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About SJS

Community and Inclusion

Dear St. John's Community,

The 2019-2020 academic year was the first year of implementation of the SJS Strategic Plan for Community and Inclusion. Senior leadership identified specific areas of focus, and below we would like to share with you the goals and achievements. The SJS Strategic Plan for Community and Inclusion can also be found in its entirety on this page. We look forward to keeping you informed about the progress and goals for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Sincerely,

Mark Desjardins and Gene Batiste
 

SUMMER 2020 UPDATE

June 2020
  • Two faculty/staff virtual forums to acknowledge, process, and grieve the killing of George Floyd, police brutality, and racism in the U.S. (June 2 and June 16 with over 95 participants for each forum including senior administration). 
  • The seven C&I Faculty Associates (FAs), Hollis Amley, and Gene Batiste developed a series of eight virtual faculty/staff forums to be delivered throughout the summer. Three of these forums were delivered in June, including:
    • Why is Saying “All Lives Matter” Offensive (June 16 with over 90 participants)
    • The Difference Between Nonracist and Antiracist (June 23 with over 90 participants)
    • Institutional and Systemic Racism – Part I (June 23 with over 90 participants).
Each faculty/staff forum included the presentation of research‐based concepts with supporting evidence, concrete and understandable examples and video clips, breakout sessions for more in‐depth discussions and reflections, and tangible/usable takeaways.  
  • African American Affinity Group (AAAG) forum for Black/African American Upper School students to process, grieve, and respond to the killings of African Americans, police brutality, and racism in the U.S.
  • Gene Batiste presented a report to the SJS Alumni Board on C&I initiatives and the School’s response to the Open Letter to the SJS Community from Black/African American alumni (June 16)
  • Mark Desjardins and Gene Batiste met twice with the seven Black/African American SJS alumni writers of the Open Letter to the SJS Community (June 12 and June 18).
  • Unity Council Forum for Upper School students with faculty participation – Why Saying “All Lives Matter” is Offensive (June 29). 
July 2020 
  • Gene Batiste had a confidential meeting with a Black/African American alumna concerning the alumna’s experiences at the school (July 2).
  • Faculty/staff professional development forum on Institutional/Systemic Racism – Part II (July 7 with 65 participants).
  • Gene Batiste had a confidential meeting with a Black/African American alumnus concerning the alumnus’s experiences at the school (July 14).
  • Faculty/staff professional development forum – Reflecting on the SJS Statement on Community & Inclusion with “This I Believe” and “I Have a Dream” statements based on the summer C&I faculty/staff forum series (July 14 with 62 participants).
  • As a qualitative researcher experienced with focus group research, Gene Batiste facilitated ten virtual SJS parent focus group sessions, three for Black/African American parents and seven for a cross‐section of parents based on race/ethnicity with the following guiding questions: 
    • What one word best describes what is in your head and heart as a (racial/ethnic identity) parent with the current/recent events gripping SJS, Houston, Texas, and the nation, including the Open Letter to the Community by Black/African American SJS alums and the #Blackat movement, the killing the African Americans by police and followers of hate, police brutality, and what is being termed the third reckoning of racism in myriad forms in our country? 
    • What frustrates and confuses you as a (racial/ethnic identity) parent about all of this? 
    • What hope, if any, do you have for SJS based on these current/recent events for Black/African American members of SJS and for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) work for the school? 
    • Please complete the following sentence…From your perspective as a (racial/ethnic identity) parent, SJS is at its best in DEIB when… 
    • What does SJS do best when it comes to encouraging, facilitating, and 
    • supporting the empowerment of your child/children? What more should the School do in this regard? 
    • What conversations, if begun today, would create new possibilities for Black/African members of SJS and for DEIB work at the School? 
    • If successes where guaranteed, what bold steps might you choose in developing and implementing initiatives and programs in support of Black/African American members of SJS and for DEIB at the School? 
Each session was recorded using pseudonyms to protect confidentiality. The ten focus group transcriptions are in the process of analysis for emerging themes focused on commendations, concerns, and recommendations to present to the Committee on Community and senior administrators this fall. 
  • Professional development forum for White faculty/staff – White Fragility (July 23 with 67 participants). 
  • Professional development forum for White faculty/staff – Performative Allyship (July 28 with 60 participants).  

