Fundamental to who we are as a school is the understanding that learning occurs best within the context of connected community. Although we have always worked to create an inclusive culture that fosters connection—and therefore the safety and sense of belonging needed to take risks, try new things, discover who you are, and learn for learning’s sake—we have grown increasingly sensitive to fundamental issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We hold as our highest ideal that every student thrives at Sonoma Academy.
Two years ago, we established a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Task Force comprised of a cross-section of staffulty and initially co-chaired by Assistant Head of School Ellie Dwight and STEM Teacher Cassidy Brown, and this year chaired by Director of College Counseling Dot Kowal. The move towards a formalized task force was an acknowledgement of the scope and breadth of the work to be undertaken by such a committee. Beyond staffulty and student trainings and workshops, the task force now seeks to establish a DEI dashboard, the purpose of which is to survey and track over time key metrics related to the DEI culture within the school. This will allow us to identify any areas of needed improvement, develop additional programs, training, or support where needed, and track progress against those areas.
Before we can talk meaningfully about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—much less effectively measure our culture through those lenses, develop programs to address any issues, and so on—we must first have a shared understanding of what those terms mean.
Defining Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
Our Task Force uses the following working definitions of the terms:
Diversity: Diversity relates to differences in those aspects of identity that impact the social experiences—including perception, status, privilege, opportunity, access to resources—of groups of people within a community.
“Diversity” includes dominant and majority groups, without whom there would be no perceived and/or experienced “norm.”
In other words, Diversity = Representation and suggests that we explore whether our school population represents our community and whether our students see themselves in our faculty and staff.
Equity: Equity is about equalizing the ability to thrive; recognizing and addressing unfair cultural and institutional biases and discrimination.
In other words, Equity = Fairness and suggests that we ask ourselves: How do we ensure that all members of our community enjoy equal access to opportunity, resources, and information?
Inclusion: Inclusion is how a group creates an environment in which diverse members share a sense of belonging, mutual respect, and being valued for who they are. It is the supportive energy and commitment from others so that these groups can do their best work.
In other words, Inclusion = Belonging and encourages us to ensure that we have and are creating a culture in which we actively invite the contribution and participation of all members of our community.
Next, our Task Force drafted a mission statement to guide its work and our understanding of DEI. This should be considered a working draft. “We believe that learning occurs best in a connected community. Diversity, equity, and inclusivity are essential to an education in which all members of our community thrive. We are committed to cultivating a diverse community that is conscious and welcoming of difference, dedicated to investigating and advancing equity, and engaged with our local and global community.”
Throughout the year, we will be sharing updates on the work of the DEI Task Force, including the development of a DEI Dashboard, staffulty workshops and trainings, student programming, and coordination with the Board of Trustees DEI Committee and the newly reestablished SAPA DEI Committee.