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All-School chapel highlights Statement on Diversity and Inclusion

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All-School chapel highlights Statement on Diversity and Inclusion

Upper, Middle and Lower School students led the procession.

Upper, Middle and Lower School students led the procession.

Leila Pulaski

Upper, Middle and Lower School students led the procession.

Leila Pulaski

Leila Pulaski

Upper, Middle and Lower School students led the procession.

By Max Beard, St. John's School

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On Feb. 1, students convened for an all-school chapel led by Unity Council. Unity Council co-chairs Warda Mohamed and Matthew Yekell helped introduce the school’s new Statement on Diversity and Inclusion, which was read by members of Unity Council. Upper School English teacher Clay Guinn shared some thoughts on the statement during his speech. Read more about the statement in this article from the Nov. 13, 2018 issue of The Review.

On Sept. 8, the St. John’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved a document that will act as a guide for the community. The new Statement on Community and Inclusion affirms the School’s commitment to ensuring that every member of the community feels valued. It articulates the importance of multiculturalism and the value of different points of view, emphasizing that unless all community members feel included, the School can’t achieve its mission.

According to Director of Community and Inclusion Gene Batiste, the Statement makes St. John’s part of a larger trend among private high schools.

“It’s been a growing movement among independent schools for 15 to 20 years to develop a statement to partner with the overall mission statement of the School,” he said.

The School spent a year administering a climate survey — the Assessment on Inclusivity and Multiculturalism — to students, parents, faculty and staff. Administrators also worked with the Board of Trustees and the 23 members of the Task Force charged with writing the document.

Batiste says that the variety of people who influenced the crafting of the Statement is a testament to its importance in the school community.

“We had a small working group — including two students — who spent the spring semester drafting this statement. Over the summer we refined it. We introduced it to our faculty and staff in August. They did some reflection over what the Statement means to them, then the St. John’s Board adopted this statement as policy on Sept. 8,” he said. “That’s how important this statement is.”

Chaired by Board member Mark Rodriguez and English teacher Clay Guinn (’92), members of the Task Force who drafted the Statement included then-juniors Warda Mohamed and Lilah Gaber as well as teachers Ivana Brown and Estella Guien.

In writing the Statement, Guinn used his expertise in corporate communications, where he helped companies craft mission statements similar to the Statement on Community and Inclusion.

According to Guinn, working with Rodriguez as co-chair was an engaging task.

“It was great,” Guinn said. “He was so easy and available to work with and really cared about the process. His perspective as an attorney was very useful. He’s invested in the School as a dad.”

To ensure that every member of the community feels valued, the School recently released a Statement on Community and Inclusion. After conducting a climate survey for students, parents, faculty and staff, administrators worked with the Board of Trustees and the Task Force to draft the Statement. There are plans for it to be displayed in classrooms alongside the Honor Code.

This story was originally published on The Review on February 4, 2019.

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