DEI in Action This Fall at ECFS

17 Nov 2021
ByECFS Communications Team

At the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are woven into all aspects of the student experience. The School’s DEI Department — consisting of Russell Marsh, Arhm Wild, Mica McGriggs, Shannon Matlovsky, and Tim Garcia — works with virtually every school constituency, advising on curriculum, providing trainings, hosting affinity groups, and much, much more. We spoke to Marsh, Director of Community and Inclusion, to get a sampling of what the Department has been up to over the last few weeks and to look ahead at the coming months.

All School Multicultural Committee Fall Forum with Dr. Anthony Jack At the All School Multicultural Committee (ASMC) Fall Forum, ECFS welcomed Dr. Anthony Jack, author of “The Privileged Poor.” In this fireside-chat style conversation hosted by parent Hayden Greene P ’27 P ’31, ASMC Co-chair, the conversation built on the ASMC’s theme for the year of building community and hearing each other’s stories. They discussed the college process as it relates to race, class, and more — and how students might navigate places of privilege such as ECFS or elite colleges, but also may carry marginalized identifiers. “Folks were really excited to talk about the intersections of race, class, colleges, and even our School,” Marsh says. You can read a reflection on the evening from the ASMC co-chairs here.

ASMC Alumni Panel Series Our Journeys Here: Alumni Origin Stories In November, the ASMC hosted a panel discussion honoring Indigenous Peoples Month with three alumni: Dorcas Lind-Gehlaut ’85, Cynthia Petterson ’79, and Jason Varghese ’12. The Eagles participated in a conversation moderated by Greene (with a “real Phil Donahue or Oprah thing,” Marsh says) about their individual and familial journeys to America — and to ECFS.

Book studies Marsh has been leading a book study with the School’s Administrative Council Education Working Group, focusing on Zaretta Hammond’s “Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students.” In Fieldston Middle, McGriggs has held spaces for a book study on their summer reading selection: “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire. Later this year, Matlovsky will lead the Ethical Culture staff through a reading of Hammond’s book as well.

Looking ahead to the end of 2021 at ECFS

Parent/guardian affinity groups In early December, the LGBTQ+ parent/guardian affinity group, parents/guardians of color affinity group, and white anti-racist parent/guardian affinity group will meet. Affinity groups for parents/guardians are in their third year, with the Jewish parent/guardian affinity group and LBGTQ+ affinity groups beginning last academic year. Parent/guardian groups are facilitated by vetted, outside facilitators “so parents can be parents,” Marsh says.

Affinity groups — which are really “skill building, community building sessions” and not counseling sessions, Marsh says, “have been really well received in the past couple of years.” Like student affinity groups, parent/guardian groups are voluntary, and are always welcoming new members.

CARe programs in the lower schools In the next month, Ethical Culture and Fieldston Lower will begin their CARe program (Conversations About Race, ethics, empathy, etc.) for 4th–5th Graders at Ethical Culture and 3rd–5th Graders at Fieldston Lower. These lessons will help the students begin to understand their own identities and the ways in which race intersects with their experience and the experiences of those in their community.