Episode #276: Nadia Bennett

Dana GoodierOut of the Trenches Podcast

Nadia Bennett is a school turnaround strategist and former educational leader that made huge strides in the New Jersey education system during her 15+ years of service. During her time as a school leader, she was able to double the success rate of English Language Arts (ELA) test scores in her students, increase student attendance and boost teacher retention. In 2017, as principal of the Simon Gratz Mastery Charter School, the school topped the Philadelphia Charter School Performance Profile. Even the New Jersey Department of Education said she was responsible for “restoring faith in a district that had taken a turn for the worse.”

Nadia has been in the trenches and took everything she learned while she was in the school system and founded When Brown Girls Lead™, an education consulting firm that specializes in creating psychologically safe, authentic and brave spaces for black women to access and succeed in K-12 leadership roles. What she and her team accomplish is monumental, but here is a glance at what they provide: antiracism training, 1:1 leadership coaching, and leadership development. 

Trenches story: helped turn around one of Philadelphia’s most dangerous schools. Simon Gratz Mastery Charter School- was on dangerous list for 20+ yrs. Started as teacher, then AP, then principal. Came out due to innovation, patience, not just following a script. Org needed ppl willing to pivot. Attendance increased. Beginning of her leadership 

How to start the work if you’re district is currently not doing- how to start w/in your classroom: It’s an internal and mental shift. Black & Brown students are often underserved. In N Philly she got to see it firsthand. Racism gave them things that, she learned she has a gift. Practical aspect is- forge by fire. When thrown into difficult work, there are things you have to learn. Most leaders don’t have to learn it. 

You can start in your classroom reading Zaretta Hammond, etc. How to create change w/in your local sub-control. It’s hard work as a teacher to create that change if management doesn’t embrace it.

Increasing Black Representation in School Leadership and Why It’s Important. She’s working on her dissertation, only 1.5% superintendents are Black / female. Topic is “lived experiences of Black female leaders”. Black women are disappearing in #’sThere’s also a lack in the diversity data in staff. Teaching & leading staff. Good #’s of deans, school counselors, etc. are Black. It’s another form of bias. She doesn’t use the term “people of color”, 1 group can get lost in the shuffle. It’s good to know how the #’s are changing. If it’s the person choice to not do it. Ppl aren’t necessary making the choice to not be in leadership. It’s often white male. 

1)Does your teaching/leadership staff reflect the student body? 

2) Assess the HR department, see that implicit bias isn’t playing out. Are they all white? You need to become aware of biases you can’t see. 

3) any paras you can build up? Build relationships w/ HBCU’s. Which org can help? Center for Black Education-led by Sheriff ElMekki. 

Some harrowing statistics in 2021 found that only 7% of the teaching population, and 15% of school leadership, identified as African American. Nadia would love to discuss 3 ideas that challenge the status quo in education, along with actionable steps to make each a reality for the future of our students, such as seeking out a diverse talent pipeline or even providing mentorship and networking opportunities.

4 Management Skills Every School Leader Should Have Before Effective Anti-Racist Work Can Begin.

If a school isn’t functioning well, beginning anti-racist work will fall flat. Don’t start w/anti-racist work YET! Maybe your school leadership team isn’t even ready to discuss being an anti-racist school. Perhaps there are still some management fundamentals that need to be established before change can take place. Do they have goals for the school year? Are they managing those goals? Can they strike balance w/ accountability? Much like building a house, you can’t begin the build without the foundation and frame. The foundation is your drive and awareness that change is necessary, and these management skills, like managing schedules, competing priorities and the art of having difficult conversations, are the frame of the house that Nadia builds

Want to have leaders who know how to lead. Are they supporting the teachers effectively? There needs to be a well-functioning team. Resetting staff culture? -racism isn’t something you want to fall flat. We can speak a bit about affinity groups. Make sure your staff knows you value them as people. Do they know you see & value them? are you remaining collaborative? Give a survey that shows why people were displeased. Ppl are experiencing frustration w/ A,B,C, try to solve the problem, is this a skill or will issue? Do the staff really want to be there? Skills you can build. 

Out of everything: There should be no fear in diversity, racism, inclusion work. Fear is natural. Remember the why. Click To Tweet

Where can ppl find you? she has resources at www.nadiabennet.com/podcast -sign up for free resource on anti-racism. IG @whenbrowngirlslead

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/dmgUzJZMrfU




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