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Oakland, CA 94610

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Thoughts from the PoCC Conference

"I am here in support of St. Paul’s. I am a graduate of the School and want to attest that this School walks the talk. It’s true to its word."

Andrew Williams, a graduate of St. Paul’s in the 90s, was at the People of Color Conference this past week. The quote above is his explanation of why he was in attendance at our workshop about the school-parent partnership to support African-American boys, facilitated by Christine Fairless (Middle School Division Director), Rebecca Carmona (Seventh Grade Humanities Teacher), and Lowell Bennett (parent of Trey in fourth grade). 

The workshop was a success. One attendee mentioned to me that he thought St. Paul's was 20 years ahead of his school when it comes to the parent-school partnership and supporting African-American boys.  

I have to admit I am filled with pride about St. Paul’s, with Andrew’s words of encouragement and the positive feedback from a crowded room of attendees.

The conference in its entirety and our presentation itself reminded me that accomplishments such as: 
  • the faculty’s screening of the film American Promise at the opening retreat,
  • the joint screening of American Promise and conversation between faculty and parents in November 2013,
  • faculty led professional development efforts to support African-American Boys,
  • this year’s initiative to host the Vanguard Conference and to create a mentoring program for African-American boys in grades 4-8
don't happen overnight. They are built upon the core value of trust between home and school and the long-standing commitment to inclusion, moral character development, and community. With the recent headlines about Michael Brown and Eric Garner, I realize the importance of these issues, and appreciate the high level of privilege I bring to these conversations as a white male.

For me, though, what was really special was to see Lowell Bennett, Andrew Williams, and CJ Lee (Fourth Grade Teacher), who was also at the conference, meet and talk. By the end of the workshop, CJ was in a deep conversation with Andrew, and Lowell and Andrew had exchanged business cards. They developed a connection that cut across generations and roles at the School; (current teacher, current parent, and alum) it was a clear indication of how St. Paul’s core values draws us all together.

It is also a reminder that our presentation at PoCC started with the founding of the School and the fundamental desire to support all the students in East Bay 40 years ago. This was not the first time we presented at PoCC. Kanoe Connor-Joseph and Khadija Fredericks presented several years ago about the importance of diversity in schools and received the same positive response. I'm confident it won't be the last time we speak at PoCC.  

So in wrapping up, I wish I had a simple tagline, a clever turn of phrase, to express how this conference so wonderfully captures what we are up to at St. Paul’s. Right now, there is no other way to express what I want to say than in this really long, run on sentence. Hopefully you will get the meaning and what we care about at St. Paul’s. Here goes…

I think it is safe to say that St. Paul’s has been and will remain on the vanguard and be the pacesetter for the clear and unmistakable belief that deep and authentic creative and critical thinking is predicated on the need to teach and learn within an educational setting committed to a diverse student body, and focused on character development and service to the larger community.

Clearly, I’ve got some work to do on this sentence!