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Baruti K. Kafele    

Milken National Educator & Best-Selling Author

Principal Baruti Kafele, a highly regarded urban educator in New Jersey for more than 20 years, has distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, NJ, in addition to being named the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Principal Kafele was a finalist for New Jersey State Teacher of the Year and a recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence.

As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the turnaround of four New Jersey urban schools, including "The Mighty" Newark Tech—which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to national recognition, and which was recognized three times by U.S. News and World Report as one of America's best high schools.

Principal Kafele is one of the most sought-after school leadership and classroom equity presenters in America. He has delivered over 2500 conference and program keynotes, professional development workshops, parenting seminars and student assemblies over his 35 years of public speaking. In addition to writing several professional articles for popular education journals, he has authored twelve books, including seven ASCD best sellers. His next book, "The Assistant Principal Identity" was released in May, 2023.

Principal Kafele is the creator and host of the popular Virtual Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, streamed live every Saturday morning. He is the recipient of over 150 educational, professional and community awards which include the prestigious Milken Educator Award, the National Alliance of Black School Educators Hall of Fame Award, the East Orange, NJ Hall of Fame, recognition as one of the World’s Top 30 Education Professionals for 2020, 2021, 2022 & 2023 by Global Gurus Top 30 and the City of Dickinson, Texas proclaiming February 8, 1998 as Baruti Kafele Day.

Speech Topics

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Effective School Leadership

One of the current hot topics in education is "Diversity, Equity & Inclusion." This highly engaging, interactive, self-reflective workshop or keynote address focuses on school leadership relative to issues of diversity, equity & inclusion in their schools. It challenges school leaders to look within themselves relative to how they see, treat and relate with their staffs and students in these areas. It challenges school leaders to confront whatever biases they may bring to their own leadership practices which may be implicit or explicit. It argues that high-performance is an impossibility in school learning environments where the recognition of diversity coupled with equitable and inclusionary practices fail to exist. Principal Kafele will share strategies toward creating and sustaining equity and inclusion in a diverse student learning environment which will be inclusive of important conversations around race and cultural competence.

Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?

Based on Principal Kafele’s best-selling book, Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?, Principal Kafele will challenge each principal and assistant principal to examine their own leadership identity, presence, impact, mission, purpose, vision and value as the leaders of their schools, which will include discussions on whether or not they have in fact defined these leadership attributes within themselves. The entire workshop is highly engaging and interactive and the keynote is high-energy. It promises to inspire principals and assistant principals to think deeply and critically about their roles as leaders of their schools and whether or not their schools are better schools because they are the leaders of them. As Principal Kafele states in his opening, “My intent is to create discomfort, tension and uneasiness in the room. Inspiration lasts for a few hours. Discomfort, tension and uneasiness endure until they are corrected.”

It's Not Enough to "DO EQUITY"...You Must "BE EQUITY"

THE topic in education today is the topic of EQUITY. At its core, equity means, ""meeting youngsters where they are, as they are."" Principal Kafele argues that this requires a teacher who possess an “EQUITY MINDSET.” He asserts that if equity is all about meeting the individual needs of all of the learners in the classroom, “equity can’t solely be something THAT YOU DO.” He states emphatically that “equity must additionally be WHO YOU ARE.”

As a keynote address, Principal Kafele will deliver an inspiring and empowering message centered around developing an ""equity mindset"" toward ensuring the academic, social and emotional growth and development of all the learners in the classroom.

As a half or full day workshop (or series of workshops), Principal Kafele will assist the client with selecting the most appropriate of the following six strands for your school or district based upon need and length of session(s) as follows:

  1. Equity and the Reality of My Classroom One of the most important questions one can ask oneself regarding equity is, ""What is equity and does equity abound in my classroom?"" It's an important consideration for each and every classroom teacher. In this empowering, highly engaging strand, Principal Kafele will lead a discussion on what equity is and what it looks like, sounds like and feels like when implemented with fidelity in the classroom.

