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White Principals, Black and Brown Schools

In a new "Walking the Talk" episode, a conversation with an Arkansas school leader on bridging racial and socioeconomic divides

February 8, 2018

While the majority of public school students in the United States are now people of color, school leadership positions have yet to diversify. As late as 2012, 80 percent of principals in the U.S were white.

White principals serving predominantly black and brown students can’t ignore this dynamic, says Jonathan Crossley. A former Arkansas Teacher of the Year, Crossley is now the principal of Baseline Elementary, a newly reconstituted school in Little Rock whose student body is almost entirely black and Latino and is all low-income.

In the fourth episode of Walking the Talk, Crossley joins Domonic Rollins for a candid conversation about building trust and community with students and parents, while confronting the realities of power and race. Walking the Talk is a series of video conversations streamed live on Facebook, exploring challenging questions of diversity, inclusion, and identity as they are lived and expressed in the real world. See the first, second, and third installments in the series.

Watch Rollins and Crossley's conversation, as it was recorded live, and read our takeaways below.

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Photo of Jonathan Crossley talking to Domonic Rollins
Walking the Talk, Episode 4: A Conversation with Jonathan Crossley

For White Principals, How to Build Relationships Across Race and Socioeconomic Lines

  • Establish a collective identity for your school that includes teachers, students, staff, and families.
  • Stay humble. Empathize with students and parents, but remember that it’s nearly impossible to fully understand the challenges they face.
  • Invest time in relationships with families. Remember it will take many interactions and conversations to grow trust and understanding.
  • Push for agency, not advocacy. Families and community members already have strong voices; work to make sure they're heard. Give them room to push for what they and their children need.
  • Make your school a hub for the community — a place where adults can also find resources on housing, jobs, and basic necessities.
  • Assume positive intent on the part of parents, and emphasize the positive work of their children.
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Diversity and Inclusion K-12 Parenting and Community School Leadership