Community Dialogues has Long-term Impact
Becky Shuster, co-author of the YWCA Boston Community Dialogues curriculum, frequent dialogues co-facilitator, and parent, has seen a lot of changes at the Roosevelt School in Hyde Park since the first dialogues began there in 2010. The first Boston Public School to host a dialogue series, four series have now been held and a fifth is planned for the spring. In each five-session series, parents, teachers, and administrators discuss ethnic and racial diversity and its effects on their community.
“The quality of relationships is much better now. By talking about issues of race we’re removing a key barrier, so we are able to get to know each other and care for each other more deeply, both on the playground and in the community.” Becky shared how school parents came together to support a family who was struggling to feed and clothe their kids. “What the community produced was extraordinary.”
In addition to stronger relationships, the Roosevelt School has achieved an increase in the number of teachers and administrators of color—from 9 percent African American staff in 2010 to 14 percent in 2013, and 1 percent Hispanic to 7 percent—and a dramatic increase in the number of parents of color involved in the Parent Council and the Site Council. When Becky first arrived at the Roosevelt, the Parent Council officers were all white, despite the fact that two-thirds of students are of color. “Two years ago we had two women of color as co-presidents, and last year one was African-American and the other was white. The tide has turned.”
YW Boston seeks to close the educational achievement gap, and Becky says at the Roosevelt School, “there is no difference in test results between the black boys and the white girls.” She is confident that the dialogues, and other improvements that rose directly out of the dialogues, were a key factor in that shift. Becky also noted that at the Roosevelt, “you see children making friends across race more than at other Boston public schools.” Community Dialogues are transforming the Roosevelt School and many other partner organizations.