​What Does It Take to Create Diverse Schools? Meet the Pioneers Making...

Diversity and Equity

​What Does It Take to Create Diverse Schools? Meet the Pioneers Making It Happen

from NewSchools Venture Fund

By Arielle Rittvo Kinder     Nov 27, 2017

​What Does It Take to Create Diverse Schools? Meet the Pioneers Making It Happen

Despite progress in integrating American schools following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, U.S. schools are less diverse today than in the 1960s. But as schools have grown more homogenous, our country has only become increasingly diverse. Struck by this contrast, a number of school leaders in the NewSchools portfolio have taken up the challenge to create schools that reflect the “melting pot” that is America. They are leading the field in creating intentionally diverse schools—those designed for racial, income and cultural diversity.

These leaders are not only creating more diverse school environments, they are preparing students for their futures as members of a diverse community. We recognize the value of supporting this work and are excited to release a new report, “Creating an Intentionally Diverse School: Lessons Learned.” We hope others who are creating intentionally diverse schools in their communities can benefit from what some of our ventures have learned. This report is the result of interviews with school leaders in our portfolio who are pioneers in this work, and they all have their own inspiring stories to share about why their diverse school communities mean so much to them.

The school leaders we interviewed expressed three key takeaways for creating an intentionally diverse school:

  1. Creating a culture of belonging
  2. Recruiting targeted populations
  3. Reducing barriers to enrollment

Dig into the full report to learn more about each of these, and to meet the pioneers featured in the report below.

KASAR ABDULLA Valor Collegiate Academies

“Global awareness means being able to succeed in diverse environments. We are teaching [our students] to be professional with people that have different beliefs and perspectives.”

Ms. Abdulla is the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Valor and is a Valor founding member. She enjoys educating families about their school choice options and getting to know Valor families. Ms. Abdulla has been a Nashvillian for more than 20 years and is a native of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. A long-time social-justice educator, advocate, and organizer since experiencing life in a refugee camp with her family, Ms. Abdulla has received numerous honors for her community activism in Nashville. President Obama named her a Champion of Change in September 2013 for her work on immigrant integration in Tennessee. Ms. Abdulla has been featured in Nashville Public Television’s “Next Door Neighbor,” the Nashville Scene’s “The People Issue 2010,” SplashLifeMagazine’s “30 Under 30: Civic Leaders,” and featured in the StyleBluePrint Magazine’s 2016 “Faces of Nashville.”

NICOLE ASSISI, ED.D. — Thrive Public Schools

“We are learning to live together, to give everyone a sense of belonging in the community and to ensure that everyone has a voice.”

Dr. Assisi is an accomplished school developer and leader in 21st century learning. In 2014, she launched Thrive Public Schools, a new breakthrough model for innovative learning in K-12 schools. Thrive is the result of years of research, experience and collaboration with some of the nation’s finest educators. In less than two years, Thrive was named one of the top 100 Schools Worth Visiting by Getting Smart and is a Next Generation Learning Challenges grantee for its innovative use of project-based, blended and social emotional learning. Prior to leading Thrive, Dr. Assisi was part of the founding teams for both Camino Nuevo Charter Academy and the Da Vinci Schools in Los Angeles. She also worked in the San Diego Unified School District and at High Tech High. In 2014, Dr. Assisi was named Voice of the Year by the Voice of San Diego. In 2016, Dr. Assisi was recognized at California Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s fourth annual Salute to Women Leaders, and named one of the “40 Under 40” by the San Diego Metro Magazine.

CHRISTINA CANAVERAL New School of San Francisco

“It’s not just that our school is diverse, it’s that we are talking about equity and privilege and making sure our students, our faculty and administration, and others in the community are having those intentional conversations as well.”

Christina is the Director of Community at the New School of San Francisco. She has more than 15 years of experience in parent engagement, youth development and education policy work both in the States and abroad. She has had the opportunity to work with long standing San Francisco organizations, such as Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth.

JOSH DENSEN Bricolage Academy

“We are advancing equity, developing empathy and catalyzing creativity.”

Josh Densen is the CEO and School Leader of Bricolage Academy, a New Orleans charter school with the mission of advancing educational equity and creating innovators who change the world. Josh began his career as a Teach for America corps member in Oakland, California in 2000. He relocated to New Orleans to open and lead the local office of The Achievement Network in 2009, a position he held for two years before starting to work on Bricolage, which opened in 2013. Bricolage Academy currently serves grades Kindergarten through 3rd grade and will extend to 8th grade by 2019.

DAVID RICHARDSGrowth Public Schools

“What does my four-year-old need in 15 years? He needs to know and understand how to work with people who are different than him.”

David is the Founder & CEO of Growth Public Schools—a charter management organization of K-8 schools in Sacramento, CA. He has been working with kids and communities for over 20 years as a teacher in Latin America and the U.S., a special education consultant, a curriculum writer, a principal, a board member for Voices Language Academy, and most recently as the founding principal of Growth Public Schools. David started teaching in Oakland, where he was inspired to put students at the center and help them shape their own paths. Through his experience, he saw the power of designing a student–centered model and has brought this vision to Growth Public Schools.

At NewSchools, we want all students to graduate high school prepared to achieve their most ambitious dreams and plans. And that means students need more than just a solid academic foundation—they also need strong social and emotional skills, including the ability to thrive in the diverse country we live in. If you’re thinking about opening an intentionally diverse school—or any type of innovative school—NewSchools still has funding available.

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