Pacific Education Group meets with faculty, staff to build conversations about diversity


Ellie Findell

Pacific Education Group shows St. Paul Academy and Summit School faculty how to conduct productive and safe conversations around diversity

Amodhya Samarakoon, RubicOnline Creative Design Manager

In a world of increasing diversity of all forms and growing conflict around these changes, discussions within the school community will increase and need faculty to facilitate them. Before classes began, the school faculty and staff met with the Pacific Education Group (PEG) to complete a “Beyond Diversity” workshop.

“Everybody who worked at SPA was there, including the faculty and staff. We thought it was important for every adult working for SPA to work with PEG,” Head of School Bryn Roberts said.

PEG works with schools to train them in creating meaningful discussions that touch on diversity in a community made up of diverse individuals. The group focuses on addressing visible diversity such as race, but the key ideas are applicable to all types of diversity.

The PEG program…better equipped [our faculty and staff] to have these important conversations with students.

— Dean of Diversity Karen Dye

Upper School Dean of Diversity Karen Dye states that, while the experiences of those who face discrimination based on other forms of diversity are not discredited, the most obvious form of diversity is the social construct of race and therefore it was the workshop’s primary focus, but it was used as an umbrella to aforementioned other types of discrimination.  

“The goal is not just about teaching in diverse classrooms but to provide insight and tools for our community members to engage in dialogue around issues of diversity,” Dye, who was heavily involved in organizing the workshop, said. “The PEG program stepped this training up, by pushing our faculty and staff to get out of their comfort zones and speak from the “I” perspective to really examine ourselves and our own journeys and struggles with these issues in order to be better equipped to have these important conversations with students,” Dye said.

Although SPA was once was a school of mostly Caucasian students from the St.Paul area, it now contains a large range of students with varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds coming together from different areas within the Twin Cities.

“We are now a much more diverse and multicultural school than we were in the late 90’s,” Roberts said.

With an increasing number of people of color and different ethnicities entering the nation, the school’s faculty and student population will no doubt experience the same accelerated increase in diversity.

This program is especially relevant now also because of the difficult discussions around politics and police violence that could arise in classroom discussions throughout the year. Skills acquired from the workshop would aid in mediation of school discussions, making sure all voices are heard yet personal backgrounds are being respected. 

“And as we’ve become a more diverse school, we’ve talked more about diversity, about living with one another. I think the question arose to whether or not we were capable of having some of the conversations, around matters that can be touchy such as relationships between different races, processing the issues raised by Black Lives Matter, and how to think about living in a more pluralistic, diverse society,” Roberts said.

In order for students to have difficult discussions about topics that are so personal to much of the community, the teachers and staff involved in these conversations must also understand their own feelings about the issue and be able to manage these interactions in a conscious and safe way.