Diversity Conference

From the Global to the Local
October 20, 2017
Four Points Sheraton, Norwood, MA


Designed to bring together people invested in creating and sustaining diverse, inclusive, and equitable communities within our independent schools. Join fellow independent schools professionals to celebrate advances and engage in the ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and social justice.


9:30 am - 10:30 am
Morning Keynote- The Global Perspective
Nontombi Naomi Tutu
"Truth and Reconciliation: Healing Wounds"

10:30 am - 11:00 am • Coffee Break

11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Morning Breakout Sessions - A

12:00 - 1:00 pm • Lunch

1:15 - 2:15 pm
Afternoon Breakout Sessions - B

2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Afternoon Keynote- The Local Perspective
Adam Foss


Breakout Session Descriptions

Morning Breakout Sessions - A

A1: Continued Conversation with Naomi Tutu

Join Naomi for continued discussion surrounding her work and the themes addressed in the opening keynote presentation.

A2: All Gender Dorms: The Story Behind the Headlines

You've seen the articles and heard the news that Andover and Exeter now have an 'All Gender Dorm' option for boarding students. How did the decision come about? Was there any backlash? How have the parents responded? Has the decision to offer this dorm option influenced the Schools' cultures? What were the key inflection points along the way as each school navigated its own path towards this decision? Hear from representatives from both schools as they describe each school's decision process. This session, while focused on the particular topic of supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students, will provide take aways for all schools as they navigate the complex terrain of making decisions around challenging topics in support of all students.

A3: Beyond Analysis: Teaching Students to Disrupt and Dismantle Racism

As educators, we have multiple opportunities to equip students with the skills, competencies, and dispositions they need to generate a more just society. Racism in particular, remains an ugly tear in the fabric of our society. In order for students to work to dismantle racism, they need at least three specific tools. First, the ability to analyze and deconstruct racist ideologies and forces, second a sense of agency that they can do something about racism and third, skills to push against racist forces. Yet in schools, we often only provide opportunities for analysis of racism or personal reflection. In this session, educators will have the opportunity to learn about the full range of tools that position students (K-12) to disrupt and dismantle racism and learn about strategies for cultivating each skill (skills for analysis, a sense of agency, skills for action) in students across all grade levels.

Aaliyah El-Amin, Harvard Graduate School of Education

A4: Using Boal's Forum Theater in the Classroom: Recognizing and Responding to Hate in Your School’s Culture

To what extent can theater serve as a powerful tool in raising awareness, creating dialogue and ultimately, shifting a school’s culture? Using Boal's Forum Theater in the classroom can lead to passionate, engaged student work. Through research, data collection and script-writing, students investigate issues surrounding equity, inclusion and diversity on campus. This past year, at Worcester Academy, students presented their work at a full faculty and staff meeting. The session created difficult conversation, compassion and empathy for the student's lives and most importantly, a renewed determination to be agents of change on campus.

Melinda Jaz, Worcester Academy

A5: Not the Way We Learned It: An Evolving Curriculum

Change requires board, administration, and faculty commitment and collaboration. Learn how Gordon classrooms changed as we transformed existing curriculum into a more relevant, multicultural, inclusive experience for our students. The new curriculum allows students to recognize and value multiple perspectives, enhance critical thinking skills, and develop empathy. Learn how Gordon’s board and administration created an institutional foundation for evolution, and leave with practical strategies to undertake a similar evolution at your school.

Minna Ham & Gabe Burnstein, The Gordon School

A6: Interrupting White Privilege in our Schools (also offered B6)

In this session, we will build on our knowledge of White Privilege, exploring ways that we see it manifesting in our schools. We will use our own experiences and school examples to gain insights about how white privilege damages our students, their parents and us, as educators. As we strive to heal from the system of racism, we will look at how we can interrupt and mitigate white privilege in our schools.

Fran Partridge, Racial Equity Consultant

A7: Diversity in the 21st Century (Bergeron)
Description coming soon.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions - B

B1: Who Gets to Tell Your Story? Intersectionality of Disability and Identity Formation

This session will explore identity through the lens of disability by examining issues such as implicit bias, ability privilege and ableism. Practical tools and suggestions will be offered so that diversity practitioners can help others overcome these challenges.

John Sharon, The Fenn School

B2: Holding Yourself and Your Group Accountable for Diversity Outcomes
Description coming soon

B3: NNSP Partnership

Description coming soon

B4: Transgender Panel

Description coming soon

B5: Preparing Faculty to Respond in Times of Racial Trauma

Over the past few years tragic, racially charged events have unfolded across the United States, commanding large-scale public attention. From the consistent killings of people of color by police officers, to the rhetoric of our political leaders, students are often in the position of attending school immediately following a racially traumatic event. Research shows that racial trauma, either from an isolated incident or sustained experience can have a negative impact on health, identity and academic performance. The impact of racial trauma is further compounded when individual teachers or whole faculties fail to acknowledge or respond to these events. This session will provide an overview of the literature on racial trauma and provide ideas for how faculty can support students during these times. This session will also discuss how those charged with DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) work can develop their faculty to respond appropriately in their classrooms during or after racially traumatic events.

