Educational equity has been a tenet of WSG’s mission since the school’s founding over 20 years ago. Sr. Mary Bourdon, RJM and the school’s co-founders recognized the need to provide an educational environment for girls in Ward 8 and the surrounding communities that supported their success - leading to equitable opportunities in life.


Fast forward to 2020 and educational equity continues to be a concern in our country. Schools are being challenged to demonstrate their commitment to equity by sharing how their program creates inclusion and opportunities for all of their students. WSG has taken this moment to concretely define our commitment to equity for our students by creating a statement to share throughout our community. This statement serves as our community agreement regarding educational equity.


The WSG Equity statement consists of 4 parts:

  • Introduction

  • Our pledge

  • Equity questions

  • A call to action

Following is a description of the statement, broken down into those parts in order to share the thinking behind each section.


Introduction

This overarching statement indicates our long standing commitment to being a school specifically focused on gender and racial equity.


We believe that students of all backgrounds deserve to be challenged, supported, and inspired in school; but educational equity is not yet a reality for Black and Brown girls. They urgently need schools that believe in their gifts, talents, and potential, and are designed specifically for their success. For over 20 years, WSG has been steadfast in our commitment to racial and gender equity.



Our Pledge

A pledge is a promise or agreement to action. Our pledge reflects our commitment to our students as their educators and partners in their educational journeys. The pledge signifies the many ways we will honor our students’ hopes and dreams for their lives and recognizes the responsibility we hold as a school. We also indicate our understanding of the need to continually self-reflect and connect our broader community in discussion and learning.


To live up to our values, we pledge:

  • To celebrate our students for their achievements and aspirations, rather than define them by society’s failure to support them

  • To challenge them, rather than practice the racism of low expectations

  • To design and deliver teaching and learning that is culturally responsive, and accurately depicts the presence and contributions of Black and Brown people in our society

  • To engage ourselves personally and professionally in continuous learning about equity

  • To engage our partners and stakeholders in equity conversations to share our knowledge and contribute to progress in our broader community.

  • To ensure that our students regularly see and engage with adults who look like them in a variety of positions both within the school and within our community of stakeholders.


Probing Questions

Critical thinking involves questioning aspects of an issue to explore, probe and test the basis. As a way to think critically about what equity means at WSG, we used a lens of questioning. How might we ensure our program is aligned to create the best outcomes for our students? What is needed to connect families with our vision? How can we ensure that WSG retains the components needed to ensure racial and gender equity in an ever changing world? Through continual questioning, we are able to refine and adapt our program as needed to support our school mission.


From admissions to graduate support, our programs are intentionally designed to combat the inequity our students and families experience elsewhere. When making a decision, we interrogate it through the lens of equity: is student enrollment accessible for a guardian who is unfamiliar with a private school admissions process? Are family engagement opportunities flexible and abundant for parents with challenging and unpredictable work schedules? Do disciplinary actions remove students from the classroom unnecessarily, taking away opportunity for academic growth? Does our language as a school community reinforce or challenge racial and gender stereotypes? Do students have the opportunity to experience various world views and perspectives beyond their community?


A Call to Action

Our equity statement is for WSG and all who support our mission and our students. A supportive and growing community surrounding our students can only help to elevate their voices and impact in the world. We close with a call to action for us all.


While WSG is an affirming community for our students, we can only do so much to prepare students for an inequitable world. We rely on our friends and partners to do their part to eradicate injustice and racism in our larger community, to make the world a better place for our students.


In closing, our Equity Statement is not just a statement on paper or our website, but rather a confirmation of our work at WSG to create true equity for our students.




WSG Equity Statement

We believe that students of all backgrounds deserve to be challenged, supported, and inspired in school; but educational equity is not yet a reality for Black and Brown girls. They urgently need schools that believe in their gifts, talents, and potential, and are designed specifically for their success. For over 20 years, WSG has been steadfast in our commitment to racial and gender equity.


