At Shorecrest, we care very much about the safety of our students. This includes not only physical safety, but emotional and psychological safety, especially when it comes to allowing students to show up as their “full selves.” I also believe this should be a privilege afforded to staff and faculty. One of the ways that I am reminded of who I am is by reaching out to build community - whether it be with service partners, parents or other educators.
Dr. Gene Batiste, Diego Duran-Medina, and Orpheus Crutchfield at the 2016 NAIS People of Color Conference.
I was recently given the chance to attend the People of Color Conference through NAIS, the National Association of Independent Schools, our national organization for independent schools like Shorecrest. POCC has been going on for decades, and it was first organized as a safe space for people of color who work in independent schools to come together to learn, share stories and build connections. This was my fifth POCC, and the fact that it took place in Atlanta was especially powerful as the theme was around protecting, teaching and fighting for human and civil rights.
I was lucky enough to be joined by my colleague from the Upper School, Jorden Sanders, and our Headmaster, Mike Murphy, as the conference is open to any and all who want to engage with issues that affect people of color. It meant a lot to me that my Headmaster was there.
We attended POCC seeking to advertise and recruit for our open position of Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and in that respect, I think we were successful at putting Shorecrest on the map and connecting with both potential candidates and firms that can help us find the right person. This was the “practical” reason for attending POCC. But beyond practicality, I think I have two other takeaways from the experience.
The experience of having the Shorecrest Headmaster there and my colleague was powerful and inspiring. I remember walking into a late night networking event as a Shorecrest “team” and feeling a sense of pride as I joined with former colleagues, classmates and friends in updating them on the school where I had ended up.
I think back to how fortunate I felt to work at Shorecrest, and to also live in St. Petersburg. Both are places that have an immense amount of energy and potential; you can tell things are happening and that we are undergoing positive changes. Hearing about other schools reinforced how lucky I feel to be where I am now.
The other realization I had as I attended the various workshops and trainings was that Shorecrest is a courageous place. We are willing to confront our past, our traditions and our culture to see how we have arrived at where we are and who we are.
Such recognition can sometimes be a painful process, but it can also be liberating, because it creates space for a new future. I think about the diversity, equity and inclusion work that has been happening in recent years, and I am extremely hopeful of what Shorecrest can do and how it can lead not only itself, but also its southern peer schools in working for human and civil rights.
As we prepare for a new Director of Diversity and Inclusion, I feel that the whole community has begun asking deep, probing questions around what our legacy has been and what it could be, and those questions will be more powerful because there was a Shorecrest delegation present at POCC in Atlanta.
Learn more about the Director of Diversity and Inclusion position at Shorecrest.