The painful stories that we heard from members of our school community and the social unrest that took place during the summer of 2020 led us to take a deep look within ourselves, confront the mistakes of the past, and enact change. This change is necessary to become the school that we strive to be; it is change that aligns with our mission that values respect for others and embraces human diversity.
Since last summer, King School embarked on an intentional journey to examine every area of the school through a lens of equity and inclusion, with an overarching goal of becoming a more inclusive and anti-racist school.
The foundation of our work stemmed from the input we received from alumni, parents, students, faculty, and staff; community surveys; our strategic plan; and sincere consideration to the eye-opening and heartbreaking testimonies shared in various forums. We also created a DEI Task Force composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees, who outlined a detailed list of recommendations for making King a more inclusive community.
Our plan derives from a firm commitment to be better and do better – as individuals and as a school. We deeply regret and apologize for the pain suffered by anyone within our walls. Our goal to become a more inclusive school and an anti-racist institution will require us to work to ensure a safe space for every member of our community – especially for those who belong to communities of color.
In this report, we provide an update on the work accomplished to date in the areas of governance, culture, curriculum, hiring, recruiting, and retention, and community engagement.
As promised, keeping track of our progress and communicating it to you is one of the ways we hold ourselves accountable for progress and accountable to you, our community.
While thorough, this update is not exhaustive; rather, this is a snapshot of some of our progress to date. We recognize that there still is and there will always be significant work ahead of us, but we are eager to continue this work in partnership with and in service to you. Thank you for your ongoing support and partnership as we advance these efforts.
- DEI Task Force
- Human Resources, Recruitment, and Retention of Faculty, Staff, and Students
- Community Engagement
- DEI Team
Before our community embarked on this deep reflective process, the Board of Trustees recognized the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a guiding principle behind our mission. This priority is reflected as one of the pillars of our Strategic Plan that reinforces our commitment to being a welcoming institution. This requires us to respond appropriately to the needs of our community and to create a learning environment where students are challenged to think critically, act respectfully, and consider multiple perspectives in their academic journey at King.
This past summer, the Board also provided strategic oversight for a comprehensive plan that would help King meet its DEI goals of becoming a more inclusive institution. Our plan below includes goals that were developed over many months and unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees. The Board considered input from the DEI Task Force, forums held by Dr. Eshoo, and engagement with parents, students, alumni, faculty, and staff. It was also informed by a review conducted by attorneys from the law firm Jackson Lewis who specialize in assisting educational institutions in identifying issues related to race, class, and gender relations within their communities and assisting in creating a productive and equitable environment.
The firm’s work looked into allegations that involved some members of the King community and informed the work that we have conducted and that we will continue to do. While we cannot, as a rule, provide details about personnel matters, we can reiterate that the review was designed to help our community move forward, understand its shortcomings and forge a path forward; part of fulfilling this promise involved candid and frank personnel decisions and proportionate actions behind which we stand fully.
Crucial to the proper oversight of King’s DEI goals is the Board’s own education and the competencies of its trustees. To that end, members of the Board have participated in two DEI training sessions: one with equity and inclusion consultant Alison Park, and the other with Monica Khetarpal and Nicholas Simpson from Jackson Lewis. We are also committed to engaging in annual training for Board members.
More recently, the Board has been working to create a standing DEI Board committee that will be tasked with the oversight of King School’s policies, initiatives, and strategic goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The committee will also guide the Board's own work in this space and address any organizational gaps in mission fulfillment and strategic vision. We will announce the committee before the end of this academic year, and it will begin its work in the fall.
We understand the value of diverse backgrounds and perspectives at the Board level. We have proactively increased diversity, and we continue to make every effort to further improve representation among our trustees. To do so, we are actively engaging in conversations with members of our immediate community as well as reaching out to other educational institutions and local industry leaders.
