Hi Ali, I grew up in St.Louis in the 60’s and 70’s. I attended University City public schools. Just a few miles south of Ferguson, U. City was then the only integrated district in St. Louis County. I graduated in 1976. My dad went to Lawrenceville and my mom to a private girls school in Manhattan so exclusive she didn’t realize it until much later. They were determined that we would go to public schools. I am now the head of an American School in Madrid, Spain. My model of a truly diverse school is still U. City. I have kids from 60 countries at my school. I have all kinds of cultures and all religions, but basically, they have, as one parent told me at the Senior reception, more in common with one another than with kids in their home countries. They are the socio-economically agile and flexible, the globally gifted. True diversity, the kind that does nourish the soul of a dynamic, vibrant, and empathetic democracy looks like the school your kids attend.
My classmates from U. City High still recall the bond, the unity, that despite all our differences made us who we are today. We knew we had something special just because we were together. It is even clearer today just how special true inclusion is. I was a special education teacher in Maine before moving overseas. I lived for years in South Africa. I know the costs of separateness or apartheid. We are trying to build the ethos of diversity into our school now. Instilling the habit of reaching out and of including. It won’t show up on the test scores and the data driven won’t find it on a spreadsheet but when it is there you know it and when it goes, none of the rest of all the accomplishments and accolades means a thing. Carry on. It’s the right thing to do no matter what the numbers say.