The Double-Edged Sword of Diversity: Reframing Community Life Initiatives in Independent Schools

Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Dallas • Dallas, TX




Seats Left: 6

$2,830 Non-Member

Travel and accommodations not included

[$2,547.00 Gold Member]

This was an excellent workshop with great resources.

Todd Counter, Director of Admission
Oak Hill School, TN

Special team pricing: Only $2,337 for each additional attendee from your school! Call to register, 302-656-4944.

A major challenge to community building is the misconception that if individuals share a common environment, they also experience the world similarly. Research, however, suggests that we are all shaped by society in meaningful ways, which influences how we form our personal identity and interact with others.

Specifically in independent schools, the word “diversity” often ironically undermines inclusivity initiatives. First, diversity is often ill-defined, which creates confusion among groups regarding who’s included, goals, and benefactors of diversity initiatives. Secondly, diversity often represents an identity- something that one is--instead of a set of collective goals that unifies people from all backgrounds toward fostering a more equitable school community. As a result, many potential supporters express not feeling personally represented by diversity. Others may engage in this work through a lens of sympathy, well-meaning pity, or “savior” mindsets when their intent is meant to fuel empathy and deepen understanding. In short, it’s all very confusing!

Led by educational consultant Derrick Gay, this workshop will guide participants in an interactive journey employing a variety of interactive strategies, discussions, individual reflection, viewing of current documentaries, and media articles. The intentional creation of a safe learning environment allows participants to process and reflect on individual and institutional assumptions, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors with the goal of providing concrete skills to foster a more inclusive school community.

Who Should Attend:

Anyone interested in fostering a more inclusive independent school community. During our discussion we will have multiple opportunities to differentiate learning based on experience as well as meet in job-alike groupings.

How you benefit:

  • Get concrete resources to inform articulating your vision around diversity and inclusion
  • Learn about proven effective best practices in other independent schools
  • Begin to assess your school’s needs and potential resources to realize your community goals
  • Learn more about your own identity and how you perceive others. Insights that will both benefit fostering an inclusive school and support your leadership effectiveness
  • Join networks of other independent school educators reflecting deeply on these critical issues of community life

What we cover:

  • Explore identity and how we perceive others
  • Define and reframe “diversity”
  • Deepen understanding of the power of words and language to include/exclude
  • Learn more about concepts to foster inclusive communities
  • Explore stereotypes and the ways in which they undermine academic gains and community
  • Learn about implicit bias and micro aggressions
  • Does your school need a director of diversity? We will discuss.

Q&A with Derrick

Considering the term "diversity," what does it mean in independent schools?

As I argue in my Tedx talk, the irony with conventional independent school framings of inclusion work is that the word "diversity" often undermines the intentions of diversity. In the 18 years that I have worked in independent schools as a teacher, musical director, advisor and senior administrator, I have seen this word serve as a double-edged sword in independent school communities. On the one hand, schools look to embrace diversity as an affirmation of their mission and tangible evidence of their rhetoric around fostering an inclusive community; on the other, these same schools, ironically, eschew diversity as it triggers visceral emotions of divisiveness, guilt, and segregation that they perceive to be antithetical to fostering cohesive communities. How, then, do educators reconcile these differences to foster inclusive communities.

What makes this different from other diversity courses?

My current work is informed by my experience doing diversity work as an internal practitioner. When I worked in independent schools, I often sought external speaker to advance inclusivity initiatives. I invited knowledgeable scholars, researchers, social activists and other experts to facilitate faculty development, parent workshops and work with students. The challenge was that these presentations often didn't resonate with various constituents because it became painfully clear that the speakers had never lived in a K-12 independent school. Without deep teaching and independent school experience, speakers would fall apart during faculty Q and A.

Independent school faculties are committed, intelligent and master teachers. They pose insightful and nuanced questions and crave concrete tools and frameworks to enrich teaching and learning. Similarly, parents want meaningful advice for their children. And students can smell a non-teacher a mile away. I soon realized that there was no one doing this work who possessed the critical components necessary to be effective: deep teaching and administrative experience, content knowledge of community life scholarly literature, organizational development tools to effective implement initiatives and deep institutional knowledge of independent schools.

After 12 years of teaching and serving as an administrator, I decided that I would feel this void: serve as a resource and repository of best practices to foster inclusive independent school communities. I have been fortunate to serve scores of schools, domestically and abroad to foster empathy, cultivate cultural competency and deepen inclusion. In a 21st century global society, these skills are a non-negotiable and not cultivation these habits of mind and knowledge is a disservice to our students and families.

How will participants benefit from attending?

My hope is that participants will leave the workshop with a new understanding and reframing of diversity from serving as an identity representing historically-marinalized groups to a critical 21st century competency that we all need-- especially students-- to thrive in a global society.

