Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Rising to the Challenge

Our Thacher community—and indeed our entire world—finds itself at a confluence of unprecedented challenges: a global pandemic, repercussions of climate change, a paralyzed economy, a racial justice uprising, a divided nation, and more. At Thacher, we believe a path forward is a collaborative effort, where people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives can and must come together to envision and design a community where all members can thrive and realize their full potential. We believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work can be successful if we anchor it in our School mission and philosophy and build upon the pillars of honor, fairness, kindness, and truth. We also recognize that our mission and values alone are not sufficient to bring about the community to which we aspire, so we challenge ourselves—on both individual and on institutional levels—to remain committed to growth, equity, and to fostering in our students the desire and skills to be courageous, empathetic, and civically-engaged citizens.

A Moment of Reckoning and Opportunity for Growth
Throughout the summer of 2020, we engaged in heightened listening, learning, and critical self-reflection. Our resulting renewed commitment at Thacher led us to take critical steps in the ongoing work of making our community a truly just and equitable one. At that time, Head of School Blossom Beatty Pidduck CdeP 1992 published seven commitments that continue to guide our long term strategic work. Below is a digest of those commitments, the work that has been accomplished, and that which remains to be done.

List of 7 items.

  • 1. Implement anti-racist and anti-bias education and accountability at all levels of the institution.

    In order to better serve our mission, Thacher has engaged several experts to support anti-racist and anti-bias education. Every two weeks, these experts are holding DEI educational sessions with students, faculty and staff, and/or the administration. We have also reallocated internal resources to support, implement, and extend this work.

    The whole School is benefitting from this year’s Anacapa Scholar, Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson, who is on sabbatical from UCLA. 
    • Dr. Johnson is working with faculty at large and with the History Department to develop enhanced antiracist teaching pedagogy and practice.
    • Dr. Johnson is facilitating a monthly series of professional development training sessions through the end of the year.
    • In the fall of 2020, Dr. Johnson shared a model of culturally responsive pedagogy through her sophomore Latin American History course.

    We are working with Equity Meets Design, experts in applying a design thinking  methodology combined  with equity literacy practice to solving problems of inequity, to answer the question, “How do we do equity at Thacher?” 
    • Their engagement with faculty and staff began in January
    • Work with students will begin in the spring.
    • Work with the administration team will begin once our director of student life has been hired.

    The School is actively engaged in an ongoing community transformation effort.  
    • With a focus on the harms experienced by members of our community, we are following a structured process of listening, sharing across differences, and pursuing collective and individual accountability and action.
    • We are holding ongoing sessions at each grade level for students and faculty. 
    • Affinity groups for parents have been created to provide support for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ families. (See details in the sidebar.)
    • In addition to our existing affinity groups, students this year created the Students with Disabilities Union.

    The DEI office, in partnership with Thacher adult and student affinity and ally groups, has sponsored workshops for students: 

    During the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, the DEI office has sponsored talks by the following speakers:
    The DEI office has hosted numerous Zoom conversations with various constituent groups during the summer and fall, including: 
    • Listening sessions for alums-of-color
    • Allyship sessions for white alums
    • Parent-of-color calls

    The School encouraged and supported students and faculty to attend virtual conferences this year:

    We have refocused our dorm programming to place more emphasis on DEI matters and to make increased use of experienced facilitators to help our students develop their equity literacy competencies.

    The Program Committee of the Thacher Board of Trustees created its own DEI development and growth plan and is working with Dr. Derrick Gay, who is helping them develop their DEI framework and practices and supporting them in their critical role as stewards of the School.
  • 2. Hire additional BIPOC faculty and increase their representation in leadership roles at Thacher.

    By adopting new approaches to recruiting exceptional, diverse talent, Thacher is making progress toward the goal of an administration, faculty, and staff that reflect the diversity of our students.
    • We have partnered with Strategenius and its founder, Orpheus Crutchfield, to collaborate in auditing all aspects of recruitment, hiring, support, and retention, with a focus on BIPOC candidates.
    • Between 2019 and 2021, 63 percent of our full-time faculty hires (10 out of 16) self-identify as people of color and/or LGBTQ+.
    • Strategenius led Thacher’s national search for the next director of student life (dean of students).
    • All three of our incoming administrators have demonstrated experience and commitment to DEI work.
    • Faculty professional development work has focused on reorienting our culture by engaging our anti-racist/anti-oppression work through a lens of cultural humility to better foster empathy and connections across differences.
  • 3. Hire a therapist of color who specializes in issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

    Thacher has increased the breadth and the depth of the counselors we make available to students. Their backgrounds and areas of specialization now better reflect the diversity of our community.
    • In continuous support of our students and their well-being, we offer online counseling at no cost, both remotely and on campus.
    • These resources have also been made available to our faculty.
    • One of our counselors, in collaboration with Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson, is providing a weekly girls-of-color support group.
  • 4. Create a multicultural resource center on campus.

