Commission on Diversity in Independent Schools

The CAIS Commission on Diversity in Independent Schools exists to inspire a wide spectrum of individuals in the effort to make our school communities rich in the experience of human differences. The Commission will provide an educators'' network focused on diversity, as well as training and resources for diversity advocates at CAIS member schools. It will also provide on-going support for trustees, administrators, teachers, staff, students, families and other CAIS commissions.

Commission Members
Chair: Elisa Del Valle Cardona (The Ethel Walker School)
Vice-Chair: Jacqueline Nelson (St. Luke's School)

LaDarius Drew (Frederick Gunn School)
Shantel Hanniford (Indian Mountain School)
Susan Martell Jenkin (Miss Porter's School)
Kojo Clarke (New Canaan Country School)
Rebecca Flores Harper (Hopkins School)
Jillian Forgue (Pomfret School)
Dr. Rachel Myers (Choate Rosemary Hall)
Mary Taylor-Lewis (Westover School)
CAIS Liaison: Joan Edwards (Director of Equity and Collaboration)

About the Commissioners 

Elisa Del Valle Cardona - The Ethel Walker School
Elisa Del Valle Cardona, a native of Brooklyn, NY, has lived in Connecticut for eight years. Prior to joining Walker’s in fall 2016, she worked as the director of student activities and leadership development/new student orientation at Wesleyan University. Elisa’s deep-rooted interest in women’s education is what brings her to Walker’s. Elisa attended an all-girls high school in New York City before attending Smith College in Northampton, MA where she majored in Government and minored in Spanish. While working at Mount Holyoke College, Elisa attended graduate school at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she graduated with a Master’s in Social Justice Education.
Kojo is currently the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at New Canaan Country School. In his role he works closely with the academic leaders of the school and oversees programming and professional development, while collaborating on curriculum. He is also a member of the school’s Leadership Team and works with the Parents’ Association and the Board of Trustees in all diversity, equity & inclusion initiatives, leading the community toward the goal of developing culturally competent students and adults and of a truly inclusive environment.  Kojo completed his undergraduate degree at Franklin & Marshall College, where he double-majored in French and Psychology. He holds a Masters in Education from Northwestern University’s School of Education & Social Policy. Kojo joined Country School in 2019, having previously worked at Choate Rosemary Hall as a French Teacher, an advisor to student multicultural efforts, a member of the diversity committee, and a leader of faculty and staff diversity and equity work. Kojo is a trained SEED facilitator, and has been involved with diversity, equity and inclusion efforts since 2015. He is eager to collaborate as a team member of the CAIS Commission on Diversity in Independent Schools.

Rebecca Flores Harper - Hopkins School
Rebecca is the Director of Equity and Community at Hopkins School in New Haven, CT. She is an alumna of Hopkins, has a Bachelors from Middlebury College, and a Masters in Secondary Education from Quinnipiac University. As a student and now as an educator, Rebecca has been involved in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work personally and professionally.  Whether supporting student initiatives, planning school-wide programming, doing curricular work, or running workshops, Rebecca is driven and determined to cultivate spaces and communities where individuals can be their authentic selves.

Jillian Forgue - Pomfret School
Jillian currently serves as a Spanish teacher and Co-Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Pomfret School, where she has worked since 2011.  She earned her B.A. in History and Hispanic Studies from Vassar College and her M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College with a focus on teaching methodology. At Pomfret, Jillian is involved in a number of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, including faculty retention and hiring, community events, professional development, and affinity groups for both students and faculty. Whether she is working with the senior leadership team, teaching, coaching, or doing dorm duty, Jillian strives to create inclusive, safe, and brave spaces and is committed to making her community (and world) a more diverse, equitable, and just place to live. She is honored and excited to serve on the CAIS Commission on Diversity in Independent Schools.

Susan Martell Jenkin - Miss Porter's School
Susan is currently the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Miss Porter's School. Susan completed her undergraduate at Fordham University where she majored in Mathematics and minored in French Language and Literature. She holds a Masters in Private School Leadership from the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College Columbia University. Susan joined Porter's in 2010 as a math and computer science teacher and has been involved with diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at since 2013. In March of 2018, she transitioned into her current full-time senior administrative role. Susan is responsible for overseeing Porter’s institutional commitment to equity and inclusion, and for guiding all departments and offices to shape curricular and co-curricular initiatives designed to promote personal, professional, and academic growth. She oversees the student Alliance system, advises affinity groups, leads the Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, and sits on various leadership teams. Susan is excited to continue to serve on the CAIS Commission on Diversity in Independent Schools.

Dr. Rachel Myers - Choate Rosemary Hall
Rachel currently serves as the Director of Equity & Inclusion and English teacher at Choate Rosemary Hall. Prior to Choate, she served as the inaugural Director of Diversity & Inclusion at The Hotchkiss School. She is a Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) Certified Leader and has spoken at many conferences focused on equity and inclusion. As an undergraduate at Binghamton University, Rachel L. Myers earned a B.A. in Africana Studies with a minor in sociology while playing four years of NCAA Division I basketball. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in African American & African Studies with a concentration in English from Michigan State University. In 2016, she was inducted into Binghamton University’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Dr. Myers is a published scholar who has focused her scholarship on the experience of black female athletes, media representation in sport, conceptions of masculinity in sport, and race and sport. As a diversity practitioner in independent schools, Dr. Myers seeks to ensure that each student--especially those with marginalized identities--graduates from their school community feeling they've thrived, rather than "survived."

Jacqueline Nelson - St. Luke's School
Jacqueline joined St. Luke's School - located in New Canaan, Connecticut - during the summer of 2020, as Director of Equity and Inclusion. Charged with helping to realize the school's "Vision for Inclusive Excellence," Jacqueline works closely with all constituencies to promote a more inclusive and equitable community, culture and 5-12 curriculum. A passionate educator and equity practitioner, Jacqueline has spent nearly a decade teaching in and working with independent school communities. Prior to her arrival at St. Luke's, Jacqueline served as the inaugural Director of Diversity and Inclusivity at the Hewitt School, a K-12 girls’ school in New York City and was a member of the New York State Association of Independent Schools Diversity Committee. With her Masters in General and Special Early Childhood Education from Bank Street School of Education, Jacqueline previously taught kindergarten in co-ed and both single sex school environments. She is a trained National SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project facilitator, as well as an experienced professional development and curriculum designer, committed to the goals of anti-bias education and culturally responsive teaching.

Mary Taylor-Lewis - Westover School
has lived in Connecticut since 2018, after growing up outside of Chicago and spending many years across the midwest. She currently serves as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Westover School in Middlebury, CT. Prior to joining independent schools, Mary's passion for equity and inclusion work began in high school leadership development summer programming, then transitioning to multicultural student affairs work in higher education. Mary received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies (Intercultural Communication focus) and Leadership Minor from the University of Minnesota, and her Master of Arts in Higher Education (Diversity and Social Justice focus) from the University of Michigan.

Joan Edwards - CAIS
In 2021 Joan joined CAIS as Director of Equity and Professional Collaboration. Joan brings to CAIS over thirty years of leadership and commitment to independent schools. She began her teaching career as a French teacher at Kingswood Oxford School in 1987. As a young educator, Joan combined her authentic joy of learning with her commitment to supporting students. After graduate school, Joan transitioned to roles in administration, from Director of Admission and Assistant Dean of Students at Kingswood Oxford School, to Director of Student Diversity at Greenwich Academy. She most resently completed a twelve-year tenure as the Director of Equity at Kingswood Oxford School.