II. Equity or Equality? What's the Difference? In this empowering, highly engaging strand, Principal Kafele breaks down the difference between an “equity mindset teacher” and an “equality mindset teacher” while simultaneous comparing and contrasting an “equity mindset classroom” from an “equality mindset classroom.”

III. Equity and the Individuality of the Learners In this empowering, highly engaging strand, Principal Kafele makes the case that the individuality of each student matters. He will provide attendees with strategies toward ensuring that student individuality, student cultural identity and student “voice” play prominent roles within their schools and classrooms.

IV. Equity and Being a Culturally Responsive Practitioner In this empowering, highly engaging strand, Principal Kafele will provide attendees with strategies toward being culturally-responsive practitioners with a particular emphasis being placed on what students “see, hear, feel and experience” daily in their classrooms. He will assist attendees toward developing the necessary cultural competence toward engaging productively with diverse learners.

  1. Equity and Culturally-Relevant Pedagogy In this empowering, highly engaging strand, Principal Kafele will discuss the significance of culturally-relevant teaching and learning in a diverse student learning environment. He will make the case that toward making learning fun, stimulating and engaging, it must be relatable where students are afforded the opportunity of “seeing themselves” in the learning toward increasing the probability that they will see the relevance of what is being taught toward their lives.

VI. Equity and Me In this empowering, highly engaging strand, Principal Kafele will focus on the actions of the teacher in areas including but not limited to, “keeping the playing field level,” confronting implicit biases that may exist, and eradicating disproportionality. This session is all about ensuring that attendees always view their students and their practice through an “equity lens.”

Closing the Attitude Gap

The discussion on gaps in student achievement continue to be one of the most important discussions in education today; particularly as it relates to the underachievement of children of color. Equally challenging for educators is the continued lack of student motivation, undesirable student behaviors and the overall underachievement of at-risk student populations across racial and ethnic lines. In this highly engaging, thought-provoking workshop, Principal Kafele will assert that the greatest difficulty to closing the achievement gap is the overwhelming assumption that the achievement gap is in fact, the problem. He says that the achievement gap is a direct consequence of the failure to adequately address what he coined, the Attitude Gap (the gap between those students who have the will to achieve excellence and those who do not) that continues to persist in American classrooms. He will share with teachers how to close the Attitude Gap in their classrooms through a classroom equity framework comprised of the following five strands: Environment for Learning, Attitude toward Students, Relationship with Students, Compassion for Students and Relevance in Instruction.

3 Equity Nonnegotiables: Student Individuality, Student Cultural Identity, Student "Voice"

For the past ten years, the whole idea of equity in the classroom has evolved to unimaginable proportions…which is a good thing. One of the challenges however is the interpretation of what equity in the classroom actually is. There are a ton of interpretations and definitions out there. Rooted in Principal Kafele’s 34 years in education, he decided in 2020 to write The Equity & Social Justice Education 50 toward lending his voice to the discussion of what equity is and what it is not in America’s classrooms. Principal Kafele contends that any discussion, training, writing etc. on equity must contain, at a minimum, his “Three Equity Nonnegotiables” which are:

Student Individuality - Visible or Invisible? What is it about my role as an “Equity-Mindset Teacher” that the individuality of EACH of my learners (academically, socially and emotionally) is acknowledged, appreciated, respected and visible?

Student Cultural Identity - Accentuated or Denied? What is it about my role as an “Equity-Mindset Teacher” that the cultural / racial identity of EACH of my learners is acknowledged, appreciated, respected and accentuated?

Student “Voice” - Distinct or Obscure? What is it about my role as an “Equity-Mindset Teacher” that the “voice” of EACH of my learners is acknowledged, appreciated, respected and distinct?

In this high-energy keynote address or highly-engaging workshop, Principal Kafele will make the case that if true equity is to occur for EACH of the learners in the classroom, student individuality, student cultural identity and student “voice” matter exponentially.

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