To learn more about Derrick, visit

staff photo derrick gay

Derrick Gay, Ed.D.
Educational Consultant

Derrick Gay is an educational consultant with 18 years of independent school experience. Currently, he serves as a resource to schools domestically and abroad to foster more inclusive communities. Previously, he taught ESL and music at The Masters School; taught French and Spanish at Wilmington Friends; taught Spanish and led diversity initiatives at Groton; served as Dean of Students in Paris at the Oxbridge Program; and served as Director of Community Life and Diversity and Nightingale Bamford, in addition to teaching Spanish and conducting musicals.

Dr. Gay has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, El Tiempo Latino and on NPR, The Brian Leher Show, and 60 Minutes. Dr. Gay has also produced two TEDx Talks: "The Double-Edged Sword," which explores the irony that the word diversity often undermines diversity goals ; and "Why Elephants Hold the Key to Success in the 21st Century," which explores the nature of racial discourse in the United States. In addition to his direct work in the nursery-12th grade world, Dr. Gay also advises Sesame Street; KIPP Foundation; Peabody Conservatory; American Montessori Society; and the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust Foundation. He is also serves as a Board Member of The Caedmon School and The National Guild for Community Arts Education.

Derrick is leading The Double-edged Sword of Diversity: Reframing Community Life Initiatives in Independent Schools for ISM.

Derrick holds a BM from Oberlin Conservatory in Opera, a BA from Oberlin College in Romance languages, an MA from the Klingenstein Program at Columbia and his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvannia. Derrick is also an avid traveler and is fluent in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.

Workshop Schedule

The workshop will begin at 8 am on the first day, and conclude at noon on the third day. A detailed schedule will be posted shortly.

Workshop Location
Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Dallas
1600 Pacific Ave.
Dallas, TX 75201

Group hotel reservation rate of $189 is available until February 7, 2018. Subject to availability. Please wait until the workshop status is 'confirmed' before making your travel and hotel arrangements.

Once you have registered for a workshop, please make your reservations online here or by calling 713-961-1500 and letting them know you are with ISM to get the special $189 rate (based on availability). The deadline for the ISM rate is February 7, 2018.

For more details about the The Hilton Austin, visit

*If you are flying, DO NOT make any non-refundable arrangements until you receive notice from ISM that the workshop is confirmed to run.

Getting There

By plane and shuttle: The hotel is easily accessible to both Dallas Love Field (6 miles/22 min--Southwest Airlines home field) and Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport (20 miles/40 min). Subway/light rail, taxis, and other options for getting to the hotel are available.

By car: Click here for driving directions and other information.

Valet parking is $30 per day. In/out privileges for hotel guests are provided.

How will ISM communicate workshop information with me?

It is essential that your school approves the following e-mail addresses from ISM:


You will be receiving all communication—including your confirmation e-mail and access to your workshop's Google Drive account—from these e-mails.

What does my registration fee include?
All workshop materials, breakfasts, and lunches.

What is not included in my registration fee?
Hotel accommodations and travel expenses, other meals not noted.

What should I wear?
February temperatures average from a high of 60 to a low of 39. The classrooms and guest rooms are usually comfortable, but you may want to dress in layers in case the rooms are too warm or too cool for you. Dress is casual. Wear whatever is comfortable—jeans, sweat shirts, sweaters, etc. For current weather conditions, we recommend checking

What should I bring?
You’ll receive a letter from your workshop instructor letting you know what to bring.

Can my special dietary requirements be met?
Absolutely. Just give the Workshops Department a call at 302-656-4944, and we'll make sure your needs are accommodated.

Confirmation Policy
We will correspond with you through e-mail as soon as your workshop is confirmed, no later than two weeks prior to its beginning. Occasionally, we may be forced to cancel an unconfirmed, scheduled workshop due to insufficient registration. So we ask that you do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you receive notice that your workshop is confirmed. (ISM will not be responsible for any change/cancellation charges assessed by your airline or travel agent.)

Cancellation Policy

If circumstances change and you cannot attend the workshop, you must confirm your cancellation in writing via fax (302-656-0647) or email ( If you do so at least 10 business days prior to the start of the workshop, you can request a full refund of monies paid. Thereafter, but prior to the first day of the course, we will refund you all but $600. If you do not cancel in writing prior to the start date of the course, you will forfeit the entire workshop fee.

If you enroll using Consortium Credits, and cancel your attendance in writing at least 10 days prior to the start date of the workshop, all Credits will be returned to your school. Thereafter, but prior to the first day of the course, if you cancel, all but two of the Credits will be returned to your school. (You have the option of buying back those two Credits for $600.)

If you do not cancel in writing prior to the start date of the course, your school loses all the Consortium Credits used for payment.

Please note that non-payment of tuition does not constitute a cancellation. Failure to appear does not constitute a cancellation.

*We DO NOT accept enrollments from consultants.

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