Neubauer Fellows reflect on humanity—past and present—in our nation’s capital

Current and Senior Neubauer Fellows participated in a two-day professional development in Washington, DC, February 24-25, as an opportunity to advance their growth in the leadership competencies of Advancing Equity and Leading Authentically, two of Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders’ Leadership Levers.

The trip included experiences at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a workshop on Liberatory Workplace Culture facilitated by Lead for Liberation.

The experiences at the museums provided a poignant reminder of the spirit of humanity and the tragic consequences of an obsession with greed and power. Fellows drew connections to current events and emerged with a renewed sense of importance surrounding how they teach and lead children.

“We have a responsibility as principals to use education as a tool, not a weapon, to lift up children and to equip them with that tool,” said David McDonough, Principal of St. James School and 2022 Neubauer Fellow.

“Sometimes we forget the purpose of what we’re doing every day—we get lost in the grind of budgets and enrollment and everything,” said Nimet Eren, Principal of Kensington Health Sciences Academy and 2022 Neubauer Fellow. “Today is a reminder that the work we’re doing is literally a matter of life and death. I feel motivated to continue this work. This is about our students, this is about our country, this is about our world.”

The Liberatory Workplace Culture session led Fellows in examining the impact of personal identity in how they approach relationships and lead their schools. Through self-reflection and the identification of triggers and coping behaviors, Fellows arrived at implementable ways to break cycles within themselves and role model leadership and decision making that positively impacts students, staff, and school culture and breaks patterns reflected in white supremacy culture.

“This session greatly shaped the way in which I want to adjust my practices as a school leader,” said Christie Parfitt, principal of Jay Cooke Elementary School and 2022 Fellow. “I had the opportunity to examine the work culture at my school, and it was evident that I have work to still complete on myself, as well as my school culture in order to create a liberating space for all.”

“This work is ongoing,” said Wendy Baldwin, principal at Universal Creighton Charter School and 2020 Fellow. “Being given the opportunity to think and discuss my own beliefs and how that then impacts my day-to-day practices helps me to stay focused on being a disruptor.”

“This session invoked emotions, solutions, and starting points for Fellows to impact change in a positive way,” said April Brown, principal at Thomas K. Finletter Academics Plus School and 2020 Neubauer Fellow.

For many, the scheduled programming had a profound effect highlighting the immense impact principals have, not only on academic achievement, but on the belief systems—their own, their students’, and society’s—that influence learning and the realm of possibility for future generations.

“Since becoming a Neubauer Fellow, I have made considerable growth as a leader,” said Parfitt.  “However, it is the work around equity and disrupting white supremacy culture that has truly tapped into my leadership. I have grown much more comfortable as a leader as it pertains to taking steps toward disrupting unacceptable behavior. Without training on this topic, I would have never started this journey of growth.”