Equity, diversity, inclusion – priorities at the EMSB
by Nick Katalifos
Coming up on just over a year as director general of the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), I am always impressed by the ways our school staff and administrations strive to make all students feel like they belong.
We count among ourselves people with different abilities, of a different race and from diverse cultural backgrounds, gender and sexual orientations, and religions.
Equity, diversity, inclusion – belonging. These are the ideals that we embrace and embody at the EMSB. This past January, we opened the doors to six of our schools to show the public how we do it.
There are so many amazing examples of activities and events that bring people together in our schools. Some include dance performances showcasing a particular culture, field trips to areas of historical importance in the Indigenous community, guest speakers sharing personal experiences, and screenings of films and readings. Each initiative is designed to encourage dialogue amongst students, where, guided by their teachers, they are sensitized to the importance of creating and sustaining a more inclusive environment.
Our libraries are populating shelves with more books by authors from diverse backgrounds, and covering more topics in gender identity and expression, race and religion. Our youngest students should be able to borrow picture books with all kinds of people in them – they should see themselves. Our oldest students should have access to resources that cover a diverse range of topics.
Several departments – Student Services, which includes the Spiritual and Community Animation Service, and Educational Services, which includes our library services and Ethics and Religious Culture department – work together throughout the year to bring in voices from across the community to speak to students about something that may be familiar to some and brand new to others. It’s this way we encourage inquiry, openness and dialogue.
I was happy we announced the EMSB Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee during our diversity and inclusion campaign in January. The committee is made up of managers and board members with a specific mandate to provide clear guidelines for fostering and promoting a welcoming and inclusive school environment.
Promoting health and wellness is a priority. The pandemic has made it even more so. As we get through it, we continue to refine our ways of improving mental health care for all those in our school communities. (See article on p. 14 to learn more about our Student Services department’s response during this time.)
Nick Katalifos is the director general of the English Montreal School Board, board member of the Transforming Autism Care Consortium and special advisor to Inspirations.