Enhancing TG's Culture of Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Dear Totino-Grace Community Members,
At Totino-Grace, we are dedicated to both academic excellence as well as helping our students to know God, love God, and live the Gospel. In order to live up to the values of our Catholic faith, to recognize the sacred nature of every person, and to ensure everyone in our community feels welcome, Totino-Grace has taken a number of steps to move our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work forward. Our Catholic faith and our historic connections to the Christian Brothers and School Sisters of Notre Dame demand such action.
Last fall, Totino-Grace High School’s Cultural Awareness Committee was developed to ensure a positive, welcoming, and inclusive environment and experiences for all students with a key focus on underrepresented groups, and more immediately, students of color. Throughout the year, committee members (composed of board members; faculty, staff, and administration; alumni; current parents; and a local pastor), participated in training, formed sub-committees, and engaged in the important work of listening and learning about students’ experiences at TG. The ultimate goal was to provide recommendations to the administration in order to foster a school culture that values and honors each and every student.
Over the preceding year, Totino-Grace:
Held focus groups with students and parents to gain a better understanding of their experiences at our school.
Asked the entire student body to complete a school climate survey to further gauge students’ perspectives about TG.
Held regular administrative leadership team meetings to consider school practices, policies, and identify areas for development.
Offered faculty and staff professional development opportunities focused on equity and inclusion.
Explored strategies to attract and retain a more diverse faculty/staff.
Provided regular updates to the Board of Directors from the administration regarding progress made by the Cultural Awareness Committee.
The Mission Committee of the Board of Directors agreed to oversee our long-term DEI efforts.
Faculty members also participated in a diversity and inclusion audit of curriculum in order to better ensure that our curriculum lifts up the voices of underrepresented populations. Our hope is for all students to see themselves represented in the curriculum and learn from the experiences and voices of diverse perspectives. This audit also better ensures that students are discussing challenging issues in the classroom and learning skills related to healthy discourse and courageous conversations.
Multi-Year Plan to Bolster Inclusion and Belonging: Next Steps
Following nearly seven months of research and conversation with hundreds of constituents, parents, and faculty/staff, Totino-Grace presented five long-term priorities to the Board of Directors to bolster inclusion and belonging efforts.
Theme #1: Equity in Employee Representation. The need for increasing racial representation with respect to adults at Totino-Grace clearly appeared in the data collected. It is recommended that TG build a new set of goals for HR recruitment, hiring, and retention of black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) educators and staff members, including coaches.
Theme #2: Student Empowerment: The need to develop initiatives to help students understand the importance of how our identities impact individual and community relationships with the goal of empowering them to safely stand up to racial, sexist, or demeaning behavior when they encounter it was identified. Possible forums include: TG Connect, SOAR (student leadership program), retreats, curriculum, speakers, etc.
Theme #3: Faculty and Staff Professional Development and Engagement: The need to provide ongoing professional development to teachers and staff that will (a) continue create a positive learning environment for all, (b) better equip teachers with tools to confront racial, sexist, or demeaning behavior when they encounter it at TG, and (c) enhance the skills required to have courageous conversations with students about important matters that take place in school, locally, nationally, or even internationally, particularly surrounding issues of DEI was identified. Trainings may include topics such as:
Culturally Responsive Education
Catholic Social Teaching
Lasallian and School Sisters of Notre Dame Teaching Principles
Safe Classroom and Civil Discourse Skills
Theme #4: Inclusive Language. The need to refresh Totino-Grace’s mission, vision, and value statements was noted in the feedback collected. It has been several years since TG engaged our community to examine these statements. It is recommended that TG provide a process that would help build greater cohesion and more aligned communication between the school and the multiple constituent groups who compose TG by refreshing each of our mission, vision, and core value statements.
Research also suggested that it would be helpful for Totino-Grace to identify the most important expressions, statements, and principles present in the Totino-Grace ecosystem. What expressions, words, ideas, and principles should students, teachers, and staff members understand and be able to communicate that would better give voice to our desire to build a sense of community for everyone?
Theme 5: Space to Voice Concerns. The data suggest that students should be provided with specific opportunities to voice concerns, share ideas, and note their experience at TG. In addition to teachers and administrators, the Counseling Office and Campus Ministry Office have been identified as an area of belonging, a space where students can be free to share how they are feeling. Campus ministers are prepared to listen and provide direction to students.
Campus ministers and school counselors can provide information to the administration so steps can be taken to address concerns and proposals.
As a Catholic Lasallian institution of learning, Totino-Grace is committed to enhancing our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) focus, so that each member of our school community has the full opportunity to thrive in our school environment. As the Catholic Church teaches, our conviction is to protect and enhance human dignity for each of our community members.
We are grateful for the Cultural Awareness Committee’s work. Their dedicated and valuable efforts will only strengthen and enhance the aim of our school to offer an inclusive environment and sense of belonging for all. Stay tuned for more information as the priorities above are carried out.
Craig W. Junker, President
Cheri Broadhead, Principal
Andrew Barter, Cult. Awareness Committee Chair