A Diverse & Inclusive Town
Celebrating diverse perspectives and experiences and cultivating an inclusive community
are at the heart of Town’s curriculum and 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. A pillar of our Strategic Plan and one of our core values, cementing a community of belonging is a commitment that stretches beyond our students. Our work with our parent/guardian community and faculty/staff, and our efforts to ensure that students can see themselves reflected in the diversity of our employees and all levels of leadership, enable students to bring their whole selves to their academic experience.
The world around us continues to validate the need for developing intercultural understanding, perspective taking, and empathy. We recognize that if our boys are going to develop these skills, we need to be intentional about designing them into our academic program. Intercultural competencies, including racial literacy, are vital if we are truly to 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. 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.
Respect for difference is woven into all aspects of our curriculum. In developmentally-appropriate ways, students learn to appreciate alternative perspectives. As a boys’ school, we also 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. 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.
Our Approach to Service Learning
Service learning experiences are integrated throughout the Town School curriculum and serve as powerful opportunities for students to use their voices and take action. Guided by the National Youth Leadership Council’s K-12 Service-Learning Standards and informed by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, each grade-level incorporates meaningful service opportunities that strengthen both curricular knowledge as well as boys’ character development, global competence and social emotional learning skills. Starting in kindergarten, students begin to consider the concept of community, and how they are a part of many different communities. As the service learning curriculum evolves over their years at Town, students begin to shift their focus outward, locally, nationally and internationally, as they incorporate service learning within other areas of study. For example, as first graders study the water cycle in STEM, they also consider access to clean water and the importance of helping to ensure a clean watershed, and partner to assist the San Francisco Recreation and Parks department in habitat restoration or participate in the Adopt a Drain program. Additional partners for service learning activities have included Refuse Refuse, SF Public Montessori, Bionic5k, Golden Gate Bird Alliance, Pomeroy Recreation & Rehabilitation Center, Glide Memorial Church, and Compass Family Services, among others. Throughout the process, students consider the impact they’re having on our community, their own growth and progress towards meeting their learning goals, and ways they are putting Town’s values into action.
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 twelve years, members of the Town faculty have also traveled to Peru, Costa Rica, Belize, South Africa, and Tanzania to participate in professional development experiences. Our global education program is additionally woven into the curriculum, including in the first 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 fifth 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, and conduct frequent audits to ensure appropriate representation within our library collection.
Our Community of Belonging
Town works to make its educational and extra-curricular programs available to a range of families. Tuition assistance awards 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 (SEED). 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. Parents/guardians are invited to participate in monthly Community Building & Inclusion meetings around topics pertaining to belonging, and both parents/guardians and faculty/staff are invited to join community reads and facilitated book discussion sessions around works including: How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides by Dr. Geoffrey L. Cohen, Homecoming by Yaa Gyasi, and Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown.
Town’s faculty engages with DEIB topics in numerous ways, including through professional development, conferences, meetings, discussions, and recommended readings. For seven consecutive years, Dr. Derrick Gay has returned to Town to lead diversity and inclusion workshops, and during the 2020-21 school year he conducted a school-wide climate assessment. Conferences attended by members of the Town School faculty and administration include the NAIS People of Color Conference and the White Privilege Conference.
A dedicated board committee guides and stewards Town’s work on diversity and inclusion. Members of this committee represent DEIB interests on other board committees including Finance. This 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.