To live up to our values, we pledge:

  • To celebrate our students for their achievements and aspirations, rather than define them by society’s failure to support them

  • To challenge them, rather than practice the racism of low expectations

  • To design and deliver teaching and learning that is culturally responsive, and accurately depicts the presence and contributions of Black and Brown people in our society

  • To engage ourselves personally and professionally in continuous learning about equity

  • To engage our partners and stakeholders in equity conversations to share our knowledge and contribute to progress in our broader community.


From admissions to graduate support, our programs are intentionally designed to combat the inequity our students and families experience elsewhere. When making a decision, we interrogate it through the lens of equity: is student enrollment accessible for a guardian who is unfamiliar with a private school admissions process? Are family engagement opportunities flexible and abundant for parents with challenging and unpredictable work schedules? Do disciplinary actions remove students from the classroom unnecessarily, taking away opportunity for academic growth? Does our language as a school community reinforce or challenge racial and gender stereotypes? Do students have the opportunity to experience various world views and perspectives beyond their community?


While WSG is an affirming community for our students, we can only do so much to prepare students for an inequitable world. We rely on our friends and partners to do their part to eradicate injustice and racism in our larger community, to make the world a better place for our students.


Updated: Nov 20



The Washington School for Girls is pleased to announce its new mission statement, adopted recently by the Board of Trustees, developed with robust stakeholder input, and rooted in our commitment to educational equity and racial justice:


Washington School for Girls ignites the joyful pursuit of learning and inspires lives of faith-filled purpose, leadership, and service.


A mission statement is central to an organization - succinctly explaining its purpose in a way that resonates throughout the entire community. In a school setting, a mission statement is a unifying vision for teachers and administrators, guiding the school’s work with students and families and informing program design. The mission serves as an expression of the school’s values and beliefs, so that students and families can be sure they align with their own.


Most importantly, students must be able to see themselves reflected in the mission of the school in a way that honors their contribution to the community and their potential for growth. It must also be a call to action for all stakeholders: students, families, staff, volunteers, supporters, and partners. While it may be considered an inward statement for a school, the impact of the mission statement reverberates throughout the community.


As part of our recent re-accreditation and strategic planning processes at WSG, we conducted a comprehensive review of our mission statement. This review included community surveys to various stakeholder groups including students, families, faculty/staff and our Board of Trustees. A common theme arose from the surveys: while the WSG community is unified in our shared purpose, our statement focused too much on defining our students and not enough on our bold vision for their success.


In January, armed with this feedback, we gathered a cross section of our stakeholders together for a strategic planning retreat and to discuss a revision to the mission statement. We wanted to ensure our mission statement would connect internally with our faculty and staff, feel relevant and aspirational to our families and students, and be compelling to our external stakeholders. Most critically, we wanted to ensure that our mission statement would reflect our commitment to equity through its language and framing.


Language is incredibly powerful and, as evidenced by ongoing national conversations about racial equity, can impact the way we think about the world around us. To inform our discussion on how we describe our students and our work, we learned about the concept of asset framing - you can learn more by watching this short video by Trabian Shorters. In summary, Shorters’ work calls on organizations to describe those they serve in terms of their aspirations and their contributions rather than their challenges and deficits. In doing so, organizations like WSG can affirm the dignity and worth of their students and avoid setting any unintended limitations on them.


Our group of stakeholders tested and evaluated several versions of our mission statement, with specific focus on the fidelity to our founding values, the connection with our students and families, and faithfulness to our vision and goals. We are extremely proud of the resulting statement: one that draws on our school history and founding vision, reflects our partnership with students and families, and authentically describes our aspirations for our school and our students.


Read on to learn more about why the committee chose each component of our new statement:


Washington School for Girls ignites...

We chose “ignites” as our leading verb, rather than something like “empowers” or “uplifts”, because we acknowledge that young girls of color have fortitude and power within themselves. We don’t need to give them power or lift them - rather, we play a role in activating a potential that already exists within each student. We ignite this potential, but it is the student herself who, through realizing her own power and ability, engages proactively in her education.


… the joyful pursuit of learning...


