A Diverse & Inclusive Town
Celebrating diverse perspectives and experiences and cultivating an inclusive community
are at the heart of Town’s curriculum and community values.
At Town School, we know that diversity does not describe any single individual or group’s identity, but rather honors the differences within our collective community. The life story and experiences of every boy and family in our school enrich the learning environment for the entire community. We are committed to welcoming and supporting many forms of diversity, including socioeconomic, racial, cultural, ethnic, sexual orientation, family structure, and geographic diversity.
Experiences with diverse perspectives, global learning, and service learning are an integral part of an excellent education and foster identity development, empathy, and critical thinking in our boys. The events of this past spring provided multiple demonstrations of the imperative of racial literacy. The pandemic not only brought about an increase in anti-Asian racism, but it has also amplified the inequities of our public health policies as Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. The death of George Floyd raised the level of collective consciousness about racial injustice - again. The truth is that racial injustice has been deeply rooted in our nation's history. Racial literacy is vital if we are to truly be a community of belonging, and necessary for our students to serve as leaders for good.
The process of defining cultural competencies is dynamic, and we revisit this often as we guide our students to develop their capacity to understand identity, to connect with others and to have a positive impact on the world. We are committed to expanding and enriching the diverse voices represented within and outside of the classroom and we use the Pollyanna, Inc. Racial Literacy Curriculum across all grades. To be a community that fosters belonging for everyone requires intentionality and proactive work, and on this page we hope to provide a window into where we are in our ongoing journey. We won’t truly fulfill the potential of every member of our community until we are a school that is antiracist, and we are actively working to realize this goal.
As a boys’ school, we engage in conversations around the definition of masculinity and aim to help our students explore all components of themselves. In doing so, they define what boyhood means to them. There are as many ways to be a boy as there are students at Town, and each boy helps to make the tapestry of our community rich and diverse. The important work of building identity begins in kindergarten, creating a foundation for identifying and regulating emotions, teaching how to read social cues, and allowing space for self-reflection. Through read-alouds, activities, and projects, students explore elements of themselves that make them unique. Identity work continues throughout the Town School education across many subject areas, evolving to address the complexity of deconstructing stereotypes and questioning societal norms around masculinity. Town seeks to help boys fulfill their greatest potential while also developing strong moral courage and empathy. Across each grade level, Town helps boys deliberately and thoughtfully look outside of themselves through curricular experiences into which fostering empathy is seamlessly interwoven.
In the 2019-20 school year Town School initiated the process of integrating a Racial Literacy Curriculum developed by Pollyanna, Inc. into our academic program. Reaching across multiple subject areas, this curriculum is designed to help students gain knowledge about race as it has been constructed in the United States and develop skills for having conversations about race and racism. This includes intentional instruction on the importance of choosing and using our words carefully. The curriculum is thoughtfully structured to provide a scope and sequence that builds upon itself in developmentally-appropriate ways across the K-8 learning journey.
Our Approach to Service Learning
Service learning is an integral part of a Town School education, continuing the work on empathy and moral courage that takes place inside and outside of the classroom. Each spring, Town students across all grade levels participate in a Week of Service that expands boys’ perspectives on what service and leadership mean. Town boys recognize that engaging in service benefits not only their communities, but also themselves. Seventh and 8th graders also participate in four half-days of service throughout the school year, each tied to various elements of their curriculum. Service is built into the Town curriculum in additional ways, including the required 7th grade class in which students partner with kindergarteners at the nearby Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School, working with them on their reading skills and playing together during recess. Through the Families Program, in which all students, faculty, and staff participate, family groups engage in service learning throughout the year including making lunches for Glide Memorial Church and cleaning up the neighborhood.
Our Global Town
Through global experiences and perspectives, Town boys learn about their own identities in a broader context, the importance of belonging and including others, and the value of acting as allies and engaged global citizens. Town participates in an educator exchange with Teach with Africa, welcoming a new educator for a month-long residency each spring. In the past ten years, members of the Town faculty have traveled to Peru, Costa Rica, Belize, South Africa, and Tanzania to participate in professional development experiences. In Town’s decade-long partnership with the World Leadership School, teachers have engaged in a range of global professional development experiences, including a recent trip to Peru, where Lower School teachers Rachel Hollister and Caitlin Shapiro stayed with local families, met with global educators, and led educational experiences with Peruvian students. They gained concrete ideas for project-based learning units that they then implemented in their classrooms. Our global education program is woven into the curriculum, including in the 1st grade Kenya unit, when students study about water, learning about what life is like for populations who don’t have a reliable or easily accessible clean water supply in countries affected by drought or lacking infrastructure. With their 5th grade buddies, they engage in a simulated water walk in the neighborhood in an effort to understand the challenges of having to carry water over a long distance. Town’s librarians have created an expansive book list resource to help students of all ages cultivate diverse perspectives.
Our Community of Belonging
Town works to make its educational and extra-curricular programs available to a range of families. Tuition assistance grants cover tuition, after school programs, educational support and many other school-related expenses. Tuition assistance funds are also used to ensure that every family has equal access to all Town School activities including athletics, special events, and parent programs. We are intentional about hosting a range of parent education and community events on a variety of days and times. Town also works closely with families who do not qualify for Tuition Assistance to help determine the payment plan that best suits that family’s needs. Please visit our Affording Town School page to learn more about tuition assistance at Town School.
Town partners with People of Color in Independent Schools (POCIS), Schools, Mentoring, and Resource Team, Inc. (SMART), and Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (S.E.E.D). Town School engages with diversity and inclusion at the student, faculty, parent, and Board of Trustees levels, guided by Lorri Hamilton Durbin, Head of School, Flora Mugambi-Mutunga, Director of Community Building and Inclusion, and Jennifer Liu, Director of Teacher Development and Strategic Initiatives. During summer 2020, Lorri, Flora and Jennifer invited parents, faculty and staff to join a community read of How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, with six facilitated book discussion sessions.
Town’s faculty engages with DEI topics in numerous ways, including through professional development, conferences, meetings, discussions, and recommended readings. For four consecutive years, Dr. Derrick Gay has returned to Town to lead diversity and inclusion workshops, and during the 2020-21 school year, Dr. Gay is conducting a school-wide climate assessment. Monique Vogelsang, curriculum specialist from Pollyanna, Inc., has conducted multiple faculty workshops. Recent conferences attended by members of the Town School faculty and administration include the NAIS People of Color Conference and the White Privilege Conference. Faculty affinity groups include Employees of Color and LGBTQ+ Employees.
A dedicated board committee guides and stewards Town’s work on diversity and inclusion. Members of this committee represent its interests on other board committees including Finance. The Community Building and Inclusion Committee is also charged with providing ongoing education to board members in order to sustain and mirror the learning journey of the school as a whole. The board monitors and measures our success at building an inclusive and equitable community through data collection and surveys.