- Conduct an audit of communications and community activities to determine the most effective ways to educate the King community about DEI as a core value, and to ensure that all community members feel known and meaningfully included in all aspects of the school.
- Require training for staffulty, Board of Trustees, and Parent Association leaders on anti-bias practices, antiracism, and cultural competence. Develop accountability systems. Offer similar training and education to the greater parent community and to alumni.
- Train teachers to teach to multiple perspectives in all grades PreK-12 - both in the academic and in the social-emotional realms - and to hold space effectively for difficult conversations about DEI and other challenging topics. Provide an education for all students that encourages research and analysis to develop informed perspectives and healthy, respectful dialogue and debate.
- Convene a task force - composed of colleagues, Trustees, students, and alumni - that will review and update language in our "espoused values" (mission statement, virtues, honor code, etc.) to ensure that the school's commitment to building a diverse, equitable and inclusive community is clear and unequivocal. Develop a shared language that will undergird our studies and dialogue.
- Develop and enhance recruiting and hiring processes to increase representation of underrepresented groups in the student body and in the staffulty, and develop benchmarks for increases over the next 3 years. Develop support structures for these groups to improve retention.
- Strengthen our policies and procedures for whistleblowing and reporting of discriminatory behavior by any member of the King community, and clarify accountability measures that will help foster a healthy school community.
- Annually perform an assessment of progress in each of these areas. Report that progress to the Board of Trustees and summarize those assessments for the broader King community.
We have a commitment to take concrete action that will foster an anti-racist and authentically inclusive learning community here at King School.
In order to do this work, we convened a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task force. The major responsibility of the DEI Task Force was to define the goals, strategies, tactics, and benchmarks of the Inclusion pillar in the King School Strategic Plan, and support progress on the Academic Excellence and Identity pillars of the plan as well.
DEI Task Force Members
- Co-Chairs:Rachel Jean-Baptiste P ’21 and Gilles Chosson
- Trustees: Tom King, Board Chair, P ’20, ’20, ’23, Mi-Sun Freeman, P ’29, ’22
- Current parent: God-is Rivera, P ’29
- Alumni: Anthony Williams, ’85, Brandi Lawrence, ’98, and Dana Hill, ’05
- Faculty colleagues: Lisa DiGirolami, Katie Tobin, and Adam Boaz
- Staff colleagues: Lakeya Graves, Lisa Nero, Karen Eshoo
We also created working groups - which included DEI Task Force members along with other colleagues, trustees, parents, alumni, and Middle School and Upper School students - that designed specific policies and programs for our four priorities written below. The working groups met frequently to make significant progress towards our goals, and reported that progress to the DEI Task Force for feedback, guidance, and direction. The DEI Task Force shared the proposals that emerged from our work with the Board of Trustees and the Leadership Team in the fall so that we could implement positive changes as quickly as possible. They used a lot of the historical information that had been collected over the years including a 2015 Survey done by the National Association of the Independent School, a 2017 DEI Strategic Plan, notes from community forums with current Middle and Upper School students, Parents, Alumni, and Staffulty, a demand letter from Black at King and current initiatives operating at King.
