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Diversity and Equity

Diversity and Equity are guiding principles at Packer. We are committed to building and sustaining a community of students and adults that reflects the great diversity of our city. We are committed to expanding the spaces where all the members of our community can be their full selves. Most of all, we are committed to doing the work that these goals require. 

Our purpose

For Packer students, the benefits of learning in a diverse community where individuality is valued and equity is affirmed are immeasurable. The conversations we initiate throughout the Packer community are openly held and deeply valued. Our work is often connected to our focus on social-emotional development, community engagement, and global learning. We are actively engaged in cultural competency work because we understand the positive impact it can have on all members of our community, more importantly, we know the potential this work has for encouraging justice and empathy in the world beyond Packer’s doors. 

Our students and families

Our commitment to the diversity of people in our community encompasses every social identifier, including, but not limited to, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, family composition, and ability. As a community, we are focused on the encouragement, support, and experience of every student, and work with families to ensure students experience full membership at Packer. Our students have established a range of affinity groups and clubs to examine the commonalities of their experiences and generate understanding across our community as it relates to various identities, interests and beliefs.

Our events

We hold student-centered events as well as meaningful community events to bring students, families, school professionals, alumni, and neighbors together to share perspectives, find common ground, and build empathy. Our annual school-wide Packer in Action program offers students and adults opportunities to examine, discuss, and dismantle inequities in our community and world. The annual Middle School Equity Simulation gives students first-hand insights into how identifiers impact one’s experiences and opportunities in the world.

Throughout the year we co-sponsor speakers, workshops, meet-ups, and other activities to build on the work of our Community Engagement Program, Global Learning Program, and our Alumni Office.  We also work very closely with the Diversity Discussion Group of the Packer Parent Association, hosting monthly meetings and bringing in outside speakers to help foster growth and conversation.

Program Areas


The systems and structures that we use to integrate our diversity work are felt throughout the school. Members of Packer’s faculty engage in this work through our curricular efforts and through our relationships with students and colleagues. Our faculty participate in on-going diversity and equity training, which gives them a sustained way of building meaningful connections among our students and between our classrooms and the world outside of our school. 

Our Diversity Coaching Model provides dedicated time for teachers to discuss various questions that will stretch our curriculum and deepen our work. Questions such as:

  • Do I validate all of my students in appropriate aspects of the curriculum?
  • Do I discuss commonalities of the human condition as well as the diversity of our heritage?
  • Is an anti-bias lens woven into my curriculum and not just addressed through a general appreciation of diversity and the celebration of holidays?

​The Diversity Coaching Model also guides teachers as they select the books they read, the trips they take, the visitors who meet with classes, and the individual experiences of children and adults among us. Our curriculum integrates anti-bias methods to counteract systemic unfairness and to embrace differences.


Diversity of all kinds enriches our school. Packer’s Admissions Office actively seeks to build and sustain a student body that represents the racial, cultural, religious, and economic diversity of our city. We attend and host a range of admissions fairs and events intended to increase access for underrepresented groups. We partner with local and community schools and organizations, such as Jack and Jill, Prep for Prep, Oliver Scholars, and the TEAK Fellowship. 


Our commitment to diversity and equity extends to our hiring practices. Our goal is to build a professional community that, at all levels, mirrors the diversity of our student body. Our efforts to recruit and retain employees to fulfill this institutional commitment are paramount to Packer’s mission and to our shared values, and we continually refine our hiring practices to increase inclusion and yield a diverse pool of highly qualified candidates. Packer is an organizer and regular host of the annual NYSAIS Candidates of Color Connect hiring workshops.

Professional Development

Packer faculty and staff engage in professional development opportunities relating to cultural competency and social emotional learning. Our teachers regularly attend local and national conferences like the NAIS People of Color Conference, NYSAIS Diversity Conference, From Diversity to Community Conference, White Privilege Conference, and Interschool Leadership Institute (see more below). We engage with one another to explore issues of identity, access, and justice, including with affinity and discussion groups groups such as LGBTQ+ educators, Packer Professionals of Color, and White Anti-Racist Educators, all of which are open to every member of the faculty and staff. By listening to each other and taking deliberate action toward fairness and equality, we improve our learning and teaching and strengthen our community for all of its members.

Diversity Mission Statement

Packer believes that healthy identity development is essential to the academic, social, and emotional growth of our students. As educators, we must create an environment in which all students feel safe, challenged, celebrated, and an integral part of Packer. It is our responsibility to engage all members of our school community in understanding multiple perspectives and participating in anti-bias work. Ultimately, our goal is to prepare students to become contributing members of a multicultural and interconnected society.

Local and National Student Conferences

Packer Upper Schoolers at the Young Womyn of Strength Conference

Diversity Awareness Initiatives for Students (DAIS) Sessions - Various

Young Womxn of Strength - November 2019

Young Men of Color Symposium & Redefining Power Conference - November 2019

Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) Conference - November 2019

NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) - November 2019

White Privilege Conference - April 2020

Latin@/Latinx Youth Conference - April 2020

Young Asian Leadership Alliance (YALA) Gala  - April 2020

From Diversity to Community Conference - April 2020

Diversity Awareness Initiatives for Students (DAIS) Conference - May 2020

Local and National Professional Conferences

Packer faculty and students at PoCC and SDLC 2018

Interschool Leadership Institute - Summer 2018

Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice - Summer 2018

Institute for Social Emotional Learning - Summer 2018

Critical Analysis of Race in Learning & Education (CARLE) Institute - July 2018

BorderCrossers - Educators Workshop - Various

NAIS People of Color Conference (POCC) - November 2018

NYSAIS LGBTQ+ Dinner - December 2018

Candidates of Color Connect - January 2019

White Privilege Conference - March 2019

NYSAIS Diversity Conference - April 2019

From Diversity to Community Conference - April 2019

NYSAIS Faculty, Staff & Administrators of Color Dinner - May 2019

Semeka Smith-Williams
Director of Diversity and Equity

I am motivated when I watch our student leaders take a topic and bring their ideas to it, and then witness their readiness to explore challenging questions.

Read More about Semeka Smith-Williams

Key Events

Parent Association Welcome Breakfast | September

Pelicans of Color Events: Connecting Current Students and Alumni | Various

Middle School Equity Simulation | November

MLK Workshop and Peace Walk | January

Cultural Day | February

Packer in Action Program | March

PA Diversity Committee Annual Picnic | June

Affinity Spaces

Middle and Upper School students can participate in a range of affinity groups.

Diversity & Equity Work Up Close

Meet our Diversity and Equity Team

Our Team

Meet our Diversity and Equity Team

Lynnette Arthur

Head Teacher, Preschool Diversity and Equity Coordinator

Tom James

Mathematics Teacher, Upper School Diversity and Equity Coordinator

Vidya Misra

History Teacher, Middle School Diversity and Equity Coordinator

Nick Sardar

Head Teacher, Lower School Diversity and Equity Coordinator

Semeka Smith-Williams

Director of Diversity and Equity

Meet our Diversity and Equity Team

Lynnette Arthur

Head Teacher, Preschool Diversity and Equity Coordinator

Tom James

Mathematics Teacher, Upper School Diversity and Equity Coordinator

Vidya Misra

History Teacher, Middle School Diversity and Equity Coordinator

Nick Sardar

Head Teacher, Lower School Diversity and Equity Coordinator

Semeka Smith-Williams

Director of Diversity and Equity

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Student workshop at The Packer Collegiate Institute
3rd Graders engage in diversity work

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