Members of the Broad network gathered once again this year in New Orleans, Louisiana, for the Forum, a yearly reunion for education leaders across the country who completed one of The Broad Center programs. More than 180 alumni from The Broad Residency (TBR), The Broad Academy (TBA), the Fellowship for Public Education Leadership (TBF), and the Master’s in Public Education Management (TBM) heard from fellow education leaders and other thinkers and doers on the critical role of community-building and engagement for leaders, the difficult work of equity, and the importance of truth-telling. Appropriate to the theme of this year’s Forum, “The Power of Together,” many speakers over the two-day event shared observations about how their communities and networks power their own work and their leadership journeys.
Hanseul Kang (TBR 2012-14), executive director of The Broad Center at the Yale School of Management (TBC at SOM), opened the Forum by welcoming alumni as well as the new cohorts of Broad network members—the 2022-23 members of the Fellowship for Public Education Leadership and the first graduates of the Master’s in Public Education Management, who completed their program in August 2023.
Kang also shared important updates from TBC at SOM from the past year, including new work in the research and policy engagement areas of TBC at SOM’s mission. In spring 2023, TBC at SOM and the Annenberg Institute at Brown University convened a group of scholars who have made recent contributions to research on educational leadership to discuss what is currently known about the key role of the superintendency—and how to advance further understanding of effective school system leadership. Moving forward, Kang shared, TBC at SOM aims to be a leader in producing and sharing research about school system leadership and management that is applicable and actionable for practitioners in the field, as well as academically rigorous.
Listening and Learning Opportunities Focus on Equity and Community
Thursday’s keynote session featured a conversation between Laura Meckler, national education reporter for the Washington Post and author of Dream Town: Shaker Heights and the Quest for Racial Equity, and Kerwin Charles, dean of the Yale School of Management, on the ideals of racial integration and equity, as well as the challenges and realities of pursuing those ideals. The conversation touched on the difficulties of achieving “equity”—and the different visions for what that might look like—and the importance and role of ensuring that students feel a sense of belonging in their school.
Though Shaker Heights is not a perfect community, Meckler reflected that even the continued attempts over decades to reach integration and true equity offer some lessons on what progress might look like. In response to a question from Meckler about progress made nationally on labor and market outcomes for students of color, Charles shared insights on the need for continued advancements in college attainment, as well as the yet-unknown role of how AI will shape future labor markets. Broad network members asked questions of Charles and Meckler about the role of parents, activists, and communities on the project of equity and racial integration.
Friday morning opened with a panel of seasoned education leaders in the Broad network: Patricia Brantley (TBA 2017-18), chief executive officer of Friendship Public Schools in Washington, D.C.; Lamar Goree (TBA 2019-20), superintendent of Caddo Parish Public Schools in Louisiana; and Bill Hite (TBA 2005), president and CEO of KnowledgeWorks and superintendent-in-residence at TBC at SOM.
Panelists reflected on the importance of listening to team members and communities—especially if you disagree with them. “As a leader, the most important thing you have to remember is that good ideas don’t just come from your brain,” said Goree. “They are bringing a different perspective because they’ve had different experiences, and you need to be able to listen and figure out a way to move forward.”
All three leaders shared stories of difficult decisions that faced them and the role of authentic and deep engagement with the stakeholders most impacted, particularly communities of color and communities historically divorced from centers of power. During these challenging moments, the panel discussed how critical “the power of together” really is—whether that means the team of professionals you have recruited and cultivated, your network of mentors, or your friends and family. “My Broad community, especially, has shown me different ways to walk in this work,” said Brantley.
On Friday afternoon, Forum attendees were able to select from multiple breakout sessions on a diverse set of timely topics, all led by Broad alumni. These sessions ranged from addressing teacher shortages and increasing teacher diversity; to examining the extraordinary case of Sobral, Brazil, which achieved the highest performing school district in the country while having one of the highest rates of poverty; to developing “courageous learning communities” that foster excellence and contribute to a good society for all. Overall, alumni felt that the breakout sessions were an especially strong portion of Forum this year in their applicability and practicality.
“I loved the courageous learning communities session with Dr. Heidi Brooks—it was more like a workshop and felt very applicable regardless of what you are doing professionally right now,” said Lauren Dunn (TBR 2015-17). “And I loved that the leader was a Yale professor and it connected back to the Broad Center’s new home at Yale SOM.”
“The teacher apprenticeship session was very helpful for my personal work and in light of most districts’ struggle to fill vacancies. Opportunities to learn about policies, funding, and hear real-life stories from Broadies on implementation is a key highlight of convening for the Forum,” shared Veronica Harris (TBR 2015-17).
In the final session of the event, the group heard from novelist and professor Jesmyn Ward, most recently the author of Let Us Descend, a novel following the story of Annis, an enslaved woman and her journey through the deep South that draws on Dante’s Inferno and African mythology. In her lyrical keynote remarks, Ward talked about her grandmother, the first storyteller in Ward’s life, and the importance of truth-telling about the hard-to-look-at things in life: “Loving is bearing witness and writing about it,” said Ward.
Ward, who is the only woman and only African American person to win the National Book Award for Fiction twice, then sat down for a moderated conversation with Katina Grays (TBR 2012-14), deputy director of TBC at SOM. Ward answered questions from the audience and from Grays about her writing process, how to find joy while telling difficult and painful stories, and how to help young people fall in love with reading (answer: they need books in which they can see themselves).
Connecting over Leadership stories, Food, and Fun
Following a long-standing tradition, Broadies also heard three “leadership stories” from their peers—personal narratives about the values and experiences that shaped their lives and their unique approach to mission-driven work on behalf of students and communities. The opening Forum leadership story came from Becca Bracy, the longtime executive director of The Broad Center in Los Angeles; John Ribolzi (TBR 2012-14); and Natasha Trivers (TBF 2022-23) also shared their leadership stories.
In the evening, Broad alumni celebrated together, catching up over New Orleans-inspired hors d’oeuvres on Thursday night while the Michael Torregano, Jr. jazz trio played. On Friday, the group joined a spirited second line that paraded through the streets of the French quarter to The Chicory for dinner, networking, and merriment.
Themes of connection and community reverberated throughout the two-day Forum, showing that leadership is a collective undertaking and not a solo journey. Nathifa Carmichael (TBM 2022-23), joining for her first Forum, shared “I’ve learned that there are so many more of ‘my people’ out there… the work is important, but the people are everything.”
Monica Rosen (TBR 2004-06) reflected on the strength of the Broad network as TBC has transitioned to Yale SOM: “Our web is not going away, it’s growing. I leave here feeling energized and lit up to return to the work.”