Aaliyah El-Amin, Harvard Graduate School of Education

B6: Interrupting White Privilege in Our Schools (also offered in A6)

In this session, we will build on our knowledge of White Privilege, exploring ways that we see it manifesting in our schools. We will use our own experiences and school examples to gain insights about how white privilege damages our students, their parents and us, as educators. As we strive to heal from the system of racism, we will look at how we can interrupt and mitigate white privilege in our schools.

Fran Partridge, Racial Equity Consultant

Speaker Bios

Nontombi Naomi Tutu

The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of Nontombi Naomi Tutu’s life as an activist for human rights. Those experiences taught her that our whole human family loses when we accept situations of oppression, and how the teaching and preaching of hate and division injure us all. In her speeches she blends this passion for human dignity with humor and personal stories.

Tutu is the third child of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nomalizo Leah Tutu. She was born in South Africa and had the opportunity to live in many communities and countries. She was educated in Swaziland, the US, and England, and has divided her adult life between South Africa and the US. Growing up the “daughter of...” has offered Naomi Tutu many opportunities and challenges in her life. Most important of these has been the challenge to follow her own path and role in building a better world. She has taken up the challenge and channeled the opportunities she has been given to raise her voice as a champion for the dignity of all.

Her professional experience ranges from being a development consultant in West Africa to being program coordinator for programs on race & gender and gender-based violence in education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as program coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, and was a part of the Institute’s delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.

She started her public speaking as a college student at Berea College in Kentucky in the 1970s when she was invited to speak at churches, community groups, and colleges and universities about her experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa. Since that time she has become a much sought-after speaker to groups as varied as business associations, professional conferences, elected officials, and church and civic organizations.

As well as speaking and preaching, Naomi Tutu has established Nozizwe Consulting. Nozizwe means “Mother of Many Lands” in Xhosa and is the name she was given by her maternal grandmother. The guiding principle of Nozizwe Consulting is to bring different groups together to learn from and celebrate their differences and acknowledge their shared humanity. As part of this work she has led Truth and Reconciliation Workshops for groups dealing with different types of conflict. She also offers educational and partnership trips to South Africa for groups as varied as high schools, churches, hospices, K-12 teachers, and women’s associations. These trips emphasize the opportunities to share our stories and experiences.

Nontombi Naomi Tutu plans to pursue a Masters in Divinity and is the single mother of two daughters and a son.

Adam Foss

Adam J. Foss is a former Assistant District Attorney in the Juvenile Division of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office (SCDAO) in Boston, MA, and a fierce advocate for criminal justice reform and the importance of the role of the prosecutor in ending mass incarceration. Mr. Foss believes that the profession of prosecution is ripe for reinvention requiring better incentives and more measurable metrics for success beyond, simply, “cases won.” As an in-demand speaker on criminal justice reform he promotes that prosecutors need better training to view each case through a lens of cultural competency, integrity, compassion and concern for the safety of the public, well-being of the victim and the betterment of the person charged with the crime.

Following graduation from Suffolk University Law School (Cum Laude) and initially considering a career as a public defender, Adam quickly realized becoming a prosecutor would allow him to make more of a positive difference in his community. One example of this positive difference is the Roxbury CHOICE program, an initiative that Adam co-founded, to turn probation from a punitive sentence into a beneficial relationship with the court, the probation department, and the District Attorney’s Office. He is also the founder of the SCDAO Reading Program, a project he started, to bridge the achievement gap of area elementary school students. Currently, Adam is developing a new diversion program for first-time juvenile offenders in the Suffolk County Juvenile Court, and he is designing training and curriculum for prosecutors to reframe their role in the criminal justice system. He is also developing plans for new software and data analysis to better inform prosecution offices of the individual and the best pathways toward justice and long-term safety.

In 2015, Mr. Foss received The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Excellence in the Law Up-and-Coming Lawyer Award and The National Law Journal Up-and-Coming Lawyer Award. In 2014, Governor Deval Patrick appointed Mr. Foss to his administration’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, a position he holds to this day. In 2013, the Massachusetts Bar Association recognized Mr. Foss with the Access to Justice Section Council Prosecutor of the Year Award. SCDAO selected Mr. Foss as the 2012 recipient of the Brian J. Honan Award recognizing excellence in the courtroom and a commitment to the communities he serves and he also received a commendation from the State House for those efforts. He is a proud mentor of students and a frequent guest speaker at the national non-profit Year Up.

Mr. Foss served as a panelist at the national MacArthur Foundation Models for Change Conference in Washington, DC speaking about juvenile justice reform. He has spoken at TED, Google Zeitgeist, Summit Series and The Atlantic’s Race and Justice Summit. In both his professional and personal capacities, Adam volunteers much of his time to the community he works in. As much time as he spends in the courtroom, he also spends visiting schools, community meetings and speaking engagements to hear what his community needs from their local law enforcement.

