Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Our Diversity Statement

St. Catherine’s School is committed to providing an inclusive educational environment. We actively engage students, families, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Our school community respects the differences in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. Consistent with the School’s mission, St. Catherine’s fosters in our students, and expects from all others, respect for the dignity and wholeness of every person.

St. Catherine's is on a journey to be a part of dismantling systemic racism. Black lives matter, and we stand in solidarity with our Black students, families, faculty, staff, and alumnae. 

Our Path Forward Plan focuses on four pillars: 

1. Listening and Learning
2. Curricular and Community Education
3. Representation
4. Equitable and Inclusive Campus Climate

Our Path Forward Communications:
April 28, 2021 DEI Update
February 16, 2021 New Director of DEI Announcement
September 17, 2020 DEI Update
June 9, 2020 Our Path Forward Plan
    • Private School Spacer image

We are not all the same, and we like it that way

St. Catherine’s School brings together girls and their families, faculty and staff from a diverse mix of backgrounds, nationalities, experiences and perspectives. We are committed to building a welcoming community within and beyond the School through teaching social responsibility and inclusiveness, and we recognize the unique gifts and potential of each person and recognize the strength that comes from our differences.

Our girl-centered education includes the active partnership with our brother school, St. Christopher’s School, to continue building our inclusive community.

List of 1 items.

  • Our Differences

We weave cultural competencies into every day

As we advance our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, we focus on various cultural identifiers including age, ability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. To further ensure we uphold this focus, various leadership groups work collaboratively to weave mutual respect into every facet of school life and into the academic curriculum. We actively strengthen our work extensive community connections, collaborations and service partnerships.
To learn more about our Global Education program, click here.

Recruitment of Diverse Faculty and Staff

We actively recruit and hire talented faculty and staff of diverse backgrounds with a focus on increasing diverse representation in classrooms and decision-making circles. Some of our efforts include partnering with Evelyn Reid Syphax School of Education at Virginia Union University to provide opportunities for education majors to gain practicum and observation hours, some of whom have become employed by St. Catherine's as faculty and staff. We also partner with local organizations for recruitment activities and are a proud supporter of the annual Virginia Independent Schools Diversity Fair. 

Historic Founding: Virginia Diversity Network

In 2004, Gussie Bannard, Head of School at St. Catherines (1989-2007), and Dr. Kim Ridley, St. Catherine's Diversity Coordinator (2003-2008), articulated a vision of bringing teachers of diverse ethnicity together to talk about their experiences working in independent schools. St. Catherine's hosted the first gathering of independent school faculty that same year. Interest continued to grow among independent schools across Virginia in 2005-2006, with monthly meetings by early 2006. The Virginia Diversity Network (VDN) formed its first Board by the spring of 2007 with Dr. Ridley serving as President. Today, St. Catherine's is a proud founding member of VDN and continues with active engagement and board representation.  

DEI Programming

List of 7 items.

  • Advising and Mentoring Programs

    • The Virtues Program in the Lower School teaches the girls understanding and compassion at a young age with a 2-year cycle of monthly virtues that are explored in the classroom, in chapel and across grade levels.
    • In addition to the Middle School advisory program, girls across grade levels come together in our Strong Circles Program to explore themes of honor, friendship, inclusion and service. They work on special projects throughout the year in which each girl’s voice is heard and celebrated.
    • In the Upper School, junior and senior peer advisors actively engage with freshmen to help them transition into Upper School life and work together on numerous projects and activities that center around themes of building community.
    • All girls in grades 9-12 participate in 12 different grade-level experiences annually in topics of Health & Wellness, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Local & Global Citizenship and Leadership & Empowerment.
  • Black Alumnae Alliance

    Our Black Alumnae Alliance provides the opportunity for Black and African American alumnae to reconnect, to deepen the understanding of the Black experience at St. Catherine’s and to offer mentorship to current students. This is one way that the School provides intentional spaces for community members to gather and unpack systematic racism and its effects on our communities. 

    If you have a proposal for another alumnae affinity group, please contact Laura Spratley Birdsey ’96, Director of Alumnae Affairs.
  • Chapel Program

    We value each girl’s spiritual journey and we make time for prayer, reflection and matters of the heart. Our Episcopal identity guides us to embrace all faith traditions. Chapel speakers of all ages and walks of life share their experiences in relatable ways. Chapel services are held several times a week in each division.
  • Community Partners & Faculty Professional Development

    • St. Catherine’s is a leader school in the Virginia Diversity Network with faculty members often serving on the Executive Committee. 
    • St. Catherine’s is an active member school in Global Education Benchmark Group sharing the mission to promote the development of global citizens by expanding their knowledge and skills, and empathic orientation required to understand multiple perspectives and to thrive in increasingly interconnected world systems.
    • Our school leads professional development workshops and programs throughout the school year that include training, activities and speakers that address inclusion, community and global engagement topics.
  • Guest Speakers