Designing and implementing a systemic approach for tangible institutional change. This will include, but will not be limited to, behavioral expectations and accountability for colleagues, students, and families; advisory for students in grades 6-12; and counseling approaches for all students. Working group chair: Karen Eshoo, Head of School
Students: Milei Wyatt (US) ’21 and Zuri Giddings (MS) ’26
Staffulty: Laura Bowe, Josh Deitch (MS Head)
Alumnae: Jamie Lopez ’18 and Dana Hill ’05
Trustee: Tom Conheeney P ’18, P ’15, P '15
Parent: Mini Nunna P ’22
Creating an academic and social-emotional learning framework that aligns with the goals set forth in the Academic Excellence pillar of the Strategic Plan, and that engages teachers and students in anti-racist and social justice education as necessary components of inclusive academic excellence. Working group chair: Gilles Chosson, Director of Global Studies, Director of Summer Institute, World Languages Faculty
Staffulty: Adam Boaz (US), Carol Brown ’87 (MS), P ’10, P ’13, Lisa DeGirolami (LS), Sandy Lizaire-Duff (LS Head), Elizabeth Messinger (US), Patrick O’Neal (US),
Student: Wafa Nomani ’21
Alumnae: Melissa Ross ’06
Trustee: Dan Ozizmir, P ’22
3.Human Resources, Recruitment and Retention of Staffulty and Students:
Critically examine and refine our practices to recruit, retain, and ensure the academic and professional success of increased numbers of staffulty and students of color, to ensure that the learning community of King reflects the demographics and talents of our complex, global world? Working group chair: Rachel Jean-Baptiste, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Colleagues: Jessica Landis, Lisa Nero, Dana Thomas, Craig Tunks
Alumnae: Brandi Lawrence ’98 and Kishuana Soljour ’09
Parent: Nirbay Kumar, P ’24
Trustee: Mi-Sun Freeman, P ’29, ’22
4. Communications and Community Engagement:
Improve our ability to convey our values effectively to key constituents, and to bring stakeholders together. Working group co-chairs: God-is Rivera P, ‘29, Global Director of Community Engagement at Twitter and Lakeya Graves, Director of Marketing
Colleagues: Caitlin Halle, Ted Parker, P ’34, ’34, Karen Raidt, P ’20, P ’23, Stephen Sheehan ’07, Katie Tobin, P ’35
Alumna: Ashley Alebiosu ’08
Trustee: Eric Gerster P ’22
We must hold each other accountable when it comes to fostering a safe, welcoming, and inclusive school community. Discriminatory behavior is not tolerated at King School, and each of us should feel comfortable addressing any concerns of unwelcome behavior. The Jackson Lewis review highlighted the need to improve mechanisms for reporting and addressing allegations of racism and discrimination. To that end, we strengthened our nondiscrimination policy and reporting system.
Separately, with the goal of improving our cross-cultural competencies in classrooms, on the athletic fields, and within our co-curricular activities, our faculty, staff, and administrators have participated in workshops and training sessions before and during the academic year to learn to identify implicit biases and systemic racism in our curriculum and our approaches to teaching, counseling, advising, and coaching. Some of the organizations that provided the training and workshops included Pollyanna, Factuality, Positive Coaching Alliance, and the Institute for Diversity and Social Justice (IDSJ).
In order to foster belonging and provide a space to discuss shared experiences, age-appropriate affinity groups have been launched in the Middle School and have continued in the Upper School. These groups were formed following the recommendations made by students, and they have become a central component of our work together. With the help and support of student openness, bravery, and vulnerability, affinity groups meet regularly during lunchtime and are facilitated by trained faculty and staff. We will keep listening to our students and will create new groups as needed. For our faculty and staff, this spring, King will be launching the employees of color resource group. This group is meant to be a space for participants to explore their identity and share their personal experiences. Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. Our goal is to create additional groups that meet the needs of our community.
A foundation for academic excellence is an education that includes a diversity of voices, backgrounds, and experiences.
With that in mind, every King faculty member established principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential priorities in their professional and personal growth and learning. With the support of Pollyanna, a nonprofit organization that helps academic institutions improve racial literacy, cultural competencies, and equity practices, we have begun to audit, revise, and revamp our Lower School and Middle School curricula.
The goal of our partnership with Pollyanna was to build in greater self-awareness, create grade-level programmatic goals for creating curricula that reflect multicultural perspectives, determine our faculty and staff’s personal and professional DEI goals, and understand the importance of accountability in this ongoing process of becoming anti-racist educators. A cohort of Lower School teachers also participated in a training session with consultants from Molina DEI Consulting. Middle School teachers have worked collaboratively in developing an articulated curriculum devoted to teaching multicultural literacy to be integrated into our current advisory program.
