Dear Stevens Alumni Families,
Stevens is committed to centering diversity, equity, and inclusion as a strategic pillar and in our mission and diversity statements, decision making, program creation and facilitation, and community partnerships. As organizations seek to redress inequity in different ways, we continue to engage in the crucial work of striving to become an anti-racist institution while recognizing this is a journey. In service of that goal, we wanted to share some of the work that has been happening in past years and that is ongoing in response to the question:  how can we continue to strive to be an anti-racist and anti-biased institution? 
In November 2018, we administered the National Association of Independent Schools Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism  (AIM) Survey , which was taken by 1,001 constituents including all 3rd-8th grade students, the last five graduating classes, faculty, staff and admin, the Board of Trustees, and current parents/guardians. After analyzing the survey results, we developed a three-year strategic action plan focused on seven “STRIDES” (Systemically Tracking and Realizing Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Strategies). A full report on the work that has occurred during year one of that action plan can be found  here .
Concurrent to this, our faculty and staff have been engaging in professional development to deepen our knowledge, understanding and skills around topics of diversity, equity and inclusion. Each year, during our New Faculty Orientation, we facilitate a half-day equity training for all new faculty and staff. Subsequent equity training is interwoven through bi-weekly 1:1 meetings between teachers and principals/supervisors, faculty meetings, and professional development days. In addition to this, we encourage all faculty to participate in at least one external professional development workshop or institute from a menu of options focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in their first three years at Stevens. As we look to the future, we are developing in-house training that will be mandatory for all faculty and staff. 

During the 2017-2018 academic year, we engaged in professional development with the Ackerman Institute on gender inclusion; we created and published our first Diversity Statement; and we created a Director of Student Services and Equity position, which sits on the Leadership Team.
Equity Cohort
During the 2018-2019 academic year, we engaged the services of consultant  Sara Wicht  who led two full professional development days for all faculty and staff focused on social justice and equity. Following this - and to allow us to delve more deeply into the work - we formed an “equity cohort” comprised of 20 members of faculty and staff representing a cross section of our community - from the 2-year-olds through 8th grade head teachers to specialists, admissions, marketing and communication, and HR departments - all were represented. The cohort worked with Sara for seven separate days over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year to deepen our understanding around the following: 
Equity Literacy
  • recognizing inequity (knowing how to see it);
  • responding to inequity (knowing what to do);
  • redressing inequity (knowing how to abolish it);
  • sustaining equity (knowing how to stay equitable)
Implicit Bias
  • The cohort took various different Project Implicit tests and debriefed the implications for our practice
Racial Literacy
  • Racial literacy involves teachers understanding racism as structural and institutional, as well as interpersonal. As part of this, we engaged with concepts of white privilege, white power, white complicity and white supremacy, in order to reflect on racialized positions
  • Developing consciousness, skills to critique, and the ability to contribute in challenging racist acts and structures
School Climate and Safe Space
  • Discussions focused on the need for safe and brave spaces and what it means to foster real inclusivity and a sense of belonging for every single student
Culturally Responsive Literacy 
  • Examining the notion of windows and mirrors in our classrooms - looking out windows to understand the experience of others and seeing ourselves mirrored in the texts, stories, experiences that are shared and examined in the classroom.

Over the summer, the cohort is developing logic models to share with faculty and administration which will guide us as we continue to enhance Equity Literacy through curriculum; school culture and climate; and family and community engagement.
Personnel Updates
As we follow through with our accreditation recommendations, which include delving even more deeply into curriculum, Rhiannon McElwee will transition into the role of Director of Curriculum and Innovation and we are thrilled to announce that after a rigorous search process, Rachell Arteaga will take on the role of Director of Equity and Student Services on January 4, 2021. Rachell is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) professional who is passionate about anti-bias and anti-racist education, social justice, and the well-being of school communities. From the very beginning of her journey as an educator in elementary and middle school environments, she held a commitment to building safe and inclusive classrooms. As a 7th grade Interim Head Teacher at Stevens Cooperative School, she designed curriculum and facilitated student affinity and advisory groups with an anti-bias framework. Rachell is thrilled to embark on growing the community’s DEI work through the leadership positions of Equity Coordinator in Fall 2020 and as Director of Equity and Student Services beginning in January 2021. 

Previously, Rachell was a Diversity Coordinator and Lower School Teacher at Trinity School in Manhattan. There, she led professional development workshops for faculty and staff centered around racial literacy, cultural competency, and integrating DEI into the classroom. She met with faculty to guide them to meaningful professional development opportunities that would deepen their integration of DEI into their practice. Rachell also initiated the school’s first Critical Friends Group, where a team of educators workshopped curricular dilemmas around diversity and inclusion using National School Reform Faculty protocols. She co-led the Trinity Professionals of Color affinity group, where faculty and staff explored their experiences as people of color in an independent school within a safe space. 

Rachell earned her B.A. from Hunter College in Media Studies and an Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she focused on gender, race, and ethnic representation in children’s educational media. She also earned a Wellness Champion and yoga instruction certificate from Breathe for Change Wellness, a nonprofit providing mind-body and social-emotional wellness training for educators. In her spare time, Rachell loves reading graphic novels and comic books. She looks to her favorite superheroes, La Borinqueña and Ms. Marvel (from Jersey City!) for inspiration. 

We are excited to share that our Board of Trustees is forming a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Board committee that will work strategically to continue focusing on and supporting the school’s DE&I efforts. Their first meeting will be held in August. 

To ensure that valuable and helpful resources are shared with our community, we will continue to include links to articles of interest in our weekly Events & Reminders. We have also been posting resources to our Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts and plan to continue this practice. 
We are also excited to share with you this  padlet  with anti-racist resources for children, adolescents, faculty/staff, and families. 

There is more to be done. We cannot, and will not, rest on our laurels. We are available to you throughout the summer to act as a continued support and resource. Please do not hesitate to be in touch. 

Rhiannon McElwee
Director of Student Services and Equity

Sergio Alati, Ed.D
Head of School
Equity Cohort Members:
Ali Fantl, Newport School Counselor
Allison Tabor, Admissions Associate
Andrea Javor, 5th Grade Head Teacher, Hoboken
Ed Lu, Art Teacher, Hoboken
Elizabeth Catelli, Newport Learning Support Specialist
Evette Barrett, 1st Grade Head Teacher, Newport
Greg Tanis, 7th Grade Head Teacher, Hoboken
Hardevi Vyas, 7th Grade Head Teacher & Equity Coordinator, Newport
Leah Docktor, Marketing and Communications Associate
Maggie Celestin, Human Resources Manager
Meghna Mathur, 2s Head Teacher, Hoboken
Melynda Bowie, Hoboken School Counselor
Nikki Sepesy, PreK/K Head Teacher, Hoboken
Phoebe Westwood, 1st Grade Head Teacher, Newport
Becky Coveney, 5th Grade Head Teacher, Newport
Rhiannon McElwee, Director of Student Services and Equity
Sarah Anfora, 6th Grade Head Teacher, Hoboken
Tom Harrington, 8th Grade Head Teacher, Hoboken
Ward Bronson, 3rd/4th Head Teacher, Hoboken
Further Reading: