SLI charge: To ensure equity in every school
The 2019 Superintendent’s Leadership Institute closed with a charge for FCPS principals and district officials to make the necessary changes that ensure all students have opportunities to achieve and succeed. “You may not have created the inequity, but you are responsible for owning it and doing something about it,” said Day 3 keynote speaker Nancy Gutierrez, president and CEO of the NYC Leadership Academy.
SLI, an annual summer conference in Fayette County Public Schools, featured a variety of workshops that revolved around the theme “In High Gear: Connecting Theory to Action.” In the final plenary session July 17, Gutierrez chose not to lecture but instead guided the attendees to wrestle with some difficult concepts. She asked, for instance, what does equity look like in practice and in context? She offered this definition: Children and adults should receive what they each need to achieve their potential, and their race, culture, and other characteristics of their identity should not prevent access to opportunities and resources. “Equity is at the core of everything we do. You cannot be an effective leader without a sharp equity lens,” she said.
As FCPS staffers engaged in the conversation, several stood to share their thoughts about owning one’s biases and finding the courage to do the right thing. Gutierrez then outlined five leadership dispositions – not steps, but life-long processes:
- Model beliefs
- Personally act
- Confront bias
- Improve systems
“Are you willing to have those hard conversations, putting a stake in the ground?” she asked the crowd. “There’s a lot we have to unlearn. There’s a lot we have to do.” Gutierrez encouraged the attendees to choose one of the dispositions to push their practice further, developing a short-term and long-term goal. “We have to create systems that outlive our tenure. This requires a lot of intention, a lot of focus, a lot of feedback,” she said, adding, “We cannot underscore enough how much trust is built when you know people well. Building relationships becomes critical in this work.”
Erica Beatty, a student/family transitional support & dropout prevention specialist with the school district, helped plan and coordinate the Superintendent’s Leadership Institute. “It’s to prepare our leaders for the school year and get them engaged with the district’s expectations and the superintendent’s leadership style. It’s also to empower their teachers and staff to do excellent work with our students,” she said. “I hope staffers take away a good work/life balance. You need to get the job done but also enjoy the moment.”
SLI Day 1 coverage, July 15
SLI Day 2 coverage, July 16