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In 2019, The Harley School Board of Trustees approved a strategic plan for our Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DEI) efforts, focusing on three areas:

Culture:

Enhance School Culture

Representation:

Increase Representation

Program:

Develop Programs

Central Work that Matters to the Heart of Our School

During January 2021, we undertook a self-examination process using the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM), created by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The survey was a key element of our DEI strategic plan, and it focused on culture, representation, and program in particular.

There were two parts to the initial assessment: a self-study and an online survey. Different constituent groups, including students, staff, trustees, parents/guardians, administration, alumnae, and faculty contributed. The data gathered help move thoughts, ideas, and assumed best practices into benchmarked numbers for concrete goal setting.

Top-level Findings:

  • Community members are committed to socioeconomic diversity and diversity in the curriculum
  • Generally positive ratings for the Harley community (friendliness, approachability, cooperation, support, pride in school, etc.)

High Priority Concerns:

  • Lack of diversity on the Board of Trustees
  • Lack of diversity of faculty and administrators
  • Multiculturalism needs to be in the curriculum (includes alumni concerns about not being prepared to address issues of inequity in society)
  • Need to work effectively with individual differences based on socioeconomic status

This background information sets the stage for Becoming Magazine’s interview with Jonathan Ntheketha, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Jocie Kopfman, former Civic Engagement Educator and Co-chairs of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee.

The AIM data provide an important snapshot because they highlight topics of concern as well as areas where we are doing well. At Harley, everyone shares responsibility for our DEI work, so the idea of taking collective steps, and making sure they are the right steps, guides the work that is informed by qualitative data. This helps us to be clear about where we need to articulate our direction, policies, and practices in ways that are supportive of our school community.

Creating, Building, and Teaching a DEI Curriculum in Our Middle School

Although the Middle School DEI curriculum is certainly not a standalone initiative because there is work underway in all divisions, it provides a look into the work of the School. The curriculum is based on the model of integrating topics into a range of subjects, not just viewing the work as a “one and done” class. Jocie, Jonathan, our former assistant head of school and academic dean, Lars Kuelling, and DEI committee co-chair, Carole Bilson, P ’23, as well as the entire Middle School team have spent considerable hours developing the educational progression.

In Grade 5, our students enter Middle School and take a transition class to help them begin to understand who they are, what they need, and build an understanding that the people around students support them. Beginning in Grade 6, the DEI 6 course, which is based on the Pollyanna curriculum, focuses on identity of self, and students explore the interconnectedness of identity, culture, & ethnicity. The following year in DEI 7, students develop a firmer understanding of race, ethnicity, culture, and gender and sexuality at an individual level, focusing on interpersonal relationships and connections to community. DEI 8 examines the structural impact of racism on communities, with a particular focus on our communities in and around Rochester.

However, DEI is not just limited to classroom work. Our School librarian, Elaine Mendola, P ’17,’21, ’25, and Trish Corcoran, P ’15, ’23, our standalone K teaching assistant, are helping to critically examine what we are doing and challenging us by providing supplemental materials that help through tone, language, and imagery in order to share many voices and stories that can be used in the classroom.

You just can’t separate a DEI conversation from wellness. DEI is a part of a wellness plan: it’s about validating and understanding where issues are coming from so we can best heal them. That’s true wellness work.

Understanding and working on this makes communities stronger. Being well and staying well are the responsibility of all of us. — Jonathan Ntheketha

Our DEI board committee:

Chairs

Jeffrey Alexis, P ’20, ’23, ’27
Jim Chung ’89
Deb Willsea ’72, P ’06, ’10

Administration

Jonathan Ntheketha, P ’29, ’31
Lars Kuelling (through 3/22), P ’18, ’20, ’21
Larry Frye, P ’12, ’15, ’15

Members

Belinda Redden, P ’24
Dena Levy, P ’24
Milena Novy-Marx, P ’21, ’22, ’26
Zena Shuber, P ’21, ’24
Seenu Kaza, P ’19
Tim Wiest ’76

The work happening now isn’t just for us today—it’s establishing what Harley will look like in 25 years. This work will make Harley a better place and will reflect the intentionality behind what we do.

Our DEI board committee:

Members

Belinda Redden, P ’24
Dena Levy, P ’24
Milena Novy-Marx, P ’21, ’22, ’26
Zena Shuber, P ’21, ’24
Seenu Kaza, P ’19
Tim Wiest ’76

Chairs

Jeffrey Alexis, P ’20, ’23, ’27
Jim Chung ’89
Deb Willsea ’72, P ’06, ’10

Administration

Jonathan Ntheketha, P ’29, ’31
Lars Kuelling (through 3/22), P ’18, ’20, ’21
Larry Frye, P ’12, ’15, ’15

The work happening now isn’t just for us today—it’s establishing what Harley will look like in 25 years. This work will make Harley a better place and will reflect the intentionality behind what we do.

