Walking Together

August 5, 2022

The Office for Catholic Schools (OCS) is partnering with archdiocesan schools to continue the important work of building diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the classroom.

“We wanted to create a tool that starts conversations, opens hearts, challenges minds, and moves the work forward,” said Courtney Caldwell, a consultant hired by OCS to spearhead the project. Courtney has experience as a Catholic school teacher and administrator in the archdiocese.

With funding from the Fulcrum Foundation, Courtney and her colleagues, David Vinson and Dr. Erika Del Villar, created the Justice and Belonging Audit—A Resource for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle. The audit acts as a self-assessment tool, helping schools determine their individual needs when it comes to intentionally pursuing DEI work.

The Justice and Belonging Audit is based on a well-established DEI assessment tool created by the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, a nonprofit funded by the U.S. Department of Education. However, OCS’ audit approaches the work from a Catholic lens, anchoring DEI work to the Catholic identity.

“I can’t emphasize enough the work faculty and staff members have done in the past couple of years to take care of their students—beyond the school day and far beyond academics,” said Courtney. “We can’t ask them to do more without giving them tools and time. We worked very hard to ensure this work was rooted in Catholic Social Teaching and deeply aligned with our faith.”

The audit will be fully accessible online and guides schools through several levels of assessment, including school and classroom evaluations, and teacher self-evaluations. The audit also provides research and resources about the importance of DEI work in the classroom and helps schools implement the next steps of their DEI journeys. Every part of the audit is guided by and grounded in Catholic Social Teaching and Catholic values.

“This work requires humility, grace, and compassion for others and ourselves. We hope our schools become even more authentically welcoming places—beyond just inclusion, which often forces those who have been historically marginalized to assimilate rather than bring their full selves to the community,” said Courtney. “We hope that rather than melting pots, our schools become mosaics. We hope they will have the tools and courage to discover where they are in this challenging process and see where they need to go. We hope every member of each school community will ultimately feel seen and heard.”

The Justice and Belonging Audit is still going through the final phases of development and testing. OCS hopes the audit will be available for all schools to use in the near future.

“This tool is about growth, modeling humility, and striving to know better and do better. Struggle is where the learning happens,” said Courtney. “In many cases, our students are ahead of us in this work. They are clamoring for it and calling us to join them. We want to be able to walk with them in the journey fully and honestly. We can only do this if we have a clear sense of purpose and if we know the steps to take together along the way.”