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Recording: Preparing for the Election: Civil Dialogue in the School Community

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This is a recording of CSEE's February 2020 Event. Streaming of the recording will be available until May 1, 2020.

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. In the first recording, Kristen Farrington shares tools for civil dialogue in the independent school community. In the second recording, Caroline Blackwell discusses ways we can make space for divergent perspectives, and Jack Creeden offers tips on managing school parents and boards in these polarizing times.

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).



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