Dignity & Belonging

The Grace Way of promoting a culture of dignity and belonging within our diverse community emerges from bedrock commitments of the school.

Our Commitment to Academic Excellence
 
The Grace Way begins with our commitment to providing an excellent education for all of our students. We see belonging as an academic necessity. Students who feel a sense of belonging at school will be more likely to embrace challenges in the curriculum, ask questions in discussions, and engage deeply with our community of teachers and students. That’s a core reason we take seriously any obstacle to belonging at Grace, which includes the impact of systemic racism on our community. 
 
In our academic work and in our community building, we strive to celebrate our common humanity while honoring our differences. We believe no student can hope to thrive in our increasingly diverse society without having the awareness, the language, and the cultural tools to navigate it. To take racial literacy as an example, we believe all students must be equipped to discuss matters of racial identity accurately and compassionately. For younger students, this commitment means developing an age-appropriate vocabulary for discussing race without judgment or shame. For older students, this commitment includes developing the capacity to examine historical and cultural sources with an awareness of voices past generations have overlooked and ignored.
 
Respect for differing viewpoints is a fundamental commitment of our current mission statement, in which the school celebrates "the ability to express one’s own ideas and to appraise those of others." The Grace Way seeks to cultivate the broadest possible curiosity in our students along with habits of effective scholarship like prizing intellectual humility, nuance, and candor. 
 
Our Ethical Commitments
 
The Grace Way aspires to nurture a culture that opposes intolerance, promotes growth, seeks understanding, and lives up to the values inherent in our name. Our Episcopal identity and mission orient the school toward just and sound learning and to a set of ethical aims higher than individual academic achievement. We seek to help each student develop an active ethical consciousness, and we work to cultivate in our community mutual understanding, humility, respect, and kindness. Where there has been hurt, the Grace Way pursues healing and reconciliation. 
 
Expressing Our Values Clearly
 
Grace seeks to provide its students with an outstanding education and with the desire to use it to make the world a better place. The Grace Way entails gaining knowledge about challenges the world is facing and gaining the skills necessary to do something about them. This aim is a fundamental component of the school’s “Commitment to Antiracism, Equity, and Belonging,” which the Board approved in 2018, and which appears below.
 
In the past few years, there has been a proliferation of different definitions and models for pursuing antiracism and equity. We have not always communicated clearly what we mean by those terms. For us at Grace, antiracism means something basic and fundamental:  actively opposing racism in its individual and systemic forms. And at Grace equity means responding to inequalities in society by striving to provide equality of opportunity and access at school.


Our Commitment to Antiracism, Equity, and Belonging
 
Grace Church School seeks to provide its students with an outstanding education and with the desire to use it to make the world a better place.  Every facet of our work is enhanced by the diversity and strength of our community.  We believe that equity and inclusion are not only hallmarks of a just society, but also virtues essential to sound learning. And so, Grace seeks to recognize and honor the unique gifts of its students, families, faculty, and staff—and the cultures, beliefs, values, and experiences that have shaped them—striving always to cultivate mutual understanding, humility, respect, and kindness.
 
But inclusion is not enough and equity is an impossibility if we cannot name, acknowledge, and oppose the forces of racism and all forms of bias, hate, and fear that exist in our society and that seek to diminish so many in our midst.  Knowing this, we commit ourselves to the work of antiracism and to the cause of justice: that all students may find in Grace a home, may learn from Grace their precious worth, and may hear from Grace a call to serve the common good and the dignity of humanity.  -Grace Diversity Statement, 2018
 


Committees & Groups

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • The Institutional Culture Committee (ICC)

    The ICC embodies the Board's commitment to antiracism, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Guided by its own specific committee charter, the ICC provides oversight at the Board level to the School’s efforts in living out its overall mission as well as its commitments to diversity and inclusion. Co-Chaired by Renée Noel and Barbara Sibley, the Committee has grown out of the work of the Diversity Structures Task Force (2016-2020) and is composed of 32 members across all constituencies of the Grace community, including current HS students. The ICC has a set of subcommittees that maintain oversight over these areas: Antiracism, Equity and Belonging (AEB), Communication of Mission, Dashboard and Reporting, Sustainability, Episcopal Identity and Service Learning, Gender and Identity, Health and Wellness. These subcommittees are designed to be nimble and flexible depending on the needs of the Grace Community. A list of members of the ICC can be found here.
  • Office of Community Engagement (OCE)

