Enhancing Leaders and Racial Equity in Baltimore City Schools

Posted April 7, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
REACH Fellows from the Baltimore City Schools

Image by Marshall Clarke

Sys­tems don’t change until peo­ple change.

That’s the guid­ing phi­los­o­phy of Bal­ti­more City Pub­lic Schools’ REACH Fel­low­ship. The year­long pro­gram — sup­port­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion — seeks to devel­op lead­ers who can cham­pi­on long-term changes that help to real­ize equi­table out­comes for students.

REACH seeks to build lead­ers who are racial­ly con­scious, self-aware and com­mit­ted to results,” says Mon­i­ca Logan, who leads the pro­gram and serves as direc­tor of sys­tems learn­ing and devel­op­ment for Bal­ti­more schools. The goal is for peo­ple to come out of the pro­gram with the prac­ti­cal tech­ni­cal and adap­tive skills need­ed to cre­ate change nec­es­sary to con­tribute to equi­table out­comes.”

The REACH Approach

REACH — which stands for Results in Edu­ca­tion to Accel­er­ate Change — is part of the school system’s broad­er efforts to imple­ment its racial equi­ty pol­i­cy and rem­e­dy sys­temic issues that dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect stu­dents of color.

Through­out the year, REACH Fel­lows par­take in sem­i­nars, group work and coach­ing ser­vices. These ses­sions — which have shift­ed online dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic — help par­tic­i­pants bol­ster their racial con­scious­ness and begin to iden­ti­fy solu­tions to dis­par­i­ties with­in the school system.

The pro­gram also involves a num­ber of activ­i­ties, includ­ing ask­ing fel­lows to draft a racial biog­ra­phy and engage in a Coura­geous Con­ver­sa­tion™ about race. The lat­ter exer­cise inspires par­tic­i­pants to explore how they formed their beliefs about race and how to sus­tain and deep­en con­ver­sa­tions on the topic.

REACH, which fol­lows the Casey Foundation’s Results Count® approach to lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, equips par­tic­i­pants to lead from their posi­tion in the sys­tem. Fel­lows pin­point fac­tors that con­tribute to racial inequity in their work, pro­pose strate­gies to reduce these gaps and mea­sure progress over time.

Rough­ly 26 dis­trict office staff have com­plet­ed or start­ed the pro­gram, which launched in 2018. These staff mem­bers rep­re­sent a range of divi­sions — includ­ing aca­d­e­mics, ath­let­ics, trans­porta­tion and staff recruit­ment — with­in the school system.

REACH is about help­ing city schools’ staff under­stand their con­tri­bu­tion to stu­dent out­comes and how they can show up and per­form dif­fer­ent­ly to dis­rupt sys­temic inequities,” says Ash­ley B. Stew­art, who helped cre­ate the pro­gram and serves as exec­u­tive direc­tor of tal­ent and orga­ni­za­tion­al devel­op­ment in the school sys­tem’s Human Cap­i­tal Office. We must rec­og­nize that the ways in which we are con­tribut­ing to a sys­tem that is designed to get the results it’s cur­rent­ly get­ting — which are inequitable and pre­dictable by race,” says Stew­art, a for­mer senior asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion. To change this, we need to start with peo­ple and their racial con­scious­ness and ulti­mate­ly how they approach their work.”

Chang­ing the Work

William Morant, direc­tor of tal­ent man­age­ment for the Human Cap­i­tal Office, says the REACH pro­gram helped him think dif­fer­ent­ly about how he helps var­i­ous schools and depart­ments that are look­ing to hire staff. For instance, for schools and pro­grams look­ing to diver­si­fy, Morant says he start­ed recruit­ing more heav­i­ly from his­tor­i­cal­ly black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties and trade groups that serve diverse pro­fes­sion­als. Morant’s team also launched dig­i­tal media cam­paigns that aimed to pro­mote new teacher and staff open­ings to peo­ple of color.

I cred­it heav­i­ly my par­tic­i­pa­tion in REACH with spark­ing these ideas and giv­ing me the tools to exe­cute them,” Morant says.

Jacque Hay­den, who serves as the instruc­tion­al lead­er­ship exec­u­tive direc­tor for Bal­ti­more schools, says REACH prompt­ed her to build a pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment mod­el that includes more teacher obser­va­tions by prin­ci­pals along with coach­ing and feed­back. Hay­den — who over­sees 15 prin­ci­pals and coor­di­na­tors work­ing in West and South Bal­ti­more — hopes the mod­el will result in bet­ter aca­d­e­m­ic out­comes for the pre­dom­i­nant­ly African-Amer­i­can stu­dent body at these schools.

REACH helped me find my voice and under­stand how my work can dri­ve equi­table out­comes in the school sys­tem,” Hay­den says. I hope that more school sys­tem lead­ers ben­e­fit from the program.”

The fel­low­ship is open to man­agers and project lead­ers in the school system’s cen­tral admin­is­tra­tive office. Appli­cants must be plan­ning to serve the school sys­tem for at least three years after com­plet­ing the program.

We are pleased to sup­port this fel­low­ship, which is stok­ing much need­ed con­ver­sa­tions and vital lead­er­ship devel­op­ment for Bal­ti­more City Pub­lic Schools,” says Gena O’Keefe, a senior asso­ciate at the Casey Foun­da­tion. Often­times, it’s dif­fi­cult for indi­vid­u­als to see how they can make change in large pub­lic sys­tems. We hope this pro­gram helps pro­vide indi­vid­u­als with tools and per­son­al sup­ports — and that it inspires them to con­tribute to larg­er cul­tur­al and sys­temic changes that are vital­ly needed.”

Check out the Casey Foundation’s Race Equi­ty and Inclu­sion Action Guide

Learn more about Results Count

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