Haven Works With Diversity Consultant


Maddie Marks, Editor-in-Chief

March 6, 2019’s three-hour early dismissal was not just for the fun of it.
After the majority of students left on that Wednesday, diversity expert Dr. Philip McAdoo spoke with students and teachers about diversity and acceptance in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District.
Dr. McAdoo is an educator and activist (and former Broadway actor) who has published several books. He frequently visits institutions such as schools and workplaces to discuss issues of race, gender, and sexuality. He was hired by Strath Haven administration to facilitate discussions between members of the high school community, paying specific attention to how to communicate concerns of the students to teachers and administrators.
The half day on March 6, however, was not the first time Dr. McAdoo came to Strath Haven. He entered the Strath Haven community much earlier this year as a part of the widespread objective to make WSSD more accepting and accessible, especially for minority groups.
In the School Board minutes from the February 25, 2019 meeting, Dr. Brown discussed one of his goals for the year, “Equity, Access, and Excellence.” He emphasized the importance of positive school climate and cultural competency at Strath Haven.
With this objective in mind, Dr. McAdoo enters the picture. On October 8, 2018, the district held a Symposium with Dr. McAdoo to discuss the goal of Equity, Access, and Excellence. This professional development meeting was met with “incredibly positive” feedback, according to Dr. Brown.
The success of the Symposium encouraged the administration enough to want to continue working with Dr. McAdoo. At that meeting on February 25, Dr. Brown announced that Strath Haven would continue meeting with Dr. McAdoo, with six professional development opportunities lined up for faculty in addition to community and student listening sessions.
So far, there have been a couple of meetings with Dr. McAdoo. March 6 was one of the first times he met with students, and a lot of people have voiced positive reactions to working with him.
“I think the meetings are a great step forward in the right direction as we begin to discuss the issues within our school district and community that have been present for many years,” said junior Corey Higgins. “The meeting also shows that the school is actively trying to better the school environment and relationship between students and teachers.”
One of the reasons these meetings proved so successful to students is because they approached the issue of diversity and discrimination very comprehensively, which allowed everyone to experience new and different perspectives.
“The meetings definitely opened the eyes of people who don’t normally recognize the racial tension happening in school,” said freshman Mehki Williams. “It also gave a platform for people to open up and share their own thoughts.” Williams emphasized the importance of realization and understanding in addressing social issues at the school.
Students generally thought highly of Dr. McAdoo himself as well. According to junior Sybilla Moore, “He seems like a good person for the job. He handles tense situations well and tries to listen to everybody.” Freshman Zoe Feinberg echoed this sentiment, saying “Dr. McAdoo was really receptive of all our thoughts.”
Feinberg continued on to say that “Because the first meeting was to basically find out what needed to be talked about in future meetings, it was encouraging to know that what we were saying would be brought up and considered.”
Since the meeting on March 6, there have been multiple follow-up meetings with Dr. McAdoo that included more discussion between students, teachers, and administrators. Dr. McAdoo is coming to Strath Haven for another meeting the week of April 29.
However, while many students agree that this emerging program is necessary, they still have concerns about its effectiveness.
“In my opinion, I don’t think that the climate has necessarily changed,” said Williams, who then went on to explain that while the meetings did bring some new perspectives to the table, there are other necessary steps that need to be taken in order to “unite us as a school.”
Higgins brought up a similar point to Williams, saying, “I think Haven has a lot of room for improvement addressing the issues with diversity in the school that students have.” Because the meetings have started out with smaller groups of students and faculty, many agree that they haven’t quite seen the effects of the meetings on school climate yet.
Moore also explained that she wishes there was a little more action “in school policies, in teacher accountability, in student punishments for these [discrimination] issues, in access to a gender-inclusive bathroom, et cetera.”
One of the biggest concerns from students, however, is how Strath Haven regards itself in terms of diversity issues.
“Haven has been really good with talk and statements and trying to look liberal and inclusive on the outside. […],” Moore continued. “But I think the school needs to just say that we’re a mess rather than keep saying ‘we’re working on it.’ I think that’s a starting point that needs to happen.”
Echoing that idea, Feinberg explained that, “Overall, Haven has a reputation for being a great, accepting place. And I believe that for the most part, it is. But there are always going to be people who are rude and unaccepting.”
Even so, the majority of students agree that the work the school is doing with Dr. McAdoo is a step in the right direction. Feinberg finished by saying that the meetings with Dr. McAdoo have been very beneficial in helping to make Strath Haven “a more socially aware environment.”