Oh no. I told myself I would keep these feelings to myself and only share them with the independent school educators who have become part of my extended family through NAIS connections. Anyone who knows me though, understands that I cannot hold back when there is something I feel is important to say out loud. As a black woman in independent schools, this habit of speaking my truth has sometimes benefited me greatly and has at other times been a huge disadvantage.
Last year’s Annual Conference was my first in many years, maybe ten or more. I was struck by both the maleness and whiteness of last year’s conference, from the uniform feel of the dress code to the general session inside jokes to the good ole boy feel of the very atmosphere. I know that some of you will read this and do the customary dismissal of me as “angry, black woman.” I hope some of you will stop and think and maybe look around at this year’s conference with a little more awareness. I have been keeping a rough, mental count of leaders of color who I’ve bumped into this year. I’ve seen two black male heads of school, both of whom I ” grew up with” either at successive PoCCs, long ago Summer Diversity Institutes or some other NAIS-related events. I know that there are other heads of color here whom I have not personally come across, and this makes me really happy. It is a sure sign of change.
But what are we doing to widen that pipeline of head of school hopefuls so that when that 50% of school heads retires in the coming few years, we are replacing them with leaders of the 21st century who represent the diversity that is the best of America? How are we combating the good ole boys’ mentality where white men are mentored early and aggressively, while women and leaders of color either drift off and out of independent schools or slug their way into headships in double and sometimes triple the time?
Do we have the awareness or the will to change this tide? How can NAIS be an agent for change in this work of identifying and grooming the near future leaders of independent schools beyond the white, male paradigm? Now, here’s a conversation I would love to have at this conference where independent school leadership comes out in full force. Why isn’t there a workshop on this?