    The OCE seeks to support Grace in engaging in collaborative work that serves the school’s mission to “develop an active ethical consciousness.” The office helps coordinate professional development, student programs and events that honor our rich interconnectedness in a diverse and dynamic world.  Any member of the community is invited to visit and learn about how the office hopes to make the mission of Grace Church School a living and breathing reality for all.
     
    The OCE includes:
    Jean Robert Andre, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion
    Kim Chaloner, Dean of Community Life
    Ilana Laurence, Dean of Student Life
    Antonella Dominguez, OCE Assistant
     
    The OCE has also created additional roles for current faculty in each division, called Division Faculty Liaisons:
    Early Childhood Division- Jen Bullock
    Lower School Division- Chelsea Flores
    Middle School Division- Morika Tsujimura
    High School Division- Piya Kashyap & NK Iguh
  • Diversity Council (DC), All School

    The Diversity Council was formed as a result of a 2009 internal review and it is made up of parents, trustees, faculty, staff and administrators. The council helps plan yearly events that highlight the value of a diverse environment, including evening events, a diversity book club, an annual film event, and working group meetings that discuss issues important to building an inclusive school. It is facilitated through the Office of Community Engagement, and its meetings are open to all members of the community.
  • Safe Space Advocates, High School Division

    Safe Space Advocates are faculty members and support staff who have received special training in order to answer questions about harassment and to help students who need to report incidents. While students may always seek out school counselors, advisors, faculty or administrators to ask questions or report incidents, the Advocates focus on helping students by listening to their concerns, by helping them understand policy and assisting them to seek further support. When appropriate, the Advocate can help a student to find counseling resources, as well as with the disciplinary process.
     
    Safe Space Advocates :
    Andrew Leonard
    Ravendra Persaud
    Alice Polanski
    Jacob Root
    Christina Olivares
    Mark Hummell
    Daria Melnyk
    Toby Nathan
     
    Associates to the Safe Space Advocates:  Mel Chan, Julia Warren, Ilana Laurence, Kallan Wood

  • Black Students Demanding Change

    In the summer of 2019 students from the GCS high School presented the school with a list of demands to further the school's antiracist mission and explicitly reported areas that the school was falling short. Some of these demands were met but Grace did not adequately respond. Following the devastating events of 2020 including, but not limited to, the racism laid bare in the effects of the pandemic on communities of color, the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter protests and the clear and courageous testimony on the @blackat Instagram accounts for independent schools including Grace, a group of students at New York City independent schools formed a now nationwide organization named Black Students Demanding Change (BSDC). Grace has representatives on BSDC, and under the umbrella of the group have updated the Student Demands of 2019. These demands are grouped under the following: Culture, Accountability, Representation, Education, and Support (CARES).

Some Background: Diversity at GCS for Over 70 Years

Grace Church School has always welcomed students of all faiths or no faith and welcomed all the children of the surrounding community. In 1947 the school became coeducational. Grace has increasingly sought ways to better live this ideal. GCS was one of only two New York City schools willing to host the NAIS Multicultural Assessment Plan during the early 1990s. In 1997, Grace hosted a two-day, citywide diversity conference examining racism in education, headlined by Dr. Cornel West. In 2009, Grace conducted a Community Climate Assessment, a year-long process of self-examination, using the resulting data to create our Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion in May 2010. Over the years the language Grace has used to describe our efforts in this area has evolved to reflect a greater understanding about the needs of the community and the depth of work required to achieve our goals. Whether we are examining our efforts through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, or antiracism, our broader goals have remained the same: to promote a culture of dignity and belonging for everyone at Grace.
© 2021 Grace Church School
Grace Church School is a co-educational independent school in downtown Manhattan, New York City providing instruction for over 700 students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12.