Key Takeaways from the 2019 School Leaders of Color Conference

Three school directors at Color Conference 2019 -cropped

On February 8 and 9, Teach For America presented its 2019 School Leaders of Color Conference in Dallas, Texas. The conference was open to alumni school and school system leaders who identify as people of color. This year, there were close to 600 school leaders from across the nation in attendance.  

Among the YES Prep school leaders who attended were School Directors Jamie Downs from EisenhowerJennifer Greene from White Oak and James Mosley from North Forest (pictured above). Downs and Greene share about their experience and key takeaways from the conference. 

Choose Courage 

Green has attended this conference for the last five years and described her experience as powerful.  

I am constantly reminded that representation matters to the staff, community of learners and community of students. The theme of the conference was Choose Courage. Having the opportunity to learn from other leaders who have demonstrated courage in these historic times was incredibly inspiring. This James Baldwin quote summed it up perfectly ‘not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. As I think about the challenges I face daily as a school leader for White Oak, I realize that I need to constantly be reflective on the following questions:  

  • What does it look like to maximize my power and courage?  
  • What does it look like for me to lead courageously with a broad and diverse coalition?  
  • How can I continue to grow as a leader so that I may continue to have the most impact on the community of the students I serve? 

As a leader, I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to spend time at this annual conference asking myself these questions. It is rejuvenating. It is motivating. It is inspiring. I always come back with a renewed energy for the work. The work we do is hard. The work we do is necessary.

Being in a space with leaders who look like me fills my spirit and helps me be a better learner and leader. 

YES Prep is doing it right 

As for Downs, who has also attended Teach For America’s School Leaders of Color conference before, he shared what new ideas he brings back to YES Prep Eisenhower and his newly found appreciation for YES Prep. 

“I always walk away from this conference refreshed and energized thanks to the networking and idea-sharing that happens every year. This year, I was able to attend a session about parent engagement. This is a growth area for my campus, and I was able to learn some strategies that I believe will enhance parental involvement on my campus.  

“Another take away I had from the conference was just how great it is to work for YES Prep Public Schools. Listening to other attendees, it became very clear to me that YES Prep is ahead of the game in a lot of areas.

I came back to my campus even more affirmed that I’m working for the right organization.” 

Advancing Educational Equity 

Brie OlootuAnother YES Prep staff member who participated was Manager of Talent Acquisition Brie Olootu, who went as both an attendee and as an employer partner.   

It was truly humbling to be in the room with leaders that are driving change in education reform. Social justice is not just a buzz word; it is something that we are living daily. I left the conference feeling inspired and encouraged in the work that I do in Houston.  

As a Manager of Talent Acquisition, my team is responsible for recruiting dynamic and effective teachers and leaders to teach and lead our resilient students. We partner with Teach For America to place corps members on our campuses to advance educational equity across the system. It is a great joy of mine to connect with individuals and hear about their passion for improving student outcomes. This is my why. I feel that my role is influential in changing the trajectory of a student’s life.  

We need to continue to fight the good fight until one day every child will have access to a quality education regardless of race and zip code.

The test of our courage and conviction have never been greater. Our kids are counting on us. 

About the School Leaders of Color Conference 

As described by the conference hostsSchool and system level leaders are a critical lever in impacting the outcomes for kids. They have the profound impact of being able to both positively influence students directly and create the institutional conditions that make schools and systems more equitable at scale.  

School and System Leaders who identify as people of color have a particularly crucial role in the quest for educational equity and Teach For America’s network of school and systems leaders is representationally more diverse than the national average. Given that, we have a unique opportunity to convene this community through our 7th Annual School Leaders of Color Conference (SLOC). This year’s conference will be in Dallas and again will seek to provide a space for leaders of color to access strong professional development, inspire and connect with each other in a space not found elsewhere in the educational ecosystem. 


Join Our Team

YES Prep is always looking for talented people who want to make a positive difference in a child’s life and want to join our mission of preparing our students to be college-ready.

To learn about current job opportunities, instructional and non-instructional, click here 

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