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Director's Dispatch: Diversity & Inclusion at ISD

The International School of Dakar is a diverse community of students, parents, and staff. We teach students from six continents and 60 countries. Simply put, ISD is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse international schools in the world. As our community grows, we want to ensure our diversity remains one of our greatest strengths. To this end, the ISD Board of Trustees established a goal this year to:

“nurture the diversity of the ISD community and ensure each individual feels respected, included, and connected.”

The goal is rooted in ISD’s core value of open-mindedness and the International Baccalaureate mission of intercultural understanding. We want students who respect and understand the culture, perspectives, and ideas of others especially if they are different from their own. These are life-long skills that will help students be successful in their careers. Whether our alumni choose to work in the corporate, government, diplomatic, or non-profit environments, the ability to work with people of diverse individuals is essential.

Having students who feel respected, included, and connected also supports the school’s first strategic goal of students fully developing and utilizing their social-emotional skills. Research shows that students who feel valued and respected at school are less likely to use illegal drugs, binge drink, and attempt suicide. Identifying and supporting students who do not feel connected can have a significant impact on the student’s well-being and academic performance. Achieving the goal is another way ISD is striving to improve the climate and culture at school.

In September of this school year, the Board established the Diversity and Inclusion Committee to determine how best to achieve the goal. The committee looked at the research, talked with schools around the world who have embarked on this process, identified resources that could help, and have begun conversations with outside consultants to guide our process. After reflecting on this information, the committee has established an implementation plan.

The first step will be to determine our current status. Do all of our students and staff feel respected, included, and connected? If not, can we identify who does not feel they are being respected, included or connected? What are the circumstances which make them feel this way?

To determine our current status, we will use a number of strategies. The first will be to administer a climate survey on diversity, equity, and inclusion to all students in grades six to twelve and all ISD faculty and staff. The survey will be used to determine the students’ perceptions regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion issues at school. The data can be disaggregated by different social identity groups.

The next step will be to have facilitators conduct focus group interviews with both targeted affinity groups and random groups of students. The data from the surveys will be used to craft the questions to better understand the students’ experiences. Once we have an understanding of where we currently are and we know we want to have all students and staff feel respected, included, and connected, then we can start developing a plan to bridge the gap.

The third step will take place later in the spring, and provide an opportunity for the wider community to come together. We will hold a series of World Cafés. In a World Café, small groups review the data and respond to questions. Each group will have a leader to facilitate the conversation. The purpose of the World Café will be to gather ideas on how to improve the experience for students and staff at ISD, to help all stakeholders feel respected, included, and connected. The data from the surveys and focus groups, along with the ideas generated from the World Café will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees and the administration with a commitment to implement the best strategies to achieve the board’s goal.

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