August 2020 
  • Unity Council forum for Upper School students with faculty participants – Shattering White Fragility (August 3). 
  • Professional development forum for White faculty/staff – Competitive Wokeness (August 4 with 57 participants).
  • Gene Batiste met with the Middle School academic team to discuss redesigns of the Middle School the Civics and English curriculum for antiracist and cultural relevancy with diverse text and literature. (August 4). 
  • Gene Batiste facilitated C&I training and onboarding of new faculty (August 6). 
  • Gene Batiste met with Advancement to develop a C&I communications plan (August 11). 
  • Unity Council forum for Upper School students with faculty participants – Systemic Racism (August 17). 
  • Unity Council forum for Upper School students with faculty participants – Healing from Racial Trauma (August 28). 
  • Gene Batiste met with the Middle School academic team on developing a plan for facilitating difficult conversations. 
September 2020
  • Unity Council forum for Upper School students with faculty participants – The Racist History of Medicine (September 3).  
  • Advancement video project with SJS Board member and parent Mark Rodriguez  
  • C&I Faculty Associates Retreat (September 11). 
  • First Faculty of Color Affinity Group (FOCAG) meeting for 20‐21 (September 17). 
  • Preparing for the 2020 election brainstorming meeting I with representation from Upper School, Middle School, and Lower School with Megan Henry and Gene Batiste (September 22). 
  • Unity Council forum for Upper School students with faculty participants – Ruth Bader Ginsberg (September 22). 
  • Unity Council forum for Upper School students with faculty participants – The Discriminatory Roots of Women’s Health (September 22).  

Fall 2020 
  • Gene Batiste will join and represent SJS with Pipeline Collaborative, a national network of peer independent schools with a mission to inform, mentor, and grow the next generation of teachers and administrators of color through direct engagement with select colleges and universities.  
  • Explore and devise a student campus climate survey to provide data regarding community and inclusion at St. John’s for Classes 6 – 12. Survey will be administered twice each year in an effort to track and document progress on the student experience at SJS based on markers of cultural identity.
  • Devise a Chapel program to engage SJS alumni and bring awareness to the current student body regarding the actual experience of students of color at SJS. Two chapel talks per semester to be followed with advisory conversations. 
  • Design a larger and more comprehensive effort to engage and listen to SJS alumni of color share their experiences and to develops ways to connect alumni of color with current students of color, affinity groups, and faculty. 
  • Gene Batiste will work with the newly created Community & Inclusion Committee of the SJS Alumni Board on engagement and education opportunities for SJS alumni including alumni of color.  
  • Work with Hollis Amley, Chia‐Chee Chiu to develop an affinity group program for Middle School students. 
  • Chris Curran and Gene Batiste will develop and pilot an affinity group program for SJS parents. 
  • Chris Curran, the division heads, and Gene Batiste will develop and implement an updated welcome to SJS protocol for new families focused on opportunities to self‐identify their child/children and themselves for C&I initiatives and programs. 
  • Gene Batiste will work with the C&I Faculty Associates and division heads to develop and delivery professional development activities and C&I Spotlights. 
  • Gene Batiste will work with the Parents Guild and the C&I Parent Committee on parent education and parent engagement programs.

