Nearly 100 educators from WNY’s private high schools dedicated three days to attend The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summer Institute, “Equality as Excellence” to gain concrete tools, research-based strategies, and guided practice to support diversity and equity work in their schools. Hosted by the Education Collaborative of WNY (EdCo), a consortium of local private high schools, the Institute was the first major event in a multi-year effort to create diverse, equitable and inclusive schools. The John R. Oishei Foundation is a major supporter of the DEI initiative.
EdCo is working with Eastern Education Resource Collaborative (East Ed), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the pursuit of academic excellence via equitable teaching practices and healthy school climates, to develop a strategic framework for its DEI work. The goals of the initiative include developing equitable and inclusive school environments where students can thrive, to provide opportunities for adults to learn and collaborate on these issues, and to provide opportunities for students to grow to become leaders of equity and inclusion in their schools and the broader community. Elizabeth Denevi, associate director of East Ed and co-founder of Teaching While White, served as the program director for the DEI Summer Institute and will continue to provide guidance to EdCo.
Eric Yarwood, Executive Director of EdCo opened the program noting that the social issues that our country faces do not end at the schoolroom door. He added, “DEI is not just a moral imperative. It is an essential ingredient in academic excellence for all.”
The program was focused on three major areas including the Foundations of Diversity Pedagogy, Curricular Scope and Sequence, and Leadership Best Practices. Presentations, discussions and interactive learning were all part of the program and allowed participants to learn from each other as well as from local and national experts.
In addition to Denevi, presenters included Dr. Howard Stevenson, the Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education, Professor of Africana Studies, in the Human Development & Quantitative Methods Division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and Executive Director of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC), a research, program development, and training center; and Dr. Jennifer Bryan, a consultant on specialized gender and sexuality and author of From the Dress-Up Corner to the Senior Prom: Navigating Gender and Sexuality Diversity in PreK-12 Schools . Dr. Jevon Hunter, a professor in literacy and educational leadership at Buffalo State College was the keynote speaker.
Among the topics covered were: navigating gender and sexuality diversity, promoting racial literacy in schools, understanding micro-aggressions, and diversity responsive teachings.
While it is not uncommon for individual schools or school districts to embark on DEI initiatives, the EdCo initiative is unique in that private (and often competing) schools are collaborating on issues of diversity. Participating schools include Cardinal O’Hara, Nichols School, St. Mary’s High School, The Gow School, Park School, Buffalo Seminary, Mount Mercy Academy, Mount St. Mary Academy, Nardin Academy, Bishop Timon-St. Jude, Canisius and St. Josephs Collegiate Institute, St. Francis High School and Buffalo Prep.
EdCo’s DEI initiative will include continuing professional development, student-focused initiatives and recruitment efforts to attract educators of color to consider employment with the local schools.