The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Parent Committee

The Greenspring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (the Committee) formed organically last year as a small but rapidly-growing group of parents, staff, and guides having conversations to support each other and the school on the topics of race, privilege, parenting, education, equity and social justice. After many meetings discussing their own challenges, questions, and aspirations, the group naturally turned their attention to the place that ties them all together – our school.

The Committee met with Head of School, Tamara Sheesley Balis, and talked about their wish to support the school in its learning and execution of programming around these topics and were met with impressive support. The Committee applied for and was awarded a $750 Ursula Thrush Peace Seed Grant through the American Montessori Society to support our ongoing work in these areas. To expand upon this work, the school administration moved to make Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging the theme for the 2019-20 school year.

The parents who serve on the Committee have volunteered many hours to conceptualize, craft, review, plan, research, explore, discuss, and advise on so much of the content of this year’s theme work. It’s been an amazing partnership between our parents and our school.

Thus far, the parent volunteers have:

  • Provided detailed examples of areas for growth based on their experience at Greenspring.
  • Partnered with the Sherry White, the school’s Librarian, to create a list of relevant books in our Library, as well as a wishlist for its expansion.
  • Been awarded the Ursula Thrush Peace Seed Grant which is being used to provide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion staff training, combatting unconscious bias, and how to talk with children about race.
  • Produced a Climate Survey to administer to the staff and parent body to assess our current school climate to help inform the work needed.
  • Researched, screened, carefully interviewed, and thoughtfully assessed prospective trainers to work with the Greenspring staff and parent body.
  • Provided language and framework to support launching the theme to the community.
  • Created a Human Centered Design workshop carried out this fall to assess areas of strength and potential growth in our school community.
  • Will present a parent Coffee & Conversation session on privilege this winter.

To learn more about the Committee and find out how to get involved, please go to greenspringmontessori.org/deicommittee or contact us at belonging@greenspringmontessori.org.

Our Why

This year’s focus on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging furthers our commitment to maintaining a learning environment where each person is treated with dignity and respect, and where we all have the opportunity to thrive and develop authentic relationships. This focus is fully in line with Montessori principles. An anti-biased approach to education requires critical awareness and thoughtful preparation of self among educators, supports healthy identity development and self construction among students, and is an essential component of peace education. We envision that our students will value diverse perspectives, celebrate differences, and work to dismantle conditions that lead to systems of privilege and oppression. We approach this work with humility and a willingness to listen, experience discomfort, and grow together.

Crafted by Ingrid Lofgren on the Committee’s behalf

Meet a few members of the Committee

Monica Tanase Coles

Monica Tanase-Coles, parent of Isabella, is a certified Integral Coach at Lotus Executive Leadership and adjunct faculty for New Ventures West School of Coaching. Monica moved to the U.S. 23 years ago from Romania and obtained a PhD in Physics/Nanotechnology from Johns Hopkins University and pursued post-doctoral research in cell biology at Columbia University. As a racially-mixed household, Monica and her spouse George grapple with how to talk with their child about race and inequity and work with their own implicit biases.

George Coles

George Coles is the parent of Isabella Lower Elementary, a member of the Greenspring Montessori School Board, and a Process Engineer/Project Manager at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). He contributes to APL’s people proposition by evaluating various laboratory Ombudsman cases, serving as a Mentoring Board member, and serving as on APL’s Diversity Council. George is a certified practitioner of Human Centered Design. He and his spouse, Monica, generously donated their time and expertise to facilitate solutions-oriented conversations with parents and staff about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at Greenspring.

Phyllis Simpson

Major Phyllis Brown Simpson, parent of Paul Phillip, Gabrielle, and Madelyn, serves in the Army Reserve resolving malpractice claims and has worked for 18 years for the Department of the Army, currently as a senior attorney representing the Army in Equal Employment Opportunity cases involving Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discriminiation in Employment Act. Phyllis also serves as a legal advisor to federal agencies on matters relating to Equal Employment Opportunity. Phyllis was instrumental in crafting the Greenspring’s Ursula Thrush Peace Seed Grant and Climate Survey.

Ingrid Lofgren

Ingrid Lofgren, parent of Magnus and Astrid, is the Director of Youth Initiatives at Homeless Persons Representation Project. She recognizes the structural inequities that drive the disproportionate representation of Black and LGBTQ+ youth who experience homelessness in Baltimore. To achieve economic justice for them she centers their perspective and redirects decision-making power to them. Ingrid is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Social Work and the University of Maryland School of Law.

Jeff Gray

Jeffrey J. Gray, parent of Lindy and Solomon and Engineering Professor at Johns Hopkins University, has served on the JHU Diversity Leadership Council, as a founder and chair of the Homewood Council for Inclusive Excellence, and an Ingenuity Project (a Baltimore City Schools STEM initiative) board member. Jeff will be offering a parent workshop “How Privilege Impacts My Parenting and My Child’s Access to Opportunities” on January 24, 2020 from 8:45-10:45am.