Widening the Lens 2021
The Far Brook School Diversity Conference
WELCOME! We are excited to announce that Widening the Lens: The Far Brook School Diversity Conference will be held virtually on Saturday, November 13, 2021. Our theme: Where Do We Go From Here? Affirming Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Independent Schools is a response to growing challenges to the value and content of DEI efforts in our schools. It is important to address these challenges by fostering dialogue among our various constituents, and reaffirming our commitment to building and supporting strong diverse communities.
Widening the Lens provides an opportunity for attendees to gain inspiration from industry experts, engage with colleagues and peers, and, importantly, to take action. We look forward to a virtual day of authentic dialogue and collaboration as we seek to become more inclusive, and to nurture informed, engaged, and empowered leaders of tomorrow.
The unique structure of this conference follows the format of the Dalton School Diversity Conference (NYC), designed by Pollyanna Inc., a nonprofit devoted to increasing racial understanding. We invite schools to register a “pod” of individuals who will work together to advance the diversity and inclusion goals of their school. Each school pod consists of the Head of School, and two participants from each of seven constituencies:
- Diversity Coordinators
This year, the conference schedule will run from 9:00 AM until 1:30 PM. The opening presentation includes a welcome by Head of School Amy Ziebarth, the featured keynote conversation with Q&As, and student speeches. Following the opening, participants will enter breakout rooms to engage in a facilitated dialogue with their peers who represent the same role/constituency group. For example, all faculty (or parents, or trustees, or alumni, etc) from all schools meet together in the same breakout room to share experiences, ideas, and recommendations from their unique perspective. After these facilitated conversations, we will reconvene for a dynamic presentation of the students’ learning and recommendations. This is always a highlight of the conference.
School pods will meet for action planning at a time that is convenient for each school – either that afternoon, or on a school day the following week. We encourage schools to hold the pod meeting within one week of the conference so that the ideas and takeaways from the day are still fresh. The first of three follow-up meetings for Diversity Practitioners is held one month later.
Powerful learning and growth happen when we bring together this cross-section of voices and perspectives that exist within our own communities, and when we share our challenges, experiences, and best practices with colleagues from peer schools.
Keynote: Featured Conversation
Between Jim Best and Jason Craige Harris
This year, the keynote presentation will be a dynamic conversation between independent school leader, Jim Best, and conflict mediation specialist, Jason Craige Harris, to illuminate the current debate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in independent schools. As a former Head of School, Jim Best will share lessons learned from his experience with growing parent resistance to DEI, anti-racism education, and to engaging students about the complexities of American history. As an expert facilitator of dialogue, Jason Craige Harris will offer insights and practical approaches to creating authentic conversation across polarized perspectives in our communities. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers at the end.
Jim has spent 30 years in independent schools in the United States and abroad. He has served in a variety of roles including Head of School, Associate Head, Division Director, Teacher, Advisor, and Coach. Jim has always kept his hand in the classroom, having taught and advised students from early childhood through graduate school. Jim serves on a variety of non-profit Boards and is particularly proud to be a founding Board member of Global Online Academy. Jim has significant experience working with schools and organizations throughout the world. He is passionate about Equity & Inclusion, Excellence & Innovation, and Health & Wellness in independent schools—and has spoken and published on these topics locally, nationally, and internationally.
Jim received his BA with Honors and was a John Motley Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He holds an MA and EdM from Teachers College, Columbia University. He was also a participant in the Klingenstein Center for Private School Leadership where he currently serves on the Advisory Board.
Jason Craige Harris
Jason is a leading voice for organizational healing and societal transformation. He is an equity and belonging strategist, conflict mediator, and restorative justice practitioner. Jason is also a longtime social justice educator, group facilitator, leadership coach, and spiritual guide. He consults in a variety of contexts, with constituents of every age and role, across sectors. Jason is a Consultant at Pollyanna, a national organization working to promote racial literacy and cultural competency, as well as a Partner and Senior Advisor at Perception Institute & Strategies, an international consulting firm and research consortium that promotes empirically grounded solutions to gaps in dignity, equity, and belonging in workplaces and their work.
Jason holds a BA with Honors in religion and African American Studies from Wesleyan University, where he was a fellow at both the Center for the Humanities and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Program, and a MA (summa cum laude) in religion, ethics, and cultural studies from Yale Divinity School, where he was a Marquand Merit Scholar and Extended Year Program Fellow.
Jason will be facilitating the Head of School constituent group discussion.
Yassie Liow – Student Speaker
Students were invited to reflect on the conference theme and submit at 2-minute speech that issues a challenge to conference attendees that will inspire the ongoing work.
Yassie graduated from The Brearley School in 2021. Near the end of her time there, a Brearley parent dissatisfied with the school’s DEI curriculums wrote an angry letter spurring fear and raising concerns in her community. She wrote an in response article titled, “A Rebuttal to Andrew Gutmann’s Letter,” which she hopes will inspire younger students to use their strengths to advocate for their communities. She is now a first-year student at Yale University, where she has recently become a member of the Yale Policy Institute’s Education Center. She hopes to pursue a major in Comparative Literature or Classics. When she is not wrangling French or trying to decode Latin, she can be found trying to FaceTime her dog Bonsai.
2021 Conference Leader
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Community
2021 Conference Schedule
Past WTL Conferences
Lift Every Voice: Centering the Student Voice in Building Anti-Racist Communities
Keynote: Zerlina Maxwell
Remarks by: Rodney Glasgow
Class in the Classroom: Exploring Socioeconomic Diversity in Our Schools
Keynote: Anthony Jack
From Attending to Belonging: Reimagining Independent School for our Intersectional Communities
Keynote: Richard Blanco
LGBTQ+: Illuminating the Spectrum and Cultivating Pride
Keynote: Charles Blow
Race: Creating a Generation of Inclusive Thinkers and Community Leaders
Keynote: Howard Stevenson