Living Equity and Inclusion in Nightingale’s Second Century

DECEMBER 16, 2020

In November, over 75 alumnae joined school leadership, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, parents, and students for the first alumnae event of the year. Living Equity & Inclusion in Nightingale's Second Century brought alumnae inside the blue doors to explore the ways in which Nightingale has expanded and strengthened its diversity, equity, and inclusion work to ensure that all members of our community feel affirmed, valued, and empowered.

The opening session included remarks from Head of School Paul A. Burke and Director of Diversity and Equity Johara Sealy. Mr. Burke began by recognizing that there may have been alumnae in attendance whose experience at Nightingale included instances of pain and marginalization and apologized for the harm that was done. He also invited all alumnae to join in the work to make Nightingale a stronger and more inclusive community together. Ms. Sealy welcomed everyone using a traditional Masai greeting of “And how are the children?” In response, student representatives from Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools spoke candidly about their own experiences at Nightingale.

Attendees then participated in breakout sessions covering a wide variety of topics, including school leadership, curriculum development, Class III Social Studies, student leadership, and financial planning and prioritization at Nightingale.

Conversation with School Leadership

Karen Pantzer Gelder ’93 and Terri Davis-Merchant ’95 moderated a panel with school leaders based on questions submitted by alumnae.

Mr. Burke affirmed that Nightingale is listening to the voices within our community to inform and strengthen our work, as the insights and feedback of our school’s students, alumnae, faculty, and families are critical to cultivating an environment where all students feel as though they belong. Ms. Sealy shared details about how alumnae of color are supported in their initial years by access to school leadership, demonstrated pathways to advancement, and provided with affinity spaces and professional development opportunities.

Board of Trustees President Rebecca Grunwald P’19 noted that the purpose of the board is to make sure that the mission of the school is representative of the entire community and has increased the diversity of voices on the board—making a special note that we would like to increase alumnae presence on the board. Parents Associate President Alexis Moses P’27 and former PA President and current BOT member Eizelle Taino P’26 P’23 discussed events and opportunities for families of color to gather (even if virtually for the health and safety of all), as well as the anti-racist trainings for parent volunteers and leadership.

Conversation with Upper School Student Leaders

Inclusivity Board Co-Presidents Cassie ’20 and Indo ’20 talked about their plans for the year and led a Q&A session with alumnae. Their goals include prioritizing more conversations around race, gender, and financial literacy and exploring how to strengthen racial equity in schools like Nightingale. They have worked with faculty on curriculum reform and have seen these changes in their own experiences. They also helped create the Bias Incident Protocol with Ms. Sealy for students, faculty, and staff.

Class III Social Studies class: Rights, Wants, and Needs

Laura Donaldson ’11, Christina Milbourne, and Fernanda Winthrop ’00 led an interactive session demonstrating how Class III students learn about human rights first-hand. Alumnae broke into groups to determine how they would prioritize compassion, equity, justice, and human rights if they had to create a new society from scratch.

Evolving our Curriculum

Associate Head of School Claire du Nouy led a discussion with Head of the Classics Department Panayotes Dakouras, History Faculty Gabriel Ulibarri, and English Faculty Jen Levitt to discuss how Nightingale’s curricula are being reviewed and updated to ensure multiple narratives and points of view are included, across all subjects and divisions.

Investment in Joyful Learners: Nightingale's Budget and Investments

CFO Sebnem Giorgio and Director of Institutional Advancement Susan Mohi discussed how Nightingale prioritized finances in support of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In particular, they discussed how financial aid has grown to cover more than tuition, and is balanced through Lower, Middle, and Upper School to attract and retain a socio-economically diverse group of students. The fall 2020 reopening was not only made possible, but also equitable, through initiatives like bussing, which has provided students and faculty with safe transportation to school, and devices (iPads and Chromebooks) for all student K-12. The generosity of our community helped make this possible thanks to participation in The Nightingale Fund, which helps fund the operating budget each year. Click here to see details of the Nightingale FY21 budget.

Closing Session

Karen Pantzer Gelder ’93 and Terri Davis-Merchant ’95 presented the goals of the DEI Committee of the alumnae board, which includes creating a deeper sense of belonging for alumnae by rebuilding trust among alumnae of color and other marginalized groups, educating alumnae on the school’s DEI programs through events, and finding opportunities to bring alumnae together. We hope that alumnae will be involved with the school through attending upcoming events, participating in programs like the Alumnae & Students of Color Mentoring Program, or by providing feedback to any Alumnae Board member or to