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Diversity, Equity, Belonging

To be an engaged learner, a child must feel safe, included and valued. Research reveals that different ideas, perspectives and backgrounds create stronger and more creative environments that deliver growth, innovation and results. The Joseph Sears School community wants to foster an equitable and inclusive school environment where children, faculty, staff and parents, feel safe and empowered to share their unique experiences and ideas. Sears School strives to be an environment where a collective sense of pride, passion and belonging transcends differences and fosters a community unified in its commitment to excellence, innovation and social responsibility. Promoting empathy and equity in order to embrace a rich tapestry of social identities is vital to a successful learning environment—not only for those who are marginalized, but for everyone.

The Diversity, Equity, Belonging (DEB) Committee

In February 2019, members of the JSSPVA met with the Joseph Sears School Administration to encourage richer dialogues and augmented programming around diversity, equity, and belonging in our school community. In response to this request, the JSSPVA and the administration co-created the DEB committee in August 2019 with monthly meetings beginning in November 2019. The committee is made up of parents, faculty, administration, socio-emotional learning team leads, and a school board member representative. This unique collaboration amongst school and community stakeholders allows for diverse perspectives on the committee and in the school house.

The DEB Committee will apply the following Guiding Principles to the work they do:


We believe a commitment to diversity, equity and belonging is essential to creating an environment where each member of the Joseph Sears School community feels safe, welcome, and valued.

We commit to creating a space for ongoing and open conversations where different ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds are embraced.

With the Four Cornerstones as our guide, Responsibility, Kindness, Honesty and Respect, we seek to refine and innovate curricula, policies, and practices to foster a welcoming culture within our school house.

We seek to promote and celebrate our multiple identities and endeavor to overcome our biases.

We believe a diverse, inclusive, and equitable school community will empower our community to bring about positive change in an increasingly diverse and global world.

The DEB Committee met for the first time on November 20, 2019. Despite a quarantine and administration changes, the committee grew in numbers each month and accomplished the following:

  • Created a safe and confidential space for parents, faculty, administration, SEL (Social Emotional Learning) and school members to discuss this important work; and developed group norms based on feedback from teachers who participated in the SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) model.
  • Reviewed the school’s strategic plan with a diversity, equity and belonging lens.
  • Identified the diverse identities in the school community including diversity in: language, religion, culture, learning profile, family structure, sexual identity, gender fluidity, ethnic identity, socio-economic, neuro-diversity, physical ability, country of origin. 
  • Explored and discussed four areas with respect to equity and inclusion in the school community: (1) Areas of excellence to be celebrated (2) History and stigma to be aware of within the community (3) Areas that are not forward looking, community members are hurting, and need new solutions (4) Obstacles to equity and belonging.

The DEB Committee is starting to put their introspection into action. Below is a list of what the group has accomplished so far:

  • Completed DEB guiding principles (September 2020)
  • Introduced the DEB committee to the school community (October 2020)
  • Created a web page on the school website (October 2020)
  • Committed to a monthly newsletter to highlight DEB work (November 2020)
  • Pledged two to three measurable goals for 2020-21 from each of the school community groups including school board, administration, faculty, SEL and parents. Stay tuned for book clubs, open discussions, training opportunities and more (November 2020)
  • Scheduled a comprehensive equity and inclusion audit with the Illinois Council for Equity (September 2021)

The DEB committee’s work is aligned with the equity and inclusion initiatives taking place at New Trier and New Trier’s feeder schools.

Join the DEB Committee

In order to achieve the committee goals, there needs to be a collaborative effort within the whole Sears School community, and everyone is welcome to join the DEB Committee. To get involved, simply fill out the DEB Committee Volunteer Form and a committee chairperson will reach out to you.

If you have a direct question or concern about a diversity, equity, or belonging incident in the schoolhouse, please reach out to Dr. Stephanie Helfand, Principal,

DEB Committee Member List