[ December 07, 2008 ]

I went for a day and a half with Kris to New Orleans to participate in the People of Color Conference organized by National Association of Independent Schools and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. This is the fourth time I have gone to this conference and it always provokes thoughts and ideas about schools and how inclusive or not they are as communities. The keynote address by Sidney Poitier was especially poignant that kicked off the conference and got people to think about success, perseverance, and believing in principles. His comments framed the conference discussions nicely.

I feel strongly about our community’s commitment to becoming more and more diverse as our world and nation is becoming, but I also feel that this is linked directly in important ways to our educational mission. I believe that it is less effective to teach good critical thinking, as several research studies have shown, in less diverse environments. I also think that understanding that people from different backgrounds (cultural, racial, socio-economic, religious…) is an essential skill in the world we now live in and is also a required professional set of skills. Therefore, I am glad that a group of educators from the school and students went to engage in discussions around diversity and multiculturalism as it relates to schools. We sent one of the largest contingents of faculty members and students from any school in the United States, and I think that such a commitment to this important dialogue marks us as a school community. 

It was also good that we went as a group to New Orleans. Milton Sipp, the Head of the Middle School, also took a contingent of Middle School students to work on a community service project at the Samuel J. Green Charter School–a school with which we have raised money and been in contact for a number of years. The students were also lucky to meet with Brad Pitt who happened to be down there working on a spot for CNN and on his housing projects in the neighborhood.  

Just before the conference, a number of our faculty and students attending the two conferences, engaged in community service projects in New Orleans. This also helped the group feel connected to the city where the conference took place in ways that had not happened before. 

I hope that we can also figure out ways to continue our discussion and work in this area through the year. If you have any questions about this and our work on diversity and community development at Riverdale. Feel free to contact me or Michele Sanchez ( or Demetra Caldwell (–our two new Directors of Community development for the Upper/Middle School and Lower School respectively.

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