Eastern Christian School rejects racism in all of its forms. We believe that all human beings are created in God’s image. Any words or deeds that detract from God’s image bearers are sinful.
We seek to reflect the heart of God, who created us as unique individuals. Eastern Christian School values and cherishes our differences, believing a diverse community creates a dynamic school environment. This diversity manifests itself through age, ability, culture, economic status, gender, and race. We celebrate the diversity in our student body, families, and staff, and embrace the differences God has created in all of us.
Yet we acknowledge that, as imperfect individuals, institutions and a society in a broken world, we have fallen short of God’s calling to honor all of God’s image bearers.
The Eastern Christian School Board of Directors recently promised a future communication on our ongoing commitment to issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. In addition to our commitment to issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, and given this moment of calls for racial justice, we are committed to dismantling racism in all its forms. Below is our reflection on where we’ve been, where we are, and, perhaps most importantly, where we are going as an institution.
Where we’ve been: An ongoing commitment
Over the course of the past decade, Eastern Christian School has become one of the most diverse learning communities in Northern New Jersey. While many schools- public and private- struggle with attracting a diverse student body, our demographics reflect the racial diversity in Bergen and Passaic counties. Our family population reflects the beauty of diversity in the Kingdom of God.
While we embraced this change, we also acknowledge that we needed to intentionally embrace strategies of diversity and inclusion.
At the direction of Eastern Christian’s Board of Directors, the administration took the following steps:
Our school renewed its accreditation, grades P-12 through Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. When we set our accreditation goals, we chose global competency as a key indicator of our success. This encompassed the work around equity, diversity, and inclusion for at least the next 7 years.
As part of this process, we added global core values that include, “Investigate the World,” “Recognize Perspectives of Self and Others,” “Exhibit Cultural Humility,” and “Contribute to the Kingdom.”
As the student body grows increasingly diverse, we have recognized that students need to see people who look like them in the racial composition of the faculty, staff, administration and board. We have recognized the need to expand our employee recruiting efforts beyond the traditional outlets. In the 2018-2019 school year we significantly expanded the places in which we advertise openings, including local colleges, and NJ Hire. Additionally, we have contacted and met with the education departments of a number of Christian colleges and universities with the specific intention of recruiting Black, Indigenous, & People of Color (BIPOC) teachers. It is our intention to expand our efforts to historically Black colleges and universities. Efforts to date have not increased the number of BIPOC candidates. We would very much appreciate the support of alumni in helping us develop additional church, word of mouth and other networks.
We received the Calvin University Vital Worship Grant which provided support for a multi-year effort in increasing the diversity of worship styles and experiences on all three campuses. This entire project aligned incredibly well with our school-wide Global Competency initiative as part of our Middle States Accreditation renewal process. We used this grant, this chapel theme, and the entire 2019-2020 school year to help our school become a more diverse, unified, empathetic and understanding worshiping community.
Eastern Christian School engaged with two consultants who are experts in the fields of equity, diversity, and inclusion to provide faculty, staff, and Board development. The vast majority of the in-service training time for the 2019-2020 school year was dedicated exclusively to these topics. Ongoing professional development that addresses racism was provided for faculty and staff. The training took place around books and movies that focus on issues regarding racism. Many volunteered their time over the summer of 2020 to participate in these discussions.
In addition to these steps, 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.
Based on the work of the prior academic year, Eastern Christian School published three statements in the summer months:
Where we are: Since we last spoke over the summer
Our 2020-2021 spiritual theme is based on Micah 6:8 and begins with the essential question: “And what does the Lord require of you?” We will learn how to Act, Love, Walk this year as we study the word of the Lord that was given to the prophet Micah. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This year’s theme is built upon last year’s theme of Every Nation, Every Tribe, Every Tongue and will help us celebrate the diversity of God’s Kingdom in practical ways.
EC Consultant Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige held listening sessions with the leadership of the Black at EC group. She then held several meetings with EC school administrators and the president of the board to share a full report of her findings. School leaders met individually with dozens of individual members of our school community to hear their concerns around issues of race, equity, diversity and inclusion.
High school Principal Dave Intlekofer met with parents, students, alumni, and teachers around curricular issues in the English department. Literature that has raised concerns has been removed for further review.
EC Consultant Mr. Jose Celis provided training during the opening in-service time to equip teachers in leading and responding to difficult conversations centered around the topic of race.
We have updated and communicated our existing harassment, intimidation and bullying policy and have created an updated reporting protocol that allows for both identified and anonymous reporting. Any member of our community who observes an incident can report it and be assured that it will be documented and investigated.
Where we’re going: Our Plan Moving Forward
School leadership is continuing to develop a broad, multi-faceted plan to to bring Eastern Christian School closer to the vision of the Kingdom of God reflected in Revelation 7: 9-10 as articulated in the 2019-2020 theme, “Every nation, every tribe, every tongue” and in Micah 6:8 as articulated in the 2020-2021 theme, “Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.”
Initial elements of this plan include:
- Ongoing commitment to professional development, that will include the topics of race and racism, for faculty, staff, administrators and board members
- Exploration of the appointment of a permanent advisory body regarding issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion
- Support of outside resources and experts to provide professional expertise to facilitate the conversation within the Eastern Christian community
- Implementation of theme in daily devotions, weekly chapels, visuals, and instruction.
- Monitoring and reporting of incidents of actions and behaviors that reflect harassment, intimidation or bullying of others. Such incidents will be investigated with conclusions reported to the Board of Directors.
- Analysis of data to identify institutional patterns and creation of a plan to address any inequities in hiring, discipline, enrollment and academics
- Review classroom and other resources and materials in order to ensure that our diverse student body is represented and celebrated, and every effort is made to eliminate racism and racial bias
- Continuation of efforts to recruit more diverse candidates for staff, committee, and board positions
Our community can expect to hear regular progress reports on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Please be in prayer for our school community as we continue this important work. We have a big calling: we seek to develop students and graduates that have a heart to transform the world in the service of the Kingdom.
The Eastern Christian School Association Board of Directors
Nicholas Kuiken, President Dr.
Scott Martin, Vice President
Mark Reitsma, Treasurer
Ryan Vogel, Recording Secretary
Sandra Westra, Corresponding Secretary