STRATEGIC PLAN FOR COMMUNITY AND INCLUSION

Overarching Goal #1
CREATE AN INCLUSIVE AND EQUITABLE CAMPUS CLIMATE
Strategies
  1. Continue to refine faculty advisor program within context of each division to ensure that every student is “known and loved.”
  2. Continue to develop and refine social and emotional learning programs/curriculum across all three divisions that reinforce and emphasize for students the St. John’s cardinal precepts of care.
    1. Continue to seek out existing and or new national organizations that align with St. John’s School statement of Community and Inclusion.
    2. Specifically develop programming around the skill and mindset of “listening with empathy.”
    3. Develop, sponsor and promote “seminar” programs and workshops to be held at St. John’s that can foster dialogue and discussion over the critical issues related to strengthening community and inclusion policies and programs for both independent schools and other not for profit organizations.
      1. Provide programming and experiences to encourage parent engagement in cultural competency
      2. Increase resources and commitment to becoming an established presence for faculty, staff and students at the NAIS People of Color and Student Diversity Leadership Conference.
      3. Board of Trustees will create a standing committee to address and monitor school’s progress related to Community and Inclusion strategic plan and be a resource of support and feedback to the school administration in addressing issue related to community and inclusion.
      4. Continue to examine school traditions, rituals, ceremonies and other daily practices to insure that all students and parents feel welcomed and empowered to belong.
        1. Examine the extent to which before and after school program offerings in Lower and Middle School are conducive to supporting the enrollment and retention of dual working parents and/ or single parents
        2. Continue to sustain, support and empower student affinity groups in the Upper School, and the appropriate equivalent, in Lower and Middle School with the intent that peer to peer relationships, dialogue and discussions on matters related to community and inclusion can be a powerful teaching tool.
        3. Identify and develop programming involving alumni (from underrepresented groups or otherwise) whose experiences and background provide inspiring examples that will support, promote, and strengthen the school’s community and inclusion efforts, including profiling their accomplishments on the web-site on in the Update Magazine.
        4. Examine ways to use the alumni board as a way to identify and engage alumni of color and alumni from other underrepresented groups with the long term goal of achieving similar or higher diversity ratios as Board of Trustees.
        5. Coordinate and sponsor interactive educational training programming for St. John’s parents around issues of equity and inclusion especially as it relates to the values embedded within the St. John’s School statement on Community and Inclusion.
Overarching Goal #2
RECRUIT, RETAIN, AND DEVELOP A DIVERSE COMMUNITY
Strategies
  1. Realign admission office personnel to allow greater outreach and access to those communities and families who might otherwise not consider St. John’s as a viable education option.
    1. Ensure that support programs exist to successfully on-board and retain these students and families.
    2. Continue to work toward the continued recruitment of a student body that reflects the diversity of Houston.
      1. Promote our core values and statement on Community and Inclusion through effective storytelling and communication within and beyond the St. John’s community.
      2. Continue to expand and explore mechanisms by which outreach and marketing can target underrepresented populations within our school community.
  2. Develop new tools and strategies to improve hiring and search processes for faculty and staff of color and those from underrepresented groups including building relationships between St. John’s community an local, regional and national networks and organizations representing diverse constituencies
    1. Continue to revise, shape and evaluate retention efforts for all faculty and staff, including faculty and staff of color as well as those from other underrepresented groups.
    2. Include diversity, inclusion and multicultural competency in appropriate faculty, staff and administrator interview hiring questions.
    3. Develop strategies and incentives to encourage all employees to participate in community and inclusion workshops, programming and events.
    4. Recruit continuously—not simply when there are openings. Maintain professional networks and make note of potential candidates from underrepresented populations. When possible, work to build and develop relationships with those potential candidates
Overarching Goal #3
SUPPORT INCLUSIVE AND INNOVATIVE TEACHING AND LEARNING
  1. Define a St. John’s theoretical framework for multicultural education and distribute this framework to our community, explaining why we are valuing these goals.
    1. Develop benchmarks to guide curriculum development and implementation progress based on the school’s theoretical framework for multicultural education.
  2. Continue to develop and embed intellectual inquiry that will ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are foundational aspects of our educational program
  3. Continue to make the assessment of multi-cultural education teaching and learning a vital component of the school’s curricular and co-curricular audit program. Catalog specific recommendations related to cultural awareness and inclusivity and develop specific action programs to address those issues, and continue to test progress in these areas during the comprehensive audit programs.
  4. Continue to support curriculum development and teaching to ensure it reflects a diverse range of experiences and includes a range of materials and viewpoints that represent a variety of viewpoints and peoples.
    1. Create forums for faculty across all divisions to utilize in-house training to enhance awareness and understanding of best practices in regards to teaching within a diverse community.
    2. Support and sponsor professional development activities that align with the school’s goals and vision for community and inclusion.
    3. Support and provide on-going faculty training and guidance in directing controversial conversations within the classroom and allowing for further education/training on inclusive pedagogy
    4. Conduct all community and inclusion work related to teaching and instruction with the ideals of promoting and fostering a growth mindset, respect, and a commitment to ongoing learning.
Metrics and Reporting
We are committed to holding ourselves accountable for achieving progress under this Board approved strategic plan for Community and Inclusion. To that end, we will track—over time—metrics that represent important factors in measuring and calibrating progress related to these written goals and objectives. The standing committee of the Board of Trustees dealing with issues related to Community and Inclusion will monitor the progress and implementation of this plan and serve as the formal report body to the larger Board of Trustees. In addition, we are committed to writing and publishing an annual report to our community which will provide specific updates on our progress. Finally, major progress will be evaluated at the end of a five year and ten year period with the entire community participating in the NAIS Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) and benchmarking the degree of our progress against our ultimate goal of becoming an exemplary school on issues related to community and inclusion. A St. John’s Community and Inclusion audit will be added in a regular rotation of curricular audits that the school administers.

Statement on Community and Inclusion:

Every member of the St. John’s community will be known and loved. In accordance with that idea, our Mission Statement, and the Precepts and Principles of the St. John’s School, care is the School’s cardinal virtue, and we sustain a caring and welcoming culture for all.

In our community, we celebrate, promote, and appreciate the differences and similarities of our experiences. For us, community means respecting differences in ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and thought. Our community is dynamic and ever changing.

Respecting these differences is not enough, though, and we ensure an environment in which everyone can feel comfortable, heard, and included. We value inclusion because it makes us all stronger as a community. A diversity of worldviews challenges us to consider other points of view and is essential to a full education and the development of well-rounded future leaders.

To promote these values, we will ensure cultural intelligence and proficiency for all members of our community. We:
  • Incorporate cultural proficiency, diversity, global awareness, and inclusivity into all facets of the K-12 curricula and co-curricular activities.
  • Create opportunities for board, faculty, staff, student, and parent development and community education initiatives in these areas.
  • Ensure broad representation among students, faculty, staff, and administrators through recruitment and retention of candidates from underrepresented groups.
  • Challenge ourselves to continually reevaluate curricula, policies, and practices to ensure that we continue to grow and welcome all voices.

St. John’s only fulfills its mission when all community members feel included, safe, and empowered to fully participate in all aspects of community life.

Unanimously Approved by the St. John's School Board of Trustees on September 8, 2018

Non-Discrimination Policy:

St. John's School seeks to attract qualified individuals of diverse backgrounds to its student body. Consequently, the School does not discriminate in admission or educational program versus any individual on the basis of sex, race, color, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion, or any other category protected by federal, state, or local law.

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