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SAAS: A Note from Rob on DEI and the
Middle School Dean Team

Dear SAAS Faculty & Staff,

Our preparations for the 2022-23 school year have been in full swing as you saw with our announcement on Tuesday where we welcomed additions to our leadership team with Lori Metcalf (Chief Outreach and Enrollment Officer), James Lemmon (Head of Middle School) and Sandra Midkiff (Director of Development). I want to continue on this thread and announce a transition in our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team as Danae Howe steps into the role of Director of Equity and Inclusion. She will take over this position from Taylor Kanemori who has been offered and accepted the opportunity to become the next DEI Director at University Prep, her alma mater. We're excited for her and University Prep, and grateful for her many contributions at SAAS as a coordinator, support for college counseling, and in the DEI sphere.

Danae and Taylor have been fierce partners in equity and inclusion work at SAAS since 2018. We are fortunate to have Danae’s context and relationships at SAAS, as well as her long professional expertise and experience as she assumes the role of Director of Equity and Inclusion. 

Danae has been actively involved in equity and inclusion work for many years prior to joining SAAS. She has served as Assistant Head of Middle School, Director of Diversity, Director of Innovative Curriculum, Dean of Student Voices, and Computer Science Department Chair in independent schools in Southern California and Washington State. Danae has also taught music and computer science for over 20 years and has presented at the local and national level on social-emotional learning, 21st century skills, equity and inclusion, the multi-racial experience, affinity groups and diversity hiring.

New Role, Same Greatness

Danae Howe will assume her new role as Director of Equity and Inclusion beginning this summer. Danae has worked closely with Taylor to strengthen our Inclusive Community guiding principle since 2018. Together they supported students in creating affinity groups, starting with the Black Student Union in the fall of 2019. Thanks to their combined efforts and hard work, we now have 10 affinity groups in the Upper School and 5 in the Middle School. 

Taylor and Danae started affinity family nights and led DEI-focused training to faculty and staff. In addition, Danae has worked with NWAIS on accreditation standards and has been on two accreditation visiting teams.

We are looking forward to the power combination of Danae and Shavette, whom we introduced earlier this month. In our new structure, Shavette will be overseeing the DEI office and will work closely with Danae to bring these efforts into student life, the curricula, and the greater SAAS community. 

Associate Head of School Giselle Furlonge put it nicely when she said, “At a time in our nation and world when we are growing our skills for how to live and learn in an inclusive community, SAAS is thrilled to embrace the combined experience and expertise that the partnership between Danae and Shavette provide. Their collaboration will help us to center not only equity and inclusion programming, but also the habits of heart and mind that root belonging at the core of the SAAS experience.” 

Meet the New Middle School Dean Team

We are excited for the experienced leadership of four tremendous educators: Achijah Berry, Julie Holstad, Ricardo Rivera, Allison Reddy who, with the partnership of our new Head of Middle School James Lemmon, will guide the vibrant community of our middle schoolers. Much like how we differentiate instruction in the classroom in order to meet the unique needs of our students, we will take the same approach in our organizational structure with Grade Level Deans in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Julie, Ricardo, and Allison will focus their attention on community building and school culture, as well as growing systems of academic and socio-emotional support. Achijah Berry, a longtime member of the Middle School Division Team, will step into the role of Dean of Student Life, bringing her previous skills as a coordinator and Dean of Students to deepening the co-curricular experience of students. 

Achijah Berry has been with SAAS since 2014! She is an alumna from the class of 2010 and she rejoined the SAAS community after completing a degree in Family and Human Services from University of Oregon’s College of Education. Achijah has been a staple in the Middle School in her roles as a coordinator, lead coordinator, lead student life coordinator, advisor, club leader, and coach of Middle and Upper School soccer, Middle School basketball and track. She also holds records from her time as a student at SAAS in the 4x4 and 4x2 relay, and as soccer state champ in 2008 & 2009.

 

We are thrilled to announce Julie Holstad as our new 6th Grade Dean. Julie joined SAAS in the 2021-22 school year and has fit right in with the Middle School culture and leadership team. Julie has held many roles as an educator, including a biology teacher, special education teacher, and child-birth educator. She has worked in both middle and high schools prior to SAAS and founded an international organization in Germany. 

We welcome Ricardo Rivera as our new 7th Grade Dean! Ricardo moved from Texas to join SAAS at the start of the 2020-21 school year. He is finishing his 7th year of teaching and has been able to teach all Middle School grade levels at some point during his time at SAAS. Ricardo has taught reading intervention skills, English, and worked as a grade level lead at YES Prep Northbrook and Uplift Peak Middle in Houston and Dallas. We look forward to his collaboration with the Middle School Leadership team to create a culture of kindness, respect, and learning.  

We are excited that Allison Reddy will be our new 8th Grade Dean. Allison has taught 8th grade math at SAAS for the past three years and has been the grade level team lead for the last two. She has taught for 15 years at both the Upper and Middle School levels – and loves feeding off the energy of middle schoolers, both in the classroom and in the hallways. We are thrilled that Allison will continue to make the 8th grade experience positive for all students, and will work closely with Julie, Ricardo and Achijah to unify the middle school experience.

 

We will continue to introduce changes to our community as they are happening. Look for additional communications in the coming months, including our announcement of next year’s Upper School Deans. As always, let us know if you have any questions or feedback. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Rob Phillips
Head of School