Pivot’s unique structure has always empowered our educators to embrace each student’s individuality and learning style so they may foster the best possible educational experience and outcomes based on a student’s particular needs. That’s why DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is imperative to Pivot’s structure, so that every student, regardless of background, able-bodiedness, primary language, gender expression, or other characteristic of identity, can thrive at school.
We sat down with Liz Jones, Pivot’s Chief Business Officer and coordinator of Pivot’s DEI Council, as well as the school’s DEI consultant, Nick Daily, Founder of LuvServedDaily Consulting, in order to learn more about DEI in education and how Pivot is advancing DEI within their organization.
What does DEI mean?
Liz: “The teacher in me wants to focus on the vocabulary – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Those are very multi-faceted words. At Pivot, it means building a community among staff, students, partners, and other stakeholders to honor each person for who they are and to acknowledge the value they bring to the Pivot family. It means truly listening to each person’s unique perspective, and offering respect and credit to their ideas.”
Nick: “To paraphrase from Verna Myers, an inclusion strategist, ‘Diversity is being asked to the party; Equity is everyone being able to get in; Inclusion is getting asked to dance; And feeling a sense of belonging is the ability to dance like nobody’s watching.’ When we conceptualize what DEI means, the focus is typically on diversity and representation. But what happens when you invite someone into the party, and there’s no ramp? DEI does not just mean race or any one single identity. It means that when you are seeking to build an organization where everyone is welcome, that you are considering the LGBTQ+ population, non-native speakers, those with disabilities or neurodivergence. We are talking about the multiple ways that people come to understand and experience their identities – particularly the ones that were historically and are currently excluded in this context.”
How is Pivot approaching DEI differently than other schools?
Liz: “We have really passionate staff who took the initiative to advance DEI at Pivot, and our size, relative to other schools or districts, makes us more nimble to implement new strategies and structures that continue to foster DEI. We want to proactively make ourselves better, rather than having to be reactive to a potential future issue. To us, DEI is way more than just the language – it’s the action. We’re looking for systemic inequities, and are doing what we can organizationally to address them.”
Nick: “Comparison in this space can be a little bit of a trap, since doing DEI work is context-specific. It’s about how Pivot is shifting their own work to support students and employees in new ways. So far, the processes that Pivot is implementing are similar to the general approach, but the buy-in and support from senior leadership within the organization is what helps drive this ‘nimbleness’ Liz was referring to. It’s clear that Pivot is doing this work because it’s something that Pivot values, not because they’re trying to placate anyone.”
What steps has Pivot taken to foster and facilitate DEI?
Nick: “Working with me is not Pivot’s first initiative. They started with Maria Morales at MIM Consulting to create and administer a Climate Assessment Survey among staff. They received over 90% participation in the survey, which is huge. At this point, we’re working off of long-term and short-term responses to the survey – doing visible and behind-the-scenes work to support the feedback received. This set the stage to understand Pivot’s areas of strength, areas of administration where they could support, where they are lacking, and other channels of participation and how to build on it in the future.”
Liz: “In January 2022, we established the DEI Council, and our partnership with Nick (and LuvServedDaily) began in March 2022. The goal with establishing the council was to create a structure and workflows to make DEI sustainable and build the foundations of our objectives before implementing policies and programs. So far, we’ve done several trainings among the Council, and we facilitated the self-directed “21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge” (created by Dr. Eddie Moore Jr. and The Privilege Institute) among staff who wanted to participate. The challenge fostered conversations about a wide variety of topics within the scope of DEI, from providing resources on race, ableism, gender expression and sexuality to challenging participants to engage in education, awareness, and activism in DEI.
In February 2022, one of our many fantastic teachers, Chelsea Van der Heide, led a special student workshop series in honor of Black History Month. I recall sitting in on one of the workshops as students were looking at really powerful imagery of the protests following the murder of George Floyd. Hearing the students’ thought processes and watching them grapple with what was being conveyed was so moving – I was so proud of our students and of Chelsea.
We’ve also had other staff and student workshops, like one Nick facilitated on transgender and queer inclusion in education. He provided general information on those communities and background on the laws and policies that affect them. From that, we actually reevaluated our enrollment and registration process and paperwork, and we’re working to ensure we make space for students’ lived names, pronouns, and gender identities early on. We care for and value people, and we want to make that clear from the very first moment they come to Pivot.”
What can students and families do to participate in Pivot’s DEI efforts?
Liz: “We’re honestly still figuring that out! We would love to hear from students and families on the ways that they would like to participate. When we send out surveys, there are often questions that target certain needs, so responses are extremely helpful. We won’t always know what’s missing from our efforts, but we want to make sure that our Pivot community knows that they can trust us to do something if a new perspective or need is shared.
We will also continue to have opportunities to join workshops like Chelsea’s, and we will create avenues for conversations, trainings, and workshops to further support families and students. And, of course, we welcome everyone to participate in the 21 Day Challenge to advance their own personal knowledge of DEI as well.”