Joy has been a core value at WSG since its founding - and one that is visibly present within our school. Our students are young girls: elementary and middle school aged. Schools should be supportive, encouraging, safe spaces where students want to be; classrooms should encourage students to want to learn. Embracing learning can be a beautiful and yes, joyful, experience.


We also chose “pursuit” to reflect that there is no endpoint for learning. We want our students to continue to learn throughout their lives, through higher education, professional growth, and in their personal and spiritual lives. The joyful pursuit of learning is not a chore, rather, it is to delight in the discovery of something new.


… and inspires lives of faith-filled purpose...


As a Catholic school, we believe that God is the source of our lives and strength and so we support all faith expressions. We encourage each student’s deepening of her spirituality through the Catholic faith tradition, shared prayer experiences and our school culture. We believe that this helps students find purpose and meaning in their own lives, and was critical to include in our mission statement.


… leadership...


WSG is developing tomorrow’s leadership. We want our girls to understand that they can be leaders in their schools and in their communities as they mature and head into high school. Leadership development is woven throughout the WSG experience for students, with a range of opportunities for them to use their voices for good.


… and service.


Our desire is that WSG students contribute positively to society and the world. Stewardship and a spirit of generosity are important tenets of our program, helping our students to understand they have much to share with others.

Updated: Nov 20

Shifting a school to distance learning has revealed an important truth: small school communities are essential too - to students, to their families and to all of the educators who comprise the community. I raise this now as our daily discussion is infused with conversation and knowledge about what are considered essential services as the country, individual states, and communities consider expanding services and access as stay-at-home orders are lifted.


There is no disputing that our health care workers, first responders, food service workers, delivery people and others are among the most essential services for each of us during this pandemic. These selfless workers help us survive, both in our homes, and in health care facilities. We agree they are essential because our survival, our physical health, depends on them. It is clear to me in that same vein, that our small school communities are also essential. Good schools are more than just a place of learning academic subjects - they are an important community of humans connected together. Students build and form relationships with their peers and trusting adults at school. They learn how to interact with each other, respect others, navigate through adolescence, form friendships, and endure the hardships that come with those relationships.


Schools are also the place where children learn to strengthen connections outside of their family with other trusting adults. Schools help children discover what they are good at, what they like and don’t like. Children learn to negotiate and advocate for themselves and others at school. In smaller schools in particular, students are seen and known throughout the school. Teachers know each student by name, even those that they don’t teach. They know their families, their extended families, sometimes even their pets.


A school can also be a place of refuge for some students. It may be where they find acceptance, care and support beyond their families. It may be where they learn what their own personal strengths are; what supports their emotional health and strengthens their core. Fundamentally, there is an energy in a school that can’t be duplicated in other settings, that comes from a shared purpose of being together. Students in small school communities often describe their school community as their family.


And so during this time when school buildings are closed, it is even more critical that we are able to find a way to duplicate the important community features that many of our schools offer. I’ve read recently about many great examples of how schools have done just that, such as:

  • Providing regular on-going video chat opportunities for even young students, allowing them to both see and interact with their teachers and just as importantly, with each other.

  • Continuation of important school traditions, with creative remote spins. Remote prayer services and virtual or drive-by celebrations provide important connections to some of the best traditions of a school.

  • Informal distance activities with students such as teacher led bedtime stories, lunch bunch with counselors, socially distant dances, and more provide a social outlet for students and continue those important relationship connections that exist within a school.


Community building continues at great schools during these times. They continue to create the hope that students need to know that things will eventually get better. Many small school communities have extended themselves beyond what seems feasible during a pandemic to reach their students - with limited staffing and resources available. And so, I’d like to acknowledge that schools, while physically closed right now, are still very much open to supporting the ongoing growth of our children.


Washington School for Girls

THEARC Campus / 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20020 / Phone: 202-678-1113 / Fax: 202-678-1114

The VIEW Campus / 1604 Morris Road SE, Washington, DC 20020 / Phone: 202-678-1714 / Fax: 202-678-5422

EIN: 52-2031849