Top level school administrators are doing a disservice to themselves and their schools by the approach that they use to facilitate racial equity meetings. In the end, students continue to lose the benefit of the meetings due to the continued infighting between the assigned and invited participants. School leaders need to implement several leadership strategies to ensure that racial equity meetings remain productive rather than creating chaos resulting in continued public embarrassment.
A recent article titled, Change in district mindset over confronting racism cause for cautious optimism, activist says, reveal that the top-level school administrators at the Rochester City School District lack the leadership skills to successfully facilitate a racial equity meeting. The major participants do not agree on the focus of the meetings which lead to insults and infighting.
Activist, Howard Eagle, along with his supporters, believe that the key for the racial equity meeting is the commitment to addressing “implicit bias”. Eagle goes on to say, “A fundamental issue involved in all this is whether or not we’re going to challenge white people’s fragility”. The term “white fragility” refers to white people’s defensive reaction when confronted by evidence of racial injustice.
Eagle’s response has caused the teachers union to become defensive. Eagle has identified Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski as the main impediment to progress and accuses him of protecting his white constituents at the expense of black students. Urbanski denied the charge and pointed out that the Rochester Teacher Center focuses intensively on pedagogy for children of color. Eagle dismisses this attempt as being “as ineffective as it possibly could be.”
Deputy Superintendent Cecilia Golden agreed with Urbanski in saying that the term “anti-racist” is needlessly inflammatory. Golden went on to say, “Our job is to help people understand how their perspectives and socialization might have influenced how they view other people. And we can do that without saying: ‘If you’re white in this country, you’re probably a racist.’ And that may be true. … But if I can’t (talk about) that in a way that encourages you to listen and do self-reflection, then we’re not going to get to the goal we have to have, and that is relationship-building”.
For another school administrator, the focus is hiring a diverse staff. According to Chief of Human Capital Resources Harry Kennedy, “The issue of hiring diversity in the teacher ranks is a national issue, not just a Rochester issue”. The response from Kennedy is of a defensive face-saving perspective.
Essentially, without the appropriate leadership process the racial equity meetings are doomed to fail and students of color will continue the travesty of victimization by the educational system. The activist will continue to blame the educators and the educators will continue to blame the activist, parents, students, economics, and the community. The racial equity meetings will come to a halt due to the top-level administrators holding the financial strings and the legitimized bureaucratic power
Top level school administrators must begin with a written agenda. An agenda should outline the goals and scheduled activities for the racial equity meetings. An effective leader creates an agenda with activities that will support transformation of the organization. The primary mistake made with the agenda is that the activities focus on discussion rather than a transformation process.
The first natural activity on an agenda for the racial equity meetings is introductions. The effective school leader will request that each participant provide a little background about themselves as well as what they expect to accomplish in the racial equity meetings.
The next step is a the most important. The leader must now initiate a process that garners the energy of all participants into a positive direction. Without this crucial step, the racial equity meetings will end with blaming and mudslinging from the participants. The effective leader must utilize a shared vision development process.
Developing a shared vision requires that the educational leader have a high proficiency at developing a consensus among the participants. A consensus decision is not a unanimous vote for an idea, majority vote, or achieving total satisfaction of all team members. It is an idea that every team member:
- Substantially agrees to represent a common reality
- Is involved in the fusion of the information, logic, and they have an opportunity to express their feelings
- Is willing to accept the groups decision
- Believes that the decision is a workable approach that is in the best interest of the team
Consensus is necessary to ensure that the participants have an opportunity to speak, to listen to each other, to build on each other’s ideas, and to reach well-considered conclusions that hold enough agreement to enable the whole group to move forward together for the success of the racial equity meetings. The team has reached a consensus when each member can say “even though the decision may not be exactly what I want, I can live with and support it.” This does not mean that the entire team must completely agree with the decision but, rather, that everyone is in fundamental agreement.
After the shared vision development, the future racial equity meetings will comprise of developing a strategic plan based on the shared vision.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
- Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
- Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
- The Raccelerate Formula App
- Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
- The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management
“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President