Eastern Christian School Community,
We have received a number of questions from our school community in person and on social media about how we are addressing issues of diversity and inclusion among our students, faculty and staff, families, and alumni. We wanted to provide an update regarding the work that we have been doing on this front, the work that we are committed to doing in the future, and to provide an opportunity for further engagement with those who would like to connect directly with school leadership on these topics. Much of this information was shared with EC families in an all-school letter in early June.
Eastern Christian School’s long-standing mission statement reads:
“By providing an excellent academic curriculum, offering a variety of extra-curricular activities, and assembling a caring, culturally diverse community, we, with support of parents and local churches, empower students from Christian families to develop their gifts within the context of a Reformed Christian worldview so that they can act as Christ’s transforming agents in a global society.”
Our school community has grown in many ways over our nearly 130 year history. One of the most prominent ways we have grown- particularly over the last couple decades- is in the area of racial diversity. Just 10 years ago, Eastern Christian School’s student body was made up of 84% White students, 5% Hispanic students, 7% Asian students, and 4% Black students. In 2020, those numbers are 59% White students, 19% Asian students, 11% Black students, 8% Hispanic students, and 3% multiracial. Today, we are among the most racially diverse learning communities in all of Northern New Jersey.
We acknowledge that increased diversity also brings an increased responsibility to be intentional about listening to and authentically partnering with every Eastern Christian School family. Furthermore, we acknowledge that we don’t always get it right. In particular, Assembling a diverse community implies an intentionality behind this process. So we’re always working on this. And we don’t want our mission and efforts to be lip service to our families. We need to move closer to “On earth as it is in heaven.” And that takes a lot of hard work.
In light of this reality, and with the support of the Vital Worship Grant received from Calvin University in May 2019, Eastern Christian School engaged in a year-long school theme taken from Revelation 7:9-10.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne,and to the Lamb.’”
After prayerfully engaging this scripture, we made four major commitments based on this theme that our school community accomplished over the course of the 2019-2020 school year:
- Chapel theme: We were intentional about educating and experiencing a diverse, developmentally appropriate worship time for the entire school year. (here here here here here)
- Curriculum and instruction: Educators reviewed curriculum, resources and instructional practices to ensure that they reflect the diversity of the kingdom. (here here here)
- Faculty and staff training: We engaged Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige, Executive Associate to the President of Calvin University for Diversity & Inclusion, to engage our faculty and staff in ongoing learning regarding Diversity and Inclusion. Additionally, our faculty and staff worked with Mr. Jose Celis, a Christian educational consultant specializing in matters of restorative justice. Mr. Celis worked with our elementary and middle school staff throughout the spring semester. These sessions were designed to better equip our faculty members to facilitate sensitive conversations regarding racial reconciliation with their students in age-appropriate ways.
- Leadership: A Board-level Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and Inclusion was formed. The mandate of this committee was to identify real or perceived barriers to full inclusion in the life of Eastern Christian School and make recommendations for changes in policy, procedure, curriculum, facilities, and staffing to help in overcoming these barriers. One of this committee’s deliverables was a Statement on Diversity and Inclusion which was unanimously adopted by the Board of Directors.
Additionally, we engaged in a number of other unique learning opportunities for students and faculty throughout the school year. For example, at ECHS, Principal David Intlekofer hosted a forum that was attended by over 90 students, parents, and faculty members in which three local pastors, Revs. Richard Jones, Noel Owuor, and John Algera, facilitated a conversation regarding race relations and racial reconciliation in our nation. The wise counsel of this team of local pastors, who are well known to our students, led to a very helpful, students-only follow-up conversation with Mr. Intlekofer.
Our vision is for a school community that reflects the Kingdom of God. We recognize that one document or even one year of emphasis will only begin to address sensitive issues regarding diversity and inclusion within our school community. We hope that our school community will see that this is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. And that we’re committed to running this race with our families side by side.
We appreciate your continued partnership on this shared mission of preparing our students to be people of Christian vision and influence equipped to transform the world in the service of the Kingdom. We don’t take your commitments and sacrifices lightly. We pledge to continue the hard work of assembling a diverse community of believers who embrace Christ’s call to transform the world.
If you would like to have further conversations directly with the leadership of our school, we are here to listen! Please simply complete this form and a member of our leadership team will reach out to you personally. We look forward to continuing this journey together.
Thomas G. Dykhouse
Executive Director and Head of School