From Diversity to Community – Dalton Conference 2011 Makes a Difference
On Saturday, May 21, the first sunny day in what felt like ages, trustees, faculty, administrators, parents, alumni and students from 16 independent schools – each group representing a school “Pod” – arrived at Dalton ready to focus their attention on analyzing and developing strategies for evolving more inclusive and diverse school communities.
On Saturday, May 21, the first sunny day in what felt like ages, trustees, faculty, administrators, parents, alumni and students from 16 independent schools – each group representing a school “Pod” –arrived at Dalton ready to focus their attention on analyzing and developing strategies for evolving more inclusive and diverse school communities.
The conference, titled "From Diversity to Community: Creating a Generation of Inclusive Thinkers and Community Leaders," was conceived to help schools to grow a high-functioning, diverse and inclusive independent school community, in which all constituencies engage in supporting and valuing diversity. The purpose of the day was to "To promote action and strengthen leadership by collaborating to deepen the dialog, address challenges, share best practices and generate next steps." Ellen Stein, Dalton Head of School, welcomed the attendees with her compelling remarks on the challenges particular to independent schools, as they strive to reflect and attract the broad diversity of students in New York City.
Casper Caldarola, Chair of the Community Life & Diversity Trustee Committee, provided leadership for the event in collaboration with a large volunteer committee, including Melinda Wolfe, past Dalton parent and Diversity Committee Chair of the Board or Trustees and corporate diversity expert. Ms. Wolfe introduced keynote speaker Deborah Roberts, of ABC’s “20/20” and current Dalton parent. In her keynote address, Ms. Roberts shared warm and compelling memories illustrating references from her school experiences growing up in the segregated Deep South. She experienced school integration first hand. Ms. Roberts remarked that, along with her parents love, support and encouragement, she was deeply impressed by a teacher’s recognition and inspiration, “You are a very smart girl and don’t let anyone ever take that away from you.”
The attendees later worked together with Dalton facilitators in morning breakout sessions by constituent group to articulate specific challenges and best practices, later discussing them after lunch in private school Pod meetings, in which each school devised an Action Plan to take back to its community. A member of the Dalton community facilitated each breakout session. The conference came back together for a student exercise, including one student from each school, ably led by Lisa Waller, Dalton High School Director, on the important cultural influences, which students bring with them to their school.
Attendees remarked about the excellent structure and atmosphere established by the speeches and the many members of the Dalton community who contributed their special talents to make this a very meaningful and successful event.