Diversity and inclusion are integral to Country School's mission, history and forward-thinking practices. We believe learning is at its best when students are exposed to stories and events that are different from their own.
The work of diversity and inclusion introduces healthy discourse, increases our communication skills and provides platforms for conversation. These relationships will ultimately lead to a productive and enlightened school environment.
At Country School, we practice mindfulness, and learning and sharing as a means to connect and grow as an institution. We value the diverse experiences our families bring to our school community and work to provide a space in which all voices can be heard. We practice an ethic of listening for greater understanding. Our professional growth and development programs for the adult community, supports an expectation that we will seek both national conferences and workshops, as well as leverage the resources that we are fortunate to employ from our talented faculty and staff.
Our professional community believes that there is always something to learn. Our ongoing engagement with outside professional development facilitates a network of informative people and perspectives with an external lens. In addition, our internal teams offer a broad range of expertise including our Faculty Diversity and Service Learning committees; Learning Resources team; and accessing the special interests and talents of our parent community. The work of diversity and inclusion introduces healthy discourse, increases our communication skills and provides platforms for conversation. These relationships will ultimately lead to a productive and enlightened school environment.
Country School offers a number of vehicles to support a culture of inclusion. Some of the initiatives we have in place include:
Annual participation in the CAIS, Student Diversity Leadership Conference (Grades 7-12)
Annual selected delegation to the NAIS People of Color Conference for faculty and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (Grade 9)
Parents' Association Resource Groups – Mothers at Work; Parents of Students of Color; Global Citizens; Allergy; and the PA is prepared to respond to the needs of the community should new resource groups be proposed.
Middle School – Upper School: Cultural Awareness for Everyone (CAFE) clubs
Renowned speaker opportunities
Ongoing faculty training
Formal and informal teachable moment platforms for adults and students
Relationship-building programs with Horizons
Student-led classroom Buddies program
We welcome ideas and thoughts as we work to build a vibrant, inclusive and diverse school culture.
The Allergy Resource Group helps parents connect, share advice and garner information about allergy-related events, exchange experiences and ultimately find support. The group’s mission is to be a resource to individuals and families living with allergies.
Global Citizens focuses on creating an engaged community of NCCS parents who have international interests and/or backgrounds. The group organizes events that will build connections for parents and their children to the broader global community.
The Mothers at Work group helps connect working moms to the school, each other and the Country School community at large. The group comes together during the year to share their unique experiences, provide a forum for networking and support and to discuss ways to leverage their collective talents to support the school’s mission.
The Parents of Students of Color group provides a place of reflection, dialogue and support. The group meets several times each year to facilitate positive identity exploration and development that will help achieve the larger goal of creating an inclusive and thriving environment for the entire community.
Kojo Clarke became Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in July 2019. Prior to that, Kojo was a French teacher at Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding school in Wallingford, CT. In addition to teaching French, Kojo advised the Student Diversity Association and led SEED seminars for his colleagues focusing on topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Kojo’s work on the Diversity Education Committee led to the creation of the school’s first Director of Equity & Inclusion position. Kojo has also facilitated affinity group conversations at the National People of Color Conference (PoCC). Before joining Choate, Kojo taught high school in Illinois and Ghana. Kojo holds an MS.Ed. in French from Northwestern University and a B.A. in Psychology and French from Franklin & Marshall College.
In order to make diversity, equity and inclusion part of the school’s overall fabric, a Diversity Facilitators group was formed with representatives from the schools’ divisions, the staff and Horizons. Much of the group’s role revolves around peer leadership, facilitation and support.
Diversity Facilitators, L to R: Kindergarten Teacher Jessica McKinney, Digital Communications Manager Moina Noor, Second Grade Teacher Abigail Newport, Sixth Grade Teacher Brayden Henry, Fifth Grade Teacher Andrew Bevan, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Horizons Family and Program Director Nehemie Moise
Inclusion Mission Statement
Our students will live in a world more diverse and interdependent than that of any previous generation. At New Canaan Country School, we believe that helping students to understand and attain their intellectual, creative, moral and physical potential means, among other things, preparing them for responsible citizenship in such a world. The school is committed to the development of compassionate people who value and respect our common humanity. We believe that an inclusive school community invites greater academic and personal success and strengthens a sense of belonging. We strive to create an environment where each member feels comfortable and accepted and where differences and commonalities are appreciated in equal measure.
A group of 15 NCCS administrators, trustees, parents, faculty, students and alumni participated as a “pod” in the inaugural Pollyanna Conference in Connecticut on April 10. The conference, which was entitled, “Climate of Belonging: Challenging Our Past to Reimagine Our Future,” was hosted virtually by Westover School with the intent to “allow us to think about and examine the current structures, biases, and privileges in place at our schools as well as how we might adapt our schools and policies to be more inclusive.”
Six Country School ninth graders attended the national Student Diversity Leadership (SDLC) conference held Nov. 30-Dec. 4, which allowed them to connect with students from across the country virtually. Read the experience of one student, Annie Nichols.
To teach any subject well, you must have a passion for it. Children can almost smell a teacher’s attitude towards their subject, and students value what their teachers value. So when it became clear that I would be teaching social studies to the entire fourth grade, I knew I had to immerse myself in the topic.
Truth be told, I joined the NCCS DEI Parent Task Force for a very selfish reason – I wanted to learn. I wanted to advance my knowledge of issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and how these were impacting my children’s experience at NCCS. What I didn’t know was how personal the work would be and how it would impact me so profoundly.
Thank you to the 30+ participants in our most recent DEI Community Meeting, where we discussed a follow-up to the virtual visit from Daryl Davis, musician and race relations expert, and the first half of Ibram X. Kendi’s “How To Be An Antiracist”. Here are some notes from the conversation, and some resources to explore:
Country School’s Lower School (Grades 1-4) celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with curricular activities, reflections and gatherings culminating in an assembly, Jan.15, held using online platforms.
Six Country School ninth graders attended the national Student Diversity Leadership (SDLC) conference held Nov. 30-Dec. 4, which allowed them to connect with students from across the country virtually.
Although Hispanic Heritage Month is officially behind us, we had one more reflection to share, this time from a student on his Hispanic identity and its importance to him and his family. We will continue to periodically publish pieces that invite you all to “see” our community fully. Please enjoy this piece from Daniel Marin in 8th grade. - Kojo Clarke, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
New Canaan Country School is pleased to announce that Eric Woolworth ’80 will be presented with the 2020 Alumni Award. Eric is scheduled to accept the honor and share with students, alumni and guests highlights of his career in professional basketball and as a leader in diversity and inclusion initiatives Friday, Oct. 30, live via an online platform.
“We look forward to welcoming Eric back to campus, albeit virtually, and to have him share his experience and wisdom with our students,” said Head of School Aaron Cooper. The Alumni Award is presented each year to honor an alumna or alumnus who has had “the courage and confidence to make a positive contribution to the world.”
Isadora Machado, a staff member, reflects on the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Isadora Machado is a very familiar face to Country School, having worked at Country School from 2003-2010 in many roles including Kindergarten Apprentice and Art Teacher, and Lower and Middle School Spanish Teacher. She also continues to be an integral member of the Horizons teaching team since 2003. This year, Isadora joins us as a Plus Program Assistant primarily working with Beginners 4/5. -------
Members of the New Canaan Country School and Horizons at NCCS communities served the wide-ranging needs of more than 10 local non-profit organizations April 3 and 4. Students and their families were participating in the sixth annual Kyle A. Markes Day of Service in honor of an NCCS classmate who passed away in 2013. In a unique twist, this year volunteers performed their service virtually, online or in their own homes. View photos.
New Canaan Country School celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with age-appropriate curricular activities, reflections and gatherings, culminating in divisional assemblies held Jan. 16 and 17.
New Canaan Country School welcomed Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab for two days of writer’s workshops, assemblies, poetry readings and activities for student writers and poetry enthusiasts of all ages, Nov. 4 and 5. Organized by the school’s Parents’ Association and Upper School English and History Teacher Will McDonough, Ms. Nye’s visit kicked off the pre-K through grade 9 school’s annual Festival of Books, a week-long event which celebrates literacy.
New Canaan Country School first graders have been studying China throughout the year, so they were brimming with excitement Feb. 7 at a special Lunar New Year assembly, complete with a traditional dragon parade, handmade noisemakers, and the banging of a gong, to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Rat. View photos.
Fourth graders spent the first half of their year immersed in the rich culture of the many local American Indian* tribes and shared a small sample of their learning experience through a land acknowledgment, dance, and storytelling at an assembly earlier this week. View photos. View video.
When school librarian Mary Ann Lansdale introduced Jerry Craft, past parent and author of “New Kid,” to an audience of Middle School students, she asked who had read his book. The majority of hands flew up.
The Country School community took time this week to reflect upon the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the enduring themes of his life’s work and the courage it takes to envision the way things could be.
New Canaan Country School has named Christopher Santa, Maria Flores and Amira El Hattab as the 2017-2018 Horizons Scholars. They will attend New Canaan Country School this fall as fifth, sixth and eighth graders, respectively, and have been participants in the Horizons Program at New Canaan Country School for several years.