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Online Event: Preparing for the Election: Civil Dialogue in the School Community
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2/4/2020 to 2/6/2020
When: February 4th and February 6th
4pm-5:30pm Eastern / 1pm-2:30pm Pacific
Where: Online Meeting via Zoom
United States

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This event has now passed. If you would like to purchase a recording for streaming until 5/1/2020, you can do so here.



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This cost includes both days of presentations.


Event Description

No matter what one’s political views, political conversations of late have often devolved from a “teaching moment” to a “dreadful moment.” This two-part online series will provide schools with a variety of tools to prepare for the election. On day one, Kristen Farrington will share tools for civil dialogue in the independent school community. On day two, Caroline Blackwell will discuss ways we can make space for divergent perspectives, and Jack Creeden will offer tips on managing school parents and boards in these polarizing times. Both days will conclude in a discussion session, facilitated by Rob Munro--a time for participants to discuss the presentation and share ideas of how they are preparing their communities.



February 4, 2020
4pm Eastern / 1pm Pacific

4-5pm - Kristen Farrington - Theory of and Tools for Civil Dialogue in the Independent School Community
5-5:30pm - Rob Munro - Leading a discussion about Kristen’s talk and citizenship

February 6, 2020
4pm Eastern / 1pm Pacific

4:00-4:30pm - Caroline Blackwell - Considerations for Civil Discourse in X-Racial Context: How to Make Space for Divergent Perspectives and Tips On Intervening When Conversation Becomes Heated, Polarized
4:30-5:00pm - Jack Creeden - How to Best Manage School’s Parents and Boards in Highly Polarized Environments
5:00-5:30pm - Rob MunroLeading a discussion reacting to the two speakers


About the Presentations

Kristen Farrington - Theory of and Tools for Civil Dialogue in the Independent School Community

During this workshop we will focus on the difference between dialogue and other forms of engagement. We'll review the essential skills of dialogue and discuss best practices for integrating them into the classroom. We'll also focus on effective ways for turning down the heat when dialogue turns contentious. As facilitators of civil dialogue in the classroom, teachers can be intentional about teaching students how to navigate controversial issues and help students explore the complexity of issues. In this polarized environment, these skills are not only vital for the classroom, but are transferable leadership skills that students will take with them into college and into their careers.

Kristen Farrington is a civil dialogue specialist and the assistant chaplain at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School. She was previously the executive director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute, where she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the following four program areas: Educating Leaders, Promoting Civil Dialogue, Engaging the Public, and Transforming Schools. From 2012 to 2016, Kristen was the head of programs and partnerships for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in the United States. Previously, she served as chaplain and department chair of religious studies at St. Paul’s School for Girls in Baltimore, Maryland and St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson, Maryland, and as clergy at parishes in Florida, California, and New York. She is an awarded graduate of Yale Divinity School (M.Div.).

Caroline Blackwell - Considerations for Civil Discourse in X-Racial Context

How can we make space for divergent perspectives? What are the best ways to intervene when conversations become heated or polarized?

Caroline Blackwell is Vice President, Equity and Justice, at the National Association of Independent Schools. She has spent a career teaching and advocating for an orientation to diversity, equity, and inclusion that values the broadest range of human difference and experience as fundamental to interpersonal, professional, and institutional strength.


Jack Creeden - How to Best Manage School’s Parents and Boards in Highly Polarized Environments

School leadership needs to be prepared to deal with the sometimes negative responses from the Board and parent community. Board members may wonder why these topics need to be discussed in a school setting. Parents may object to the issues being discussed at all. This session will focus on how to help the Board understand the value of the discussions and respond to parents who demand the Board take action. In addition, we will review different strategies the school can take in responding to the vocal and often divergent reactions from parents.

Jack Creeden is a longtime independent school leader who has written and spoken extensively on governance, strategic planning, political classrooms and the relationship between the board chair and the head of school. He has served as the Head of three independent schools, chaired the NAIS Board of Trustees, and is the author of the recently published Board Chair Handbook (NAIS, 2019).


Rob Munro - Discussion Leader

Robert Munro is the Director of Global Education at Middlesex School. He is also the Co-President of the Board of Directors of the Robbins House, which tells the important and complex stories of Concord’s African American history. After completing his graduate work at Michigan State University, Rob began as a history teacher, coach, and archivist at Middlesex School. Rob writes, gives talks, and offers workshops on creating inclusive school communities, how to have difficult conversations, and citizenship education at both the high school and college level. He has developed two signature courses at Middlesex: Dialogues across Differences and Citizenship in Civil Societies. Both courses examine how we can bridge differences through empathetic communication and active participation in our many communities (local, national, global, digital) and why it is necessary to engage in these, often, difficult interactions in order to truly create inclusive communities.


Online Course Format

CSEE online courses are done on Zoom, and include a mix of presentation and group discussion. Participants with computer cameras can share their faces if they wish to enhance the personal experience. A few days out from the event, CSEE will send the link to log into the meeting.


Please see CSEE's Event Policy to learn more about cancellations and refunds.


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