The Upper School partnered with consultants from the Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice (IDSJ), the Racial Equity Institute, and Molina DEI Consulting for training and workshops on racial equity, social justice, and culturally responsive pedagogy. Teachers explored how to implement the Social Justice Framework, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center dedicated to helping teachers and schools prepare students to become active participants in a diverse democracy.
Academic departments have been working to incorporate cross-cultural competencies directly into the curriculum as well as to develop a research-driven curriculum that reflects inclusive academic excellence. An example of this work is reflected in the English and History curricula, which have been significantly updated to include racial literacy and more diverse perspectives.
We also formed a standing cross-divisional curriculum committee that is working specifically on the ongoing analysis and development of DEI curricular goals across all disciplines and divisions.
In addition to revising our curriculum, we are working to make our classroom libraries more diverse and culturally responsive. Moreover, our teachers have created action plans to identify, address and interrupt biases and microaggressions on campus.
To find out more about the DEI work taking place in our classrooms, you may visit our DEI news webpage.
One of our main goals is to diversify the composition of our student body and our faculty and staff. In order to do so, we have revised our recruiting and hiring processes to increase the presence of underrepresented groups in the student body and among our faculty and staff.
To increase diversity among our faculty and staff, we attend job fairs focused on recruiting candidates with a variety of experiences and backgrounds, and we work with recruitment and search firms with a demonstrated commitment to representing candidates of color and candidates with skills in cross-cultural competence. Some of these firms and recruiting fairs include Pivot Solutions, Faculty Diversity Search, NYSAIS Job Fair to Promote Diversity, and Nemnet.
We are advertising our job openings in a broader range of spaces such as social media, job fairs, colleges and universities, and associations beyond independent school arenas in order to open up the door of access.
We now require anti-bias training annually for all hiring committees and managers. Our revamped hiring process helps us ensure that we mitigate bias and inequity during the process of attracting and reviewing applicants.
We are placing specific focus on faculty, counselors, and other staff who provide social-emotional and cognitive learning frameworks for underrepresented students. Our students and their families also have access to a diverse group of school counselors.
As mentioned above, we have also created student affinity groups. For our faculty and staff, this spring, King will be launching the employees of color resource group. This group is meant to be a space for participants to explore their identity and share their personal experiences. Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. Our goal is to create additional groups that meet the needs of our community. Further, we have implemented school-wide DEI training, and we continue to diversify our curriculum and advisory programs so that each and every one of our students feels supported and valued.
The Admission and Financial Access team has been working on a more inclusive enrollment process in recent years, attending conferences and workshops in order to strengthen our ability to build a more racially diverse student body. This year, the admission team participated in a full-day training workshop led by the Racial Equity Institute and in the Enrollment Management Association’s annual conference, which featured new content and training related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Over the years, King School has partnered with REACH Prep and Waterside School to attract racially diverse students to King. We continue to build those relationships and, this year, we have engaged with two new organizations, RIISE and Jack and Jill of America. We expanded the scope and strategy of our advertising and marketing efforts in order to ensure that we effectively reach more diverse communities.
In addition to our commitment to a more racially diverse student body, we continue to provide significant financial access to students, ensuring a socio-economically diverse population. In this challenging year, our community created an Emergency Financial Access Fund to assist families impacted financially by COVID-19.
The Enrollment Committee has been working on setting targets for increasing diversity among our student body, using historical school data as well as demographic data to inform our goals and to measure our success moving forward.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a number of obstacles, we have been able to advance in our goals and engage the community with educational opportunities such as a virtual speaker series sponsored by the Office of Equity and Inclusion in partnership with the PA Association. Our King Reads Together series included virtual visits from author, speaker, and activist Julie Lythcott-Haims and American swimmer Schuyler Bailar, both of whom engaged in thought-provoking conversations on race and gender identity with our community.
