The Agnes Irwin School is actively committed to fostering a sense of belonging for every person in our community through intentional practices that make clear the value of each individual’s identity and perspective. This work remains ongoing and we are committed to sustained and deliberate action.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging are necessary conditions for a meaningful educational experience. They are critical components of a learning environment grounded in our core values of Excellence, Community, Character and Respect. It is our expectation that everyone in our community uphold these principles and work together in support of our mission to empower our students to learn, to lead and to live a legacy.
The Agnes Irwin School recognizes, values and appreciates that we are a collection of individuals with interwoven and intersecting identities. The result is an array of experiences and perspectives, all of which are indispensable to a well rounded and relevant education rooted in academic excellence.
Learning is a social act that does not occur in a vacuum. It happens in the classroom, in the halls, on the fields, on the stage, at home, and everywhere in between. True learning occurs when we feel safe, valued and empowered to go beyond our comfort zones and when we see our dignity affirmed in every aspect of our School. Only then, can we engage in the open and honest discourse that drives our community forward.
DEIB Philosophy Statement - Development Process:
During the 2020-2021 academic year, the Agnes Irwin Board of Trustees charged its DEIB Committee with updating the current AIS Equity and Inclusion Philosophy Statement. The Board acknowledged that the current statement, developed almost ten years ago, no longer aligned with the ongoing diversity work and dialog taking place at AIS. A DEIB subcommittee was convened to lead this work in February 2021. The goal of the subcommittee was to draft an updated statement that clearly articulated the School’s commitment to equity and inclusion. The Board’s intention was for the statement to be a living document that would be adapted as needed to respond to a continually evolving world.
At the outset, subcommittee members individually reviewed dozens of diversity statements from other schools, including but not limited to our peer schools on the Main Line. The subcommittee highlighted words, sentences, and phrases from the other statements that resonated, looking for themes that spoke to Agnes Irwin’s values and priorities. Ultimately, a list of intentional, inspirational vocabulary was developed to serve as the building blocks for a new philosophy statement.
The subcommittee also was inspired by the diversity work the Board had conducted with Gene Batiste, Chief Diversity Officer at St. John’s School and consultant specializing in engagement and DEIB in independent schools and higher education. The Board engaged in an all-day workshop with Dr. Batiste in the fall of 2020 focusing on how Agnes Irwin can build and sustain a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community.
Following the research, the subcommittee determined the following priorities regarding the statement:
- the statement must speak to who Agnes Irwin is and what we value as a community
- the statement must be grounded in our mission and values by using intentional, shared language that dovetails with our foundational documents
- the statement must address why diversity is important and how it is an essential condition of academic excellence
An initial philosophy statement draft was generated and the subcommittee reviewed and suggested edits to the document, discussing what was still missing, what might be removed, and what should be emphasized. The statement was revised and reviewed several times until a final draft was collectively supported by the subcommittee in June 2021.
The next step in the process involved sharing the statement with a wider audience within our community to ensure the statement best represents the School’s commitment to DEIB. In August 2021, the subcommittee solicited feedback via focus groups from students, parents, faculty, alumnae, administrators, faculty/staff, and the Board of Trustees.
Following the focus group sessions, the subcommittee refined the statement based on the feedback and presented the final version to the Board of Trustees for approval in September 2021.
Philosophy Statement Subcommittee:
- Jenny Kinkead ’84, P’20
- Joao Gomes, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging
- Kareema Gray ’90
- Alex Powell ’00
- Taniesha Salmons
- Camille Seals, Assistant Head of Academics and Inclusive Excellence P’30, P’35
- Karen Zimmer