    Beginning in 2021, Equity Meets Design will engage students and adults together in a design thinking process to envision new avenues for multicultural student support through the creation of a physical space and by building other community resources.
    • One outcome of that design process will be the creation of a multicultural resource center in the Hills Building.
    • We have strengthened support for and expanded the number of affinity and ally groups (see the list on the right of the page).
    • We have set aside time in our weekly schedule for affinity groups to meet.
    • We are working within our faculty and staff, parent, and alumni bodies to develop affinity spaces that support our DEI efforts and the Thacher community as a whole.
    • We have expanded our Spanish language translation and communication services for families.
  • 5. Engage an external DEI consultant to provide a full audit of our institutional policies and practices, as well as conduct a complete inventory of our curriculum.

    The School has partnered with Equity Meets Design to ensure that our policies, practices, courses, and co-curricular programming are equitable, inclusive, and reflect the diversity of the lived experience of our student body. The goal is to intentionally and actively identify and uproot biases and oppose racism and other forms of oppression.
    • Equity Meets Design is working with the NAIS Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM) survey in addition to other assessment tools to guide our curriculum redesign process.
    • Math and Science departments spent the summer of 2020 redesigning their curriculum through DEI lenses. English has been redesigning its curriculum for the past three years. This article covers some of the curricular changes.
    • Our newly-created student Unity Council, consists of representatives from each affinity and ally group. UC focuses on coalition building, fostering equity and inclusion, and taking leadership in the design and planning of heritage months and other events.
  • 6. Assemble a DEI Task Force to guide our ongoing work and to hold the School accountable.

    The School has administered the AIM survey and is awaiting the results report from Equity Meets Design. On receipt of that report, this team, whose membership will consist of representatives of all School constituencies, will work in close partnership with Equity Meets Design to develop the School’s long-term DEI strategy. 
  • 7. Never stop doing the work.

    We recognize that the work of manifesting our values throughout School life is constant and continual work; the administration, board, faculty, and staff are committed to this perpetual project.

—Head of School Blossom Beatty Pidduck

Thacher’s mission calls us to practice the art of living for the greatest good. To do so we must learn to listen deeply, to hear what our community—what our world—is asking of us, and to take action. That is the work in front of us.

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Matt Balano

    Matt Balano 

    Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; English Teacher
    805-640-3201 x215
    University of California, Santa Cruz - BA
    Bio

DEI News

Affinity, Alliance, and Interest Groups

As in so many areas of Thacher life, the School works to provide students with tools and opportunities to become empathetic and courageous leaders and inclusive community members. In this way, our students, the organizations they run, and the adults who support them play an important role in our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and we offer a variety of options for engagement in this work. (The descriptions that follow are based on each group’s mission statement.)

List of 13 items.

  • Black Students Union (BSU)

    BSU offers a safe space for all of Thacher's Black students, where they may discuss racial issues, globally and within Thacher. It also offers a casual place for members to get to know each other and hang out.
  • First Generation/Year Students Coalition

    This group provides a space for students who are totally new to the boarding school world to talk about their experiences and hear from older students about how to find success at Thacher.
  • Jewish Student Union

    JSU provides a space to support Jewish students on campus and offer activities open to the community to learn about the Jewish faith.
  • Latinos Unidos (LU)

    Latinos Unidos is an organization that works to create a comfortable space for Latinos of all backgrounds as well as to educate the Thacher community by celebrating and affirming Latino culture.
  • Multi-ethnic Student Association (MESA)

    MESA provides a space of community for students of multi-ethnic, multi-racial, or multi-cultural backgrounds so that they may be able to celebrate and engage with all aspects of their beautiful coexisting identities.
  • Spectrum (LGBTQ+)

    Spectrum operates at two levels. A confidential group provides support, solidarity, and a safe space for those student who identify as LGBTQ. "Spectrum for all" exists to educate the community and create opportunities for allies to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
  • Student Disability Union (SDU)

    SDU educates and advocates for those with disabilities at Thacher and the greater world. Members also hold confidential meetings for mutual support.
  • Student Diversity Council (SDC)

    This organization comprises of representatives of the various affinity groups and others with an interest in furthering conversations and connections across difference.
  • Thacher Asian Student Society (TASS)

    TASS aims to create a safe, inclusive space for the wide range of identities under the terms Asian and Asian American to celebrate Asian and Asian American cultures, discuss current issues, foster allyship with other affinity groups, and educate the Thacher community.
  • The Association of White Anti-Racist Educators (AWARE)

    This is a group for white faculty and staff who are interested in educating themselves and taking action as allies in the effort to understand and dismantle racism.
  • United Cultures of Thacher (UCT)

    This group organizes events to promote and celebrate the diversity of the Thacher community. 
  • White Students Against Racism

    This is a group for white students who are interested in educating themselves and taking action as allies in the effort to understand and disrupt systemic racism.
  • Parent Affinity Groups

    Asian Parent Affinity Group
    Black Parent Affinity Group
    Latinx Parent Affinity Group
    Middle Eastern Parent Affinity Group
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.