To help us further the education of our community, our Parents’ Association leadership participated in Factuality the Game, a workshop that creates awareness about structural inequalities in our society. Members of our PA leadership also participated in training sessions with consultant Alison Park from the DEI consulting firm Blink Consulting.
On April 10, a King cohort consisting of students, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, and alumni will participate in the Pollyanna Conference, a forum for attendees to explore issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and to share ideas, experiences, and knowledge with members of other independent schools in order to become change agents in their communities.
These are not isolated events, and our goal is to provide ongoing opportunities for education and awareness among our families.
On the alumni front, we have launched five affinity groups: Black Alumni Affinity Group, LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group, Cross-Racial Alumni Group for Social Justice, Alumnae Affinity Group, and Alumni of Color Affinity Group. About 40 alumni registered to participate in these groups, and we have already secured leaders for the LGBTQIA+ and Black Alumni Affinity Groups. Our goal is to secure leaders for all of these groups and increase participation and events to engage with each other. We are also hoping to expand the groups to provide spaces for other communities. We encourage anyone who might be interested in registering for or leading this effort to please contact our Director of Alumni Engagement, Stephen Sheehan ’07.
We understand that to truly become an inclusive institution, we must also engage our extended community. We are fortunate to be located in a relatively diverse area of Fairfield County that allows us to take advantage of many resources. In addition to the many organizations we work with through King Cares, we have identified local organizations such as the Jack and Jill Foundation, an organization that focuses on addressing the issues affecting African American children and families, and the India Cultural Center of Greenwich, a nonprofit organization that celebrates the arts and culture of India. We have partnered with them for a couple of events, and, once COVID-19 restrictions allow it, our goal is to strengthen those relationships and establish others so that we can have an enriching exchange of thoughts and ideas between our communities.
This DEI Team supports colleagues in making our curriculum, pedagogy/coaching, and school culture a reflection of our commitment to inclusive excellence (IE) in providing access to and delivering a high quality education for all students. The concept of IE has taken shape over the past decade in some of the most renowned higher education institutions, which provided a launching pad that attracted talented students from our diverse, global world and produced innovative research and learning. This framework entails intentional and ongoing work that fosters respect for and knowledge of varied cultures, perspectives, and identities so that schools, students, families, and staffulty can thrive. Defining inclusive excellence at King is essential for achieving the goals of our Strategic Plan - it is a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have. The DEI Team partners with constituencies across our PreK-Grade 12 community to develop and implement initiatives that increase our collective cross-cultural competence, skills that we all need in order to provide high quality education, coaching, and professionalism for the 21st century. Areas of focus include racial, global, and gender literacies, as well as increasing our consciousness of how ability, socio-economic status, belief and other areas of diversity or inequity impact childhood/adolescent development and workplace culture.
Dr. Rachel Jean-Baptise
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
(203) 322-3496, Ext. 409
Innovation Lab Director, Upper School DEI Coordinator: Computer Science and Digital Applications, Social Sciences, Performing Arts and Visual Arts and Design
See past communications regarding DEI:
- April 14, 2021 - Launch of Employee Resource Group
- April 13, 2021 - Introducing Our New Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- April 5, 2021 - DEI Progress Update
- March, 19, 2021 - A Message of Support for Our Asian, Pacific Islander, and Asian American Community
- January 6, 2021 - Reflections on the Events of the Day
- October 28, 2020 - Board of Trustees Update
- August 26, 2020 - Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Update
- July 14, 2020 - Launch of Investigation
- July 3, 2020 - DEI Task Force and Working Groups
- June 29, 2020 - BlackAtKing and Further Action
- June 23, 2020 - Non-discrimination statement and reporting
- June 13, 2020 - Equity and Inclusion Progress
- June 7, 2020 - Message from the Board of Trustees
- June 2, 2020 - Affirming our shared values: No Place for Racism
- June 2, 2020 - Affirming our Mission and Values