Drawing upon Fordham University’s strong commitment to the Ignatian principles of diversity and social justice, the Graduate School of Education’s Division of Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy focused on Culturally Proficient Leadership for a Changing World during its Twelfth Annual Leadership Conference Wednesday, November 29, 2017. Conference Chair and Clinical Assistant Professor Shannon R. Waite, Ed.D., noted that the conversation was timely and extremely important for educational leaders, given the current political climate and narratives about education in the United States. Dr. Waite, Division Chair John Houtz, Ed.D., and Associate GSE Dean Anthony Cavanna, Ed.D. also welcomed the 80-plus New York metro area educational leaders to the conference with messages promoting equity in schools, and the importance of leading and communicating across cultures.
Associate Division Chair John W. Lee, Ed.D. introduced Dr. Dorita Gibson, Senior Deputy Chancellor, New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE), as the conference’s Keynote Speaker. Dr. Gibson has spent many years as an educational leader dedicated to eliminating racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in order to provide every child from all neighborhoods and communities across New York City equal opportunity and access to high-quality programs. She discussed the changing role of education in NYC, how to create more opportunities especially for at-risk children, and reviewed the current programs being implemented to give schools the support they need to provide all children the educational opportunities needed to help them become successful students.
As an example of how support for at-risk children can yield significant and successful results, Dr. Gibson highlighted the Single Shepherd initiative, which pairs every middle and high school student in NYC Districts 7 and 23 with a dedicated school counselor or social worker who supports them through graduation and the college enrollment process. She spoke of specific cases in which students had made it into college despite growing up in homeless shelters, and about some who even got into colleges that were far away from home. She added that “ . . . a lot of people don’t know that so many kids from New York City have not been on a college campus. We need to make that a part of their education in grade school.”
Following the keynote address, the program featured a leadership panel whose members discussed the importance of cultural proficiency for educators, barriers that exist for minority students, equity in teaching and racial disparities, and segregation and racism in schools. Panel experts also tackled the very real issue that where students live largely dictates equity, excellence, and/or inequity in their educational experiences.
The panelists also implored the conference attendees to think about raising racial consciousness in teachers and to what degree we are often socialized regarding race. They explained that educators should view school culture and climate through a racial lens, because even though our intent may be equity for all, it is quite possible that we are actually perpetuating race-influenced actions that are hurting students. Panel members noted that many times, administrators and educators aren’t even aware this is happening.
Clinical Assistant Professor Jacqueline Bocachica Gonzalez, Ed.D. moderated the esteemed panel of speakers, which included: Rod Bowen, Executive Director, Office of School Quality, NYC DOE; Dr. Andrea Coddett, Deputy Superintendent, Yonkers Public Schools; Brenda Gonzalez, Principal, Jonas Bronck Academy, NYC DOE; Dr. Alex Marrero, Principal, I.S. 254, NYC DOE; and Edward Tom, Founding Principal, Bronx Center of Science, NYC DOE.
All those attending and involved with the conference, including the Division of Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy, were thanked and recognized for their commitment, knowledge, advocacy and persistence in striving to create optimal learning environments for all children.
At Fordham, the GSE will continue to address educational equality issues using multiple approaches. Coursework throughout our programs includes readings, discussions, assignments, and key assessments infused with critical equity and culturally aware topics. Upcoming GSE events, including our lecture series and conferences, will also make these priority subjects.