February 2021

Our ongoing work

 

To our community,

At School Leader Lab, we have always been committed to fiercely supporting racial justice and equity -- for leaders, schools and students. The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor alongside the deeply ingrained systemic racism so sharply exposed by the coronavirus pandemic implored us to turn inward to evaluate our own work in service of disrupting racism.

We're learning and taking action to disrupt inequitable patterns internally and externally. We thank you for your honest feedback, your heart and your time (five focus groups, survey responses, and the input you give us on a weekly basis) to push our organization forward.

Our mission states that we develop leaders “with equity at our core.” To us, this has always meant that:

  • a third of our programming content is dedicated to race and equity work -- and that we intentionally integrate it across all of our programming

  • our leader development cohorts are composed primarily of leaders of color and taught by a diverse faculty

  • as a team, we create space to engage in conversation and conflict around race and racism

  • we aim to be inclusive in our design and influences. For example, we have sought out Board members of diverse identities and experiences, and are honored to now have an SLC alumni -- an outstanding Black female sitting principal -- as part of our little Board

 

As we move forward, we are:

 

Learning

  • Discomfort: We lean into discomfort as a team by checking our practices through regular internal health surveys, building our capacity for empathy across difference and learning how to listen to each other, especially on topics of identity and race. We hold ourselves to staying willing to sit in the discomfort that growth requires.

  • From experts: We all sit as participants during trainings on race and racism to both build our capacity to hold space for others and learn how to be active disruptors (credit to CRJECaroline Hill of 228 AcceleratorOnyx Therapy GroupAlicia Robinson of EdPlusActually CuriousSeeding DisruptionLeading Elephants, and others).

  • Discussions: As a team, we engage in text and article discussions to increase our knowledge and sensitivity around race and racism. Texts included Whistling Vivaldi, How to be an Antiracist, Caste, and Chocolate CityAdditional anti-racist resources

 

Listening

  • Shining light: We worked with Toni Graves Williamson from the Glasgow Group to examine our race and equity practices. She conducted focus groups to hear from our participants, created brave conversations for our staff and brought in multiple perspectives. We saw that sometimes our orientation towards results may be superseding inclusive processes; we heard a push to increase our focus on intersectionality and a multitude of racial identities in addition to white and Black; and, we uncovered gaps in our Board’s involvement in our programming. Toni also synthesized many responses that were positive and affirming - particularly within program delivery and organization culture. We will keep listening and shining the light as we have much more to learn to shape actions that are ever changing and evolving.

  • Design inputs: We are zooming in on the diversity of inputs to our decisions and continue to draw on Caroline Hill and the 228 Accelerator’s emphasis on intentional equitable design, bringing marginalized voices and interests into the conversation as we make key programming and organizational decisions.

 

Acting

  • Content: We consulted with the Center for Racial Justice in Education to create and codify a brand new course on race and racism and strategies for disrupting within and across lines of difference. We noticed that we spoke about race and racism in our equity work and our leading adults work but not as prominently in our instructional work. We are addressing this by embedding the technical skill building within a historical context of schooling in the US and amplifying the mindsets educators must possess around antiracism, teaching and student learning. We are also examining our instructional practices and tools to ensure that they do not replicate harmful practices.

  • Interrupting patterns: We pay attention and notice when we fall into predictable race patterns even in our six-person team -- with white founders, a white-presenting male team member running our instructional design work and a Black female team member running our race and racism design work -- so we we’ve sharpened our inclusive decision-making and created systems of collaboration for each teammate to co-design streams of work and deepen expertise in multiple areas.

  • Personal work: As individuals, we work with a coach to disrupt our own internal bias and show up as bolder allies -- and we’re creating our shared vision of how this looks in our external interactions when we sit in positions of relative power with organization leaders, funders, teachers and in our lives outside of work. As a white-led organization, our team has thought about how to use our privilege to disrupt, push other white leaders and center people who have historically and systematically been marginalized.

  • Organizational policies: We committed to regular stepbacks on our policies for selection into our cohort programs, how we partner externally and how we hire to ensure we are doing the most we can to disrupt.

 

We know that white supremacy thrives in distraction and we commit to discomfort, process, impact and our growth as an organization. Help us get better, hold us accountable, and let's continue to move ahead towards a new and different future. And we commit to doing the same for you, our partners, and our sector at large. This is collective work and we are honored to be doing it with and alongside you.

with love,

the School Leader Lab team

© 2021 by School Leader Lab

This website was originally created by Sheyla Gyles and Zoe Valladares, two students attending Washington Leadership Academy

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