Gabe Burnstein & Minna Ham

Gabe Burnstein was born and raised in Plymouth, Michigan. After he earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan, Gabe taught seventh grade and was a junior high dean at Campbell Hall, an independent K-12 school in Los Angeles. Gabe has been teaching eighth grade humanities and coaching girls’ basketball at Gordon since 2008. He believes in teaching about social justice by connecting the head and the heart. He believes that thirteen and fourteen year-olds are capable leaders. He also believes in recess. Gabe enjoys spending time with his wife and children, writing, and participating in faculty vs. eighth grade soccer and basketball games.

Minna Ham...

Fran Partridge

Fran Partridge is a white woman with 20 years of racial equity experience, specifically in instructional leadership, educational practices and educational policy change. Most of Fran’s work has been within the educational system, as a teacher, instructional coach and mentor, as well as, most recently, an equity and race relations specialist. She has facilitated over 200 professional development sessions focused on implicit bias, racial identity, micro-aggressions and culturally responsive instruction. Fran also has experience co-developing strategic planning for racial equity work; analyzing data, developing assessment tools, providing guidance, and designing and facilitating high quality culturally responsive professional development based on adult learning principles. She holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Policy and Administration (M.Ed).

Jamie L. Bergeron, M.Ed

Jamie L. Bergeron, M.Ed has 10 years’ experience developing and executing strategies and ongoing initiatives which promote equity, diversity and inclusion in university contexts. She provides training and coaching to staff groups, supports affinity groups, develops curricular and co-curricular inclusion programs, assists in recruitment and representation efforts, and hosts K-12 college exploration programs. In addition to working toward institutional diversity outcomes, Jamie has served in university cultural centers providing direct support to students, and advocating for the needs and concerns of students and employees which hold marginalized or historically underrepresented identities. She holds an M.Ed. from University at Buffalo, SUNY; and a B.A. in Spanish Language, Literature & Culture from College at Brockport, SUNY.

Jamie is actively engaged in the local and national conversation regarding the rights of LGBTQA+ families. She currently serves as Board Chair for the national non-profit organization called COLAGE: For People with LGBTQA+ Parents & Caregivers, an organization with a 20+ year history representing and advocating for social and racial justice for queer families. She also serves on the New England Advisory Council at Family Equality Council, a support and legal advocacy organization for LGBTQA+ families. She presents widely at universities, professional associations, and community groups on diversity and inclusion topics, justice for LGBTQA+ families and youth empowerment.

John Sharon

Born with a rare physical disability, John Sharon was educated in independent schools from 1st grade onward, graduating high school from St. Albans School in Washington, DC. He graduated cum laude from Connecticut College with a degree in Government, and he holds a graduate degree from Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. He has taught in independent schools for more than 27 years, and for 19 of those years he has also worked as an administrator in various capacities. John is a frequent presenter at the National Association of Independent Schools’ Diversity Leadership Institute, and he has also worked extensively as a speaker and facilitator for the Anti-Defamation League’s “A World of Difference” program. He has been an adjunct faculty member for Independent School Management’s Summer Institutes, and has presented at and consulted with numerous schools throughout the country on issues relating to diversity, access, and ability privilege.

He is the Chair of the Social Studies Department at the Fenn School in Concord, MA, and is also the founder of Disabilities Understood, an organization that seeks to empower people of all abilities through education and training. John is a nationally licensed soccer coach and is a singer, songwriter, and harmonica player. He and his wife Amy live outside of Boston and have two almost-grown-up children.

Melinda Jaz

Melinda Jaz is an educator, director and teaching artist living in Westford, MA. She has over ten years of experience teaching high school theater and is deeply interested in the intersection between theater and equity, diversity and inclusion work. Melinda has her M.Ed from the Harvard School of Education with a focus on Arts Education. She has a BFA from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU where she studied with the Atlantic Theater Company. In NYC, Melinda performed with the Riot Theater Company, the Hardcore Theater Company and the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School. She also worked at the Public Theater, the Denver Center Theater Company and the Huntington Theater Company in Boston. She is currently the Director of Theater Arts at Worcester Academy in Worcester, MA.

Aaliyah El-Amin

Aaliyah El-Amin is a Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she teaches courses on disrupting racism and racial inequality. Her research interests focus on how schools can be places of liberation and intentionally work towards social and racial justice by equipping students with tools for analysis and activism. Dr. El-Amin is a former elementary school teacher, school Instructional Dean and Executive Director of Teach For America. She holds a B.A. in sociology from Davidson College, an M.A. in elementary education from Georgia State University and an Ed.M. in Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education as well as principal licensure from the University of Georgia. She is the author of several publications such as Critical Consciousness: A Key to Student Achievement.


Click here to register.


AISNE Member: $225 per person. $195 per person when three or more people register at the same time from the same school.

Non-AISNE Member: $350 per person.

Refund Policy:
A 50% refund will be issued when cancellations are received on or before Oct. 6th.

No refunds will be issued for cancellations received after Oct. 6.

Substitutions are always accepted.