    St. Catherine's brings guest speakers and visiting experts to campus to share their experiences with our students. They represent a diverse array of perspectives and passions including:
    • Minnijean Brown-Trickey, member of Little Rock Nine
    • Axana Sultan, Founder and CEO of Enhancing Children’s Lives
    • Sarah Lenti Policy Consultant and Board Member for the National Immigration Forum
    • Angela Luna, founder and CEO of ADIFF
    • Mae Shields, Civil Rights activist
    • Ellen Stofan, Ph.D., Chief Scientist of NASA
    • Shiza Shahid, Co-Founder and Global Ambassador of the Malala Fund
    • Maggie Doyne, 2015 CNN Hero of the Year and founder of Kopila Valley School and Home in Nepal
    • Fr. Nabil Haddad, Melkite Catholic founder and director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center in Amman, Jordan
    • Tucker Carrington, Director of the Mississippi Innocence Project
  • Experiential Learning

    We know that girls greatly benefit from hands-on learning and experiences which allow them to explore, connect and grow. Our teaching and learning extends beyond the classroom with unique student-led activities, service trips, exchanges with  partner schools and a host of X-term cohorts that place inclusion and service to others at the center of their work.
  • Student Conferences and Clubs

    • Each year the School provides an opportunity for students to attend a variety of inclusion/diversity conferences and workshops such as the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference, which is held in conjunction with the People of Color Conference for educators; the Prejudice Awareness Summit, sponsored by the Upper School Diversity Conference, led by the Virginia Diversity Network.
    • The Lower School Inclusion Club meets weekly to participate in age-appropriate activities related to broadening their understanding and appreciation of diversity as it relates to different perspectives, cultures, and religions.
    • Through our partnership with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, Middle Schoolers attend the Prejudice Awareness Summit and the Middle School Diversity Conference hosted by St. Stephen's and St. Agnes' School. Upper School students attend the Connections Institute to understand how stereotypes, bigotry and prejudice can negatively affect their schools.
    • Our students are passionate about collaboration as demonstrated by the many clubs on campus including several devoted to inclusion topics such as Community Service League, Feminism Club, Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA), Enye Club, Latin Club, Medley Club, Model Judiciary, Model UN, Political Awareness Club (PAC), Saturday Academy, Speak Up Mental Health Club, Spanish Club and Unity Club.
    • Private School Spacer image

DEI Resources and Tools

St. Catherine's School has a comprehensive and growing list of DEI resources and tools with additional explanations developed by Bianca Spurlock, Middle School and Upper School Librarian. In addition, an additional list of resources was created for combating racism and intolerance against Asian Americans. Highlighted below are some clickable links to begin your exploration.

Understanding and Respecting Race

List of 10 items.

DEI Board of Governors Committee

St. Catherine’s Board of Governors has a specific committee dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. Representation includes board members, alumnae, parents, school administration, faculty and staff. 

2020-2021 DEI Board Committee Members:
Ashley Taylor, Chair
Trishana Glover-Hassell  M.D.
Freddie Gray
Carol Brown Harris
Cal Jennison 
Donnan O’Keefe '89
Chrystal Telfian
Michael Thorne-Begland
Elizabeth Valentine '94

Lila Lohr, Interim Head of School
David Charlton,  Ed.D., CSDV
Macon Clarkson '96
Anne Kenny-Urban '83

Community Members:
Taruna Aurora, M.D.
ReRe Bernstein ’87
Tiffany Jones ’06
Jackie Taylor ’94
Liza Mickens ’15

Faculty/Staff Members:
Sue Baldwin
Andrea Byrd
Jennifer Cullinan
Kefu Dorion
Frances Doyle '85
Annie Kapetanis, Ed.D.
Anamaria Scozzaro
Bianca Spurlock
Lara Wulff, Ph.D.

Black Alumnae Alliance Leadership

Christa Balom ’99
Ronda Lawrence Bernstein ’87
Andrea Byrd ’06
Eryn Carlisle ’17
Lori Friend ’16
Leona Harris ’91
Taylor Jasper ’13
Tiffany Jones ’06
Alex McEachin ’13
Liza Mickens ’15
Helene Sims ’03
Jackie Parker Taylor ’94

Faculty/Staff Leadership
Laura Spratley Birdsey '96
Andrea Byrd '06

DEI Parent Group

Parent Leaders:
Jennifer Kaufman, P25
Margaret Keightley, P'23
Amanda Lynch, P’24, P’33
Mark Loewen, P’30
Dr. Renee Reid, P’28
Kate Stark, P’30, P’31, P’33


List of 6 members.

  • Photo of Sue Baldwin

    Sue Baldwin 

    Assistant Head of School and Chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    804-288-2804 x3038
    Longwood College - B.M.E
  • Photo of Gina Friend

    Gina Friend 

    Assistant Director of Lower School, Lower School Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator
    804-288-2804 ext. 3090
    James Madison University - B. A.
  • Photo of Taryn Chesshire

    Taryn Chesshire 

    Teacher, Middle School English; MS Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator
  • Photo of Allison Felton

    Allison Felton 

    Teacher, Middle School Spanish, Diversity Coordinator for Hispanic Education
    VCU - M.Ed
  • Photo of Andrea Byrd

    Ms. Andrea Byrd 06

    Assistant to the Dean of Students; US Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator
    Roanoke College - BA
  • Photo of Chris Carlisle

    Chris Carlisle 

    Assistant Director of Admissions, Middle School (Gr. 5-8); VA Diversity Network Rep.
    804-288-2804 x3022
    Virginia Commonwealth University - B.A.
    George Washington University - M.A.