Westridge has received $150,000 for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programming, a major focus of the school’s upcoming strategic plan. The gift will support a comprehensive, multi-year initiative, beginning with a year-long series of trainings, consulting, and community education events with Elizabeth Denevi, Ph.D., a leader in increasing equity, promoting diversity pedagogy, and implementing strategic processes for growth and development in DEI for schools. The donation was made by a Westridge alumna who wishes to remain anonymous.
“We have a long-held commitment to DEI at Westridge but are very much aware that we can go deeper for the benefit of all our students, especially those who are under-represented on our campus,” said Elizabeth J. McGregor, head of school. “Indeed, DEI has been identified as a major focus of the school’s upcoming strategic plan, and this gift will allow us to accelerate this work.”
At the school’s recent professional development day, Dr. Denevi discussed research based on hundreds of thousands of students that shows school diversity benefits all groups of students academically and socially across numerous factors, including intellectual engagement, self-confidence, analytical thinking and problem-solving skills, and ability to think and write critically.
“Increasing DEI on campus is central to the relevance and academic excellence of our program and the sense of belonging created by it will allow all Westridge students to thrive in the classroom and beyond,” said McGregor.
The school plans comprehensive anti-bias training for faculty and staff, a curricular review to ensure adequate inclusion of voices and perspectives of marginalized communities and elimination of subtle biases within the existing curriculum resources, expanded efforts to increase diversity of student and faculty populations, and educational opportunities for both students and parents. While detailed plans will be developed through the work to accomplish the school’s strategic plan, the school’s engagement with Dr. Denevi has begun. In addition to leading October’s professional development day on anti-bias training and diversity responsive curriculum and practices with faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees, Denevi spent a day on campus in September meeting with smaller groups from each of these constituencies.
Current Westridge DEI programs:
DEI Faculty/Staff Committee: meets regularly to discuss DEI needs and issues at Westridge. During the 2018-2019 school year, the group met as a taskforce to focus on research and recommendations for the school’s strategic plan.
21 student affinity groups: each year, Upper School students form affinity groups that provide a group forum for students with shared identities or interests. The affinities include race, ethnicities, ability, religion, family structure, and socio-economic differences among others.
Student Voices: student leadership groups in the Middle and Upper School that work to educate their peers about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion through regular assemblies and other campus activities. Members include students in the Upper School Student Voices elective course, as well as heads of all affinity groups.
Deans of Student Voices: two faculty members, Regina Wei and Zoe Muñoz, work to coordinate the upper school student leadership team that focuses on student diversity (e.g. affinity groups) and work with school administration to advance diversity initiatives in accordance with the strategic plan.
Conference attendance: Annual delegations of faculty and staff attend the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference and the White Privilege Conference. Students attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference and the Youth Action Project Conference.
Multicultural Parent Collaborative: A working group of the Westridge Parent association that works to support and advance the multicultural community at Westridge through inclusive and educational events, language translation support, and outreach to families.
Spanish and Mandarin translation services for one-on-one parent meetings and some community meetings.
HR recruiting efforts: administrators and human resource staff members have attended workshops to aid in overcoming the obstacles of recruiting and retaining faculty of color and administrators have been trained in minimizing unconscious bias throughout the hiring process. In addition, the school has expanded outlets for regular posting of open positions with the intent of reaching a more diverse applicant pool.
Admissions recruiting efforts: In addition to attending school fairs and making presentations at charter and independent schools to increase awareness of Westridge in the broader Los Angeles community, Westridge works with three access organizations to help bring more students of underrepresented backgrounds to the school: Independent School Alliance, A Better Chance, and Young Eisner Scholars. Westridge regularly lends its campus to these organizations for school fairs and family information meetings.
Financial Aid to support society economic diversity. Westridge School is committed to enrolling a strong, diverse student body that reflects the cultural and socio-economic diversity of the Greater Los Angeles area. More than $2.5 million in financial aid was awarded for the 2019-2020 school year, providing access to a Westridge education to girls who would otherwise not be able to attend. One in 5 Westridge families received grants with an average award of more than $21,000.
Diversity Chair on the Board of Trustees. Sits on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, the School Committee of the Board, and the school-wide DEI Task Force/Committee, and liaises with all school constituencies.