The Rochester City School District is conducting a week long leadership summit consisting of national speakers, educational seminars and personal introspection.
The five-day summit will focus on following the District’s priority areas: educational equity, relational capacity, innovation, accountability and coherence.
Dr. Joy DeGruy was one of the keynote speakers. She is an educator, lecturer and author who gave a presentation on Culture Specific Models of teaching, as well as the importance of understanding historical trauma, teaching children to live authentically and building relationships between students and educators.
"If we don't develop and build those relationships that say I have value and you care about me and I'm safe with you and I can be myself with you, then it's very difficult to learn."
Her teachings focus on the axiology or values of different cultures, and how understanding these can aid in building those relationships.
"Our children, particularly African American and Latino children are raised in an environment where relationship is primary. It becomes very critical. In these very same communities, with these children what you'll hear when you know you're doing it right as an educator is you'll hear them make you an honorary family member. This is my second mom, this is my auntie."
Degruy has visited and worked in a number of Rochester City schools, saying at first her methods were met with resistance, some thinking that focusing on one group of students meant neglecting another. But at the core, she says the community, staff and administrators have opened up.
"I don’t think there’s any mistake that what's going on in the country is also forcing people to show up on a different level. They want to say I'm not that, I don’t want to be that negative element. It used to be okay just to say I'm a good person, but it isn’t anymore."
Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams said honest conversations and seminars like these are important, especially with the school year right around the corner.
"Given what’s happening in our country right now, I think we need to be prepared to talk openly and honestly with each other so that we can be prepared to talk to our students and answer their questions as well."
The first day of school for the Rochester City School District is September 6th.