On Thursday, October 13th, CHS hosted this year’s AISNE Diversity Consortium dinner and panel discussion.The Consortium was created to serve as a resource for African American and Hispanic/Latino families who are interested in learning more about independent schools and how these schools can benefit their children.
Prospective families mingled with current parents and heard from representatives from various independent schools.The independent school panelists consisted of Cynthia Harmon, Head of The Park School; Dr. Michelle Sanchez, parent and Board Member of The Fessenden School; Bridget Terry Long, parent and Board Member of Buckingham Browne & Nichols; and Julian Braxton, alumni parent, Board Member of The Chestnut Hill School, and the Director of Multicultural Affairs at the Winsor School; and was moderated by Nicole DuFauchard, Head of The Advent School.
Ms. DuFauchard opened the discussion by asking the panel: What brought you to independent schools and why do you stay? Although the specifics of each family’s journey differed, all agreed that independent schools draw from broader communities so that the pool of students includes ethnic, cultural and socio-economic diversity.This “deliberate diversity” is reflected in classrooms that embrace and celebrate all children.
Panelist Dr. Sanchez described how important it is that children of color, in particular, have voice and agency, along with their fellow classmates. She went on to explain, “(at independent schools) there is engagement, thoughtful engagement, and partnership with parents instead of being held at arms’ length.” Other panel members concurred and described environments where parents and teachers work together to achieve the best outcomes for children.
The evening also provided guests with insights into the outstanding academic resources and curricula offered by independent schools. Independent schools educate the whole child with the visual arts, music, and athletics available to all. Panelist Ms. Long commented that, “Independent schools cater to different learning styles and personalities. The “default” is a commitment to having each and every child thrive, and teachers have the right resources at their fingertips in order to make that happen.”
One final question asked of the panelists, “what parents should look for when evaluating an independent school?” Ms. Harmon recommended that, “if your child is under age 10, look for joy. Joy, curiosity, excitement and wonder. Listen for it as soon as you walk in the door. For children older than 10, seek joy and rigor. There should be meaningful work taking place in the classrooms.”
The panel segment of the evening concluded with a reference to the ‘elephant in the room’, the expense associated with independent schools. Ms. DuFauchard again emphasized that value of an independent school education. She also assured attendees that schools work with each family to provide competitive financial aid packages that may be challenging, but doable.
Other schools in attending the diversity dinner were Brimmer & May, Cambridge Friends School, Cambridge Montessori School, Fessenden School, and Shady Hill School. Along with BB&N, The Advent School, the Park School, and The Chestnut Hill School. All these schools share the value proposition of the AISNE Diversity Consortium, which reads in part –
An independent school fosters self-confidence, resilience and intellectual curiosity in an ethnically and culturally diverse environment where learning is joyful and students are empowered to think critically and reach their full potential. Academic excellence, service learning, an emphasis on global citizenship, intellectual engagement and leadership are all important aspects of our programs…Through a variety of curricular and extracurricular opportunities, many of which are geared towards inclusivity and social justice, independent schools are able to promote and build intellectual, social, emotional, and character development in students…(by having) smaller class sizes, our children establish and develop connections among a cohort of peers who share similar educational goals and who help to set the foundation for future success and accomplishment.