Our DEI board committee:

Chairs

Jeffrey Alexis, P ’20, ’23, ’27
Jim Chung ’89
Deb Willsea ’72, P ’06, ’10

Administration

Jonathan Ntheketha, P ’29, ’31
Lars Kuelling (through 3/22), P ’18, ’20, ’21
Larry Frye, P ’12, ’15, ’15

Members

Belinda Redden, P ’24
Dena Levy, P ’24
Milena Novy-Marx, P ’21, ’22, ’26
Zena Shuber, P ’21, ’24
Seenu Kaza, P ’19
Tim Wiest ’76

The work happening now isn’t just for us today—it’s establishing what Harley will look like in 25 years. This work will make Harley a better place and will reflect the intentionality behind what we do.

DEI, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), and Wellness: Important Interconnections

Once students exit our Middle School, they will have a solid handle on identity and responsibility to others. This is the perfect groundwork for Grade 9’s mandatory Rights & Responsibilities (R&R) class, and it provides the framework for students to create action strategies to tie their work into climate justice. Students in R&R engage in critical reflection to lead to critical action; and studies show this ability leads to systemic change while maintaining momentum and hope. During the 2022–23 school year, the R&R class will be revamped since students will already have four years of work leading up to this class. There will be more time spent creating their action strategies around their advocacy projects. 

The goal is to build up “critical mass” of collective ability and confidence to go beyond surface work and discover the value in deeper exploration. This creates the space where more meaningful DEI dialogue can thrive. Our students will be prepared to engage in these conversations both in and outside of the classroom.

Faculty members focus on providing spaces and opportunities to encourage and develop a lens to incorporate greater understanding among students. By paying attention to what is taught and how it is taught, and searching for teaching practices that empower students, they enhance student-centered teaching.

Equity and mental health are intertwined, and connections between mental health and academic achievement have been shown in numerous studies. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students in many ways related to mental health. “It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure our students are well and stay well. Skills such as self-awareness, mindful listening, social awareness, relationship building, and decision making are just as important as subject knowledge.”  

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning  (CASEL) defines Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make thoughtful decisions.” Their framework comprises the competencies that directly tie into both mental health and equity: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Students who are able to reflect and own their academic and non-academic successes and areas of growth can also learn to advocate for what best supports their growth and development. 

As we prepare students for their future, it’s imperative we prioritize social-emotional development and equip them with a lens to view the diversity of our world so they can  build bridges and solve problems as thoughtful agents of change.  

DEI topics can bring up many feelings in our learners, but by increasing their ability to engage in emotional regulation, they can recognize their feelings, understand it is okay to have them, and move forward. Learning how to take care of themselves means equipping them to engage and act with intentionality instead of just hoping for an outcome or being reactive in the moment.

A key question we are thinking about at Harley is:
How does our day-to-day curriculum empower our students?

Intentionality and Curriculum

A school like Harley benefits from the ability to pivot and adapt our curriculum rather than being constrained by “teaching to a test.” However, with any opportunity for growth, there are also challenges. It takes the whole School together to not only make sure DEI topics are interwoven but also that there is a progression from each grade to the next. This is systemic work, and it takes time. This past year, we began utilizing the Pollyanna curriculum in K-Grade 8: a terrific starting point to guide us as we reflect and examine what works for Harley. As we continue to move forward, the lens of DEI provides us with a roadmap to build and to understand realities and truths beyond our own.

AIM research data help us focus our efforts, and the articulation of our policies drives our intentionality, however, systemic work takes time. The goals we set now will evolve and grow year-to-year, but because they are rooted in an institutional commitment, they transform into the legacies which are meant to outlive us.

Letter from the Head of School

Letter from the Editor

Features

Central Work that Matters: DEI

Harley Black Alumni Network

Climate Crisis Curriculum

Citizen Scientists

Joy Moss: Storytelling Roots

In Every Issue

Class Notes

Diane Donniger Award

By the Numbers

From the Archives

What’s (Who’s) New at Harley

Divisional Highlights

Alumni Profile: Vandebroek

Alumni Profiles: Keller

HAC Athletics

2021 Lives of Great Purpose Awards

1000 Words

Commencement 2022

Reunion 2022

In Memoriam

Retirements and Fond Farewells

Letter from the Head of School

Letter from the Editor

Features

Central Work that Matters

Affinity Group Forms

Climate Crisis Curriculum

Citizen Scientists

Joy Moss: Storytelling Roots

In Every Issue

Class Notes

Diane Donniger Award

By the Numbers

From the Archives

What’s (Who’s) New at Harley

Divisional Highlights

Alumni Profile: Vandebroek

Alumni Profiles: Keller

HAC Athletics

2021 Lives of Great Purpose Awards

1000 Words

Commencement 2022

Reunion 2022

In Memoriam

Retirements and Fond Farewells