Shelly, Renee, and I all decided to write on DEI – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – this week. It seems fitting, given not only recent challenging events in our community but also the happier opportunity to welcome those students who chose to return back to school in person this week. DEI work is an essential aspect of being a Progressive school and thus a vital part of a St. Francis education. I want to share some of the ways in which we make it part of every student’s experience.

You are probably aware of our DEI student groups, moderated by a number of our faculty members and coordinated overall by our Downtown Campus Diversity Director (and English teacher), Brett Paice. At the High School, we have the Black Students Association (BSA), Queer Students Association (QSA), Multicultural Students Association (MSA), and Gender Rights and Equity Initiative (GRE); as well, BSA and QSA have affinity groups that meet separately. The DEI groups provide space for discussion at regular meetings, and plan speakers and activities throughout the year. 

Another group under the DEI umbrella is our Sacred Space Committee. This group of students and faculty focuses on the plurality of religious traditions represented at St. Francis, maintains the Sacred Space (a room on the ground floor that contains items representing different religions), and considers programming opportunities. Recently, for instance, they were discussing Yom Kippur (a day on which we were originally scheduled to be in person) and ways to convey to students that we encourage them to miss school to observe the holy day if that is within their tradition, as well as to work with students who might choose to attend school but want some time for observance of Yom Kippur during the day.  

In addition to these groups and all the programming they do, we consider DEI within our curriculum. In 2018-19, we asked each department to evaluate the ways in which it weaves this work into classes. From choice of authors and texts, to the topics discussed or researched, to presenting students with a range of role models in each field, each teacher and each department keep diversity, equity, and inclusion in the forefront of their curricula and pedagogy. 

The High School is always a lively place. As an alumni parent remarked to me just yesterday, “St. Francis says it is ‘The School of Thought’ – and it truly lives that out!” Intellectual discourse is a lifeblood of the school, and “compassionate” is in our Mission statement along with “intellectual.” As we navigate helping our students grow into thoughtful, informed young adults, we believe that understanding and embracing the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential.