Equity and Inclusion

From its founding, educating students from the full range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds has been part of Commonwealth’s mission. In and beyond the classroom, our students celebrate and critically explore the many facets of diversity—race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, socioeconomic background, political opinion, and more—across the spectrum of human experience. We strive to ensure all of our students can avail themselves of every opportunity at Commonwealth and that the whole of our community (students, teachers, and families alike) feels fully enfranchised and empowered to speak up and be heard. Yet, we have more work to do, and we commit to sharing our plans and progress as we build on the interconnected diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives below.

DEI Goals and Objectives at Commonwealth

  • Ensure every student, regardless of background, thrives while enrolled and graduates prepared to do work of distinction after Commonwealth and in the communities they go on to serve.
  • Teach, model, and encourage open and skillful discussion about questions of race, class, gender, and religion, in and outside class.
  • Ensure our curriculum not only exposes students to a wide array of cultures and voices but cultivates a desire to engage fully with the works of diverse people.
  • Make education and discussion across ethnic, religious, and social spectrums a part of the school routine and cultivate a culture that encourages all to participate meaningfully in the academic life of the school.
  • Empower students within the community to advocate for themselves and respond constructively to conflicts and challenges.
  • Ensure that financial assistance to families extends beyond meeting demonstrated need for tuition and fees to include resources, as needed, for standardized testing, tutoring, travel, summer experiences, and independent projects.
  • Develop outreach and communications programs that will raise Commonwealth’s profile in historically underrepresented communities.
  • Make every effort to find, attract, and retain faculty, staff, and board members from diverse socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds, with one goal of the process bringing on board individuals committed and eager to play a role in advancing DEI.
  • Actively work to make all families feel welcome and enfranchised, and provide orientation to help them understand the culture and expectations at Commonwealth.

Connect With Us

Should any member of our community—student, alumnus, parent, faculty or staff member—have concerns or feedback regarding equity and inclusion at Commonwealth, we encourage them to reach out to Mónica Schilder, teacher and member of our InCommon DEI leadership team.

Get In Touch


 

Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Commonwealth School Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion articulates the school's commitment to creating and maintaining a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive school environment. This living document gives every member of the Commonwealth community—student, parent, alum, teacher, staff member, and trustee—a set of commitments they can refer to as we continue this work together.
 
 

Commonwealth School’s founder, Charles Merrill, dreamed of a diverse collective of inquisitive students learning how to become responsible, socially conscious adults. His vision gives special meaning to the school’s mission statement. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to achieving the mission.

The lives of students, faculty, and staff are shaped by each individual’s life experiences that include but are not limited to race, religion, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, family structure, nationality, gender identity, ability, and socioeconomic background.

Diversity of perspectives, beliefs, and experiences enhances intellectual discourse and the educational experience at Commonwealth. Diversity enables students to learn from one another and from faculty in rigorous and respectful debate and to develop empathy for those of differing views and experiences. It prepares them to thrive in the increasingly diverse society in which they live and will contribute to as adults.

For these reasons, achieving diversity will enable Commonwealth to better live up to its commitment to high academic standards. Commonwealth can and will be a welcoming home for curious and imaginative students irrespective of their backgrounds, interests, identities, or financial capacities.

Achieving and maintaining diversity requires a welcoming culture of inclusivity where individuals feel that they can be their true selves, that they are heard, that their differences are valued, and that they belong. Inclusiveness strengthens the school’s unique, proud, and spirited culture.

Being inclusive must be supported with equitable policies and procedures. A hallmark of the Commonwealth education is academic excellence, which must be accompanied by support mechanisms that address the entirety of the individual, their needs, and differences. When the school fails to include and support all of its members, we must ask how we can do better.

Each of us must engage affirmatively with the work of equity and inclusion. It cannot be delegated to the director of diversity or to the head of school. They have institutional responsibilities regarding DEI that must be fulfilled, but real progress can only be achieved through the action of all: students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and the Board.

 


 

Meet the Team

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InCommon, left to right: John Dowd P'20 (Board Treasurer), Janique Parrott-Gaffney '04 (Alumna and Trustee), Mónica Schilder (Spanish Teacher and DEI Leader), Sophia Meas (Director of College Counseling), Rebecca Jackman (Assistant Head of School)

InCommon

Our InCommon team is leading a new chapter in DEI work at Commonwealth. Bringing together trustees, faculty, and staff, the group works with all school constituents to address concerns and further our DEI work. InCommon helps coordinate community efforts and connect the groups and individuals dedicated to DEI:


 

Access and Affordability

Since the founding of the school, through a strong commitment to financial aid, we have been dedicated to increasing access to a Commonwealth education and welcoming as many students as possible.
  • For the 2020-2021 academic year, Commonwealth granted over $1.4 million in financial aid. The average financial aid grant is $31,072.
  • $10,000 in additional annual technology grants are made available to eligible families and can be applied to purchasing a MacBook Pro laptop, printer, and software at a reduced cost. On average, participants paid $370 for this package.
  • $25,000-$40,000 annually goes to professional tutoring for students.
  • $25,000-$40,000 annually typically goes toward Chatfield Cultural Scholarships so students can participate in travel and exchanges, as well as travel-related independent projects (when public health conditions permit travel).
  • Discounted standardized testing and public transportation passes are also available to students with financial aid grants.

 

Student Life and Support

With our student life programming, we hope to celebrate our differences, provide safe spaces, and amplify diverse voices so all students feel seen, heard, supported, and respected.

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Watch: Roy DeBerry ’66

Our first assembly speaker of the 2020-2021 school year, Roy DeBerry ’66, co-founded The Hill Country Project, which collects oral histories from Benton County, Mississippi, residents who lived through the civil rights movement and survived its traumas. In this talk, he shares some of those stories and discusses the importance of passing on the lessons of the past to future generations.

Watch Now


 

Dive In Commonwealth

Dive In Commonwealth is a tuition-free academic enrichment program for middle school students from historically underserved backgrounds in Boston and its surrounding communities.
 
Established in 2019, Dive In introduces a small cohort of students and their families to a Commonwealth education through an exciting and academically rigorous six-week summer program in which students take English, math, science, history, and art courses taught by Commonwealth faculty; explore the city (in non-COVID circumstances); and enjoy the fun, conversation, and discovery that develops within a small cohort of curious students.
 
Students and their families also receive support as they choose the best route into high school. Dive In offers guidance in applying to Commonwealth and other independent schools, should the family choose this path, and it offers ongoing opportunities for connection among students who’ve completed the program, wherever they attend high school.
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Curriculum

Our curriculum exposes students to a wide array of cultures and voices, and facilitates discussion across ethnic, religious, and social spectrums. Some curricular highlights:
 
  • U.S. History explores deeply the role of racial oppression and economic inequity in the unfolding narrative of the country’s history.
  • Spanish students explore questions of class and identity through the study of Latin American history and culture, as well as the portrayal of its people in literature and film.
  • A revitalized English 11 curriculum focuses on Black voices in America and their explorations of race, featuring works by James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Terrance Hayes, Langston Hughes, and Kiese Laymon.
  • Modern Islamic Societies immerses students in the culture of countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, as they explore the richness and diversity of Islamic life in today's world, from art to food to family life. 
  • Our ninth-grade City of Boston course focuses heavily on themes of inclusion/exclusion, class, white privilege, gentrification, environmental racism, and the limits of the market in resolving issues of access and equality.
  • Readings and Ethics explores race and identity formation through reading from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, while Michael Sandel’s Justice introduces such topics as affirmative action and reparations for slavery.
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Course Spotlight: Printmaking

As a historically activist medium, printmaking allows for a wealth of discussion about equity and inclusion. Our Printmaking class decentralizes the western narrative, exploring prehistoric stencils found across Asia and Europe, Sumerian relief printing, and the Chinese invention of movable type. A poster-making assignment specifically addresses how printmaking has been used as a tool for activism, focusing on revolutionary printmakers in Oaxaca and artists of color making work in the civil rights movement.

Featured above: print by Pamina Falk '20
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