Together. Today, I want to update you on a couple of these projects. I also want to encourage you to review the Our Work Together dashboard, as we update it with detailed information about what we’ve been doing this year and in previous years.

New hiring structure

The first goal of Our Work Together is “Increase the racial/ethnic diversity of the faculty, administrators, and trustees through focused recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies.” A version of this goal has been a priority at our school for more than ten years, yet the racial and ethnic diversity of our faculty does not reflect the diversity of our student body. A diverse teaching faculty is important because research shows that students of color benefit from having teachers who share their racial backgrounds. A diverse adult community brings a variety of perspectives to the table and provides students with role models who represent a broad range of backgrounds and experiences. In our listening sessions with students and families, this need for students to see themselves appropriately represented in the adult community comes up again and again.

This year, we are adopting a new hiring structure and process for faculty positions. In adapting this process for Lakeside, we’ve benefited from learning from other schools that have had success in this area. This year, and going forward, we have formed a hiring committee of approximately 40 individuals. Small hiring groups drawn from this larger hiring committee will work together to hire teachers for all departments where we have openings, and each hiring group will conduct two or three searches in a year. Led by one of several administrators, and in collaboration with the department head, the hiring groups will include someone from the department with the opening, a member of the all-school diversity committee, and people from other departments. The entire department — and others from around the school community — will be involved in the assessment of finalist candidates.

We hope this new hiring process contributes to the efforts to diversify our faculty 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.

Diversity Career Fair: Spread the word!

On March 12, we will host the third annual Independent School Diversity Career Fair for the region. It’s an opportunity for teachers and staff of color to learn about working in independent schools, find out about current career opportunities, and visit virtual booths hosted by individual schools. Like the 2021 fair, the 2022 fair will be virtual, allowing us to reach a broader network across the country. This year, 22 regional independent schools are participating, in an effort to increase BIPOC representation in our independent schools.

We encourage families to share information about the Independent School Diversity Career Fair with family, friends, and communities outside of Lakeside. It’s a unique opportunity to bring anyone interested in working in an independent school to our community and learn more about Lakeside and the participating regional schools. The wider we cast the net, the better!

Please feel free to direct people you know to the Diversity Career Fair website where they can learn more about the fair and participating schools as well as register to attend: lakesideschool.org/diversitycareerfair. You can find more information in this news article.

Bias education

As an educational institution built around a concept of lifelong learning, everyone at Lakeside is constantly looking to learn and grow — it’s core to our growth and learning mindset! One of the things every community member has been learning about this year is bias: what it is and how it manifests in educational settings. Having an awareness of our biases is the first piece of having an equity and inclusion mindset.

Over the past few months, employees and students at both divisions have been talking and learning about bias and how it manifests at Lakeside. In addition to conversations in selected classes and in advisories, Lakeside students at both divisions heard from Greg Taylor, a civic leader, community enrichment strategist, and social justice advocate who has worked with educational, governmental, and major organizations around the Pacific Northwest.

Parents and guardians are invited to a webinar on bias featuring Greg Taylor, which takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. This is a great opportunity for members of our community to increase their understanding of what bias is, how it influences our perceptions, and what harmful bias looks like in an educational setting, and the steps we can personally take to identify, understand, and mitigate our own biases.

You’ll be hearing more about our anti-bias work in the coming months. In the meantime, we encourage you to attend this webinar and be part of the work of fostering a community where all our students can thrive. Learn more about the webinar in this news article.

Our Work Together midyear updates

Many members of our community have been working tirelessly on the strategies and tasks of Our Work Together. We’ve been updating the dashboard that tracks and measures how we are doing on the initiative’s four goals, including what’s going well and what needs improvement. Watch for more updates over the next few months and, as always, let us know if you have questions.

Parents and guardians: If you are looking to personally engage in and support this work, the Parents and Guardians Association’s webpages on diversity, equity, and inclusion are a great place to start: Watch the We Are Lakeside video series; attend a meeting of the T.J. Vassar Diversity and Community Committee or an affinity group; or check out the wide variety of resources compiled by parents and guardians for parent and guardians. 

When we learn and grow together, all of our students benefit.

Debbie Bensadon is Lakeside’s director of equity and inclusion; she can be reached at dei@lakesideschool.org. Learn more about Lakeside’s work in diversity, equity, and inclusion on our DEI webpage. Learn about the current initiative, Our Work Together, and review the initiative dashboard at lakesideschool.org/ourworktogether.