Report on Diversity 2002

Confirming Founding Principles – Shaping the Future

At the request of the Long Range Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees, a committee of parents, faculty and staff, and students was formed to examine diversity at Key School. Considering the current composition of the School community, the committee was asked to focus on questions of principles: what the School stands for; what goals it should set for itself; and how to effect those goals. This yearlong process culminated with a written report, Diversity at Key School. The Board of Trustees subsequently reviewed the report and enthusiastically adopted its multiple recommendations.

In its introductory statement, the report provides the School's formal non-discriminatory statement as well as a philosophical overview expressing Key's long-term commitment to the principle that learning is meaningful when students of differing abilities and backgrounds work together. "At Key School we believe that every student is entitled to an educational environment conducive to achieving the highest standards of learning.... Much of what will be said here about the principle of diversity at Key will seem obvious, but it is important to restate our principles because they were not always so obvious, and restating them will give us a chance to discover if we still believe in them. The ideals of The Key School were formulated at its inception, and have guided the School since. It is the aim of this committee to reaffirm these principles, not to change them."

Diversity of Student Body

Delineating three categories of desired diversity within the student body – diversity of race and ethnicity, diversity of economic background, and diversity of native intellectual ability – the report traces these very values back to the ideals that inspired Key's founding. "From its beginning, Key was committed to the principle that an American school must be democratic, that is, open to every student capable of profiting from its program of study, and that this pluralism, as diversity was then called, in the ethnic, religious, and financial backgrounds of its students was an educational good as well as a social good."

Quotes from Key's archival materials, clarifying the consistency of the School's message and depicting its distinctive character, found their way into the report and serve as valuable reminders of the School's egalitarian underpinnings. Statements in the earliest school catalogs such as: "Although an independent school, Key is a school that does not think of itself as private in any sense – we want to open our doors to all children." and "Key is a community institution that caters, not to the gifted or privileged few, but to all young people of at least average ability and above average determination." convey a school that never aspired to the dubious distinction of an elite school but instead defined itself as a school committed to learning and to the principle that learning occurs best when students of different abilities as well as different backgrounds learn together. Peppered with quotes from founding father Tom Simpson's 1958 essay, The Idea of a School, the report further reveals the School's earliest convictions including, for example, the recognition that the requirement to charge money for education was a "necessity" and not something "to be desired in and of itself.... We cannot, unfortunately, discover any way to offer such education cheaply," Simpson wrote. "With the help of parents we shall try to raise funds to support the venture and to offer aid to deserving children."

Although an independent school, Key is a school that does not think of itself as private in any sense – we want to open our doors to all children.

In reaffirming these principles, the committee states, "We should... continue to embrace these ideas as governing principles of our School. One of the purposes of a school is to introduce the young to those who will be their fellow-citizens. In our democratic society, this means learning to work together in conditions of equality with persons of different ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds, as well as with those of different intellectual abilities and inclinations. Schools that do not work actively to provide such opportunities are doing a disservice to their students and the families from which they come."

A statistical analysis of the ethnic diversity of Key's student population from the 1989-1990 school year (4% minority enrollment) to the 2001-2002 school year (16% minority enrollment)* portrays significant progress in the School's ongoing attempts to achieve an ethnically diverse student body. While acknowledging this steady increase and the commitment that it entails, the committee's report calls for continued efforts in this regard. Specific recommendations include further increase in minority student enrollment – to be monitored every two years to assure progress – to reflect that of the surrounding community. *NOTE: The minority student enrollment for the 2009-2010 school year is 29%.

Again acknowledging the School's abiding commitment to provide funding for students who demonstrate financial need, the committee urges the School to continue to make financial aid a major priority by striving to increase the percentage of the operating budget that is devoted to this vital program, and by increasing community-wide understanding of the role that financial aid plays in the School's fulfillment of its commitment to attract and retain students from diverse backgrounds who are able to benefit from, and contribute to, the School's learning environment. Finally, applauding the School's ongoing support for the founding principles of welcoming a broad array of students and thus enriching the learning environment for all, the committee recommends that the School hold fast in its tradition of seeking students of diverse abilities and interests.

Diversity of Faculty and Staff

While recent years have brought increased diversity to the employee roster at Key, of which the School is rightfully proud, the committee recommends that the School must, "make appointing and retaining minority members of the faculty and staff a top priority." Listing suggested strategies, the report asks that further consideration by members of the Board and the administration be given to developing these strategies and for moving the School forward in this regard.

Additional recommendations contained in the report include an increase in minority membership on the Board of Trustees, awareness of the School's financial aid program within the broader community, and sensitivity School-wide to the role that each member of the community plays in making Key a welcoming place for students and their parents as well as for faculty and staff of all cultural, ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. As a school that promotes individuality and encourages openness to differing ideas and perspectives, the commitment to work together, to understand one another, and to facilitate the highest of standards in our day-to-day endeavors reaffirms the founding principles and thus secures the School's future.

Diversity Committee

The School wholeheartedly thanks the members of the Diversity Committee:

  • Nick Maistrellis (Commitee Chair)
    Board of Trustees; Parent
  • Tracy Alexander
  • Katherine Brennan
  • Lisa Brown
  • Emily Chen '01
    Class of 2001
  • Lee Curry
  • Jessie Dunleavy
  • Katherine Haas
  • Robin Herbst '75
  • Janet Jefferson '01
    Class of 2001
  • Lisa Stevens '01
    Class of 2001
  • Rene Swafford
  • Jerry Wadley
  • Dara Warner '01
    Class of 2001