Developing Equity-Centered Leadership in Education
Dr. Jen Benkovitz (she/her) brings over 25 years of experience in education to her role as Founder of The Leadership Collaborative. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she began her career teaching at a Title I magnet school in Charlotte, North Carolina, before serving as a school leader in a combination of rural, suburban and urban K-12 public schools in both North Carolina and Washington State. Jen also served as the Director of School Leadership for a national non-profit, where she provided school and district leaders with coaching and professional development to help them develop systems, processes and practices for leading adult learning, and implementing innovative, student-centered practices in their schools.
In each of her roles, it became increasingly clear to Jen that the inequities in our schools are created and upheld by systems that are designed to create and reproduce disproportionate outcomes and racial disparities. Jen’s focus on school transformation for equity and social justice, coupled with her passion for facilitating adult learning, motivated her to start The Leadership Collaborative, where she supports educators at all levels to identify, disrupt, and redesign systems that create inequitable outcomes for their students. She firmly believes that equity and social justice can only be realized through leadership that centers, celebrates, supports, and takes leadership from our most marginalized populations.
Jen’s fierce commitment to equity and social justice informs her approach to empowering educators to create and sustain systemic, transformational change in their schools. Her areas of expertise include building Antiracist “Communities of Practice”, Building Antiracist Learning Organizations, facilitating white racial affinity groups, creating and sustaining systemic, transformational change, and developing equity-centered leaders and teams.
Jen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Ohio University as well as a Master’s and Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her partner, teenage daughter, and multiple pets. When she’s not working, Jen can be found reading, listening to podcasts, soaking up sun at the beach, hiking local trails, and cheering on her daughter at local and national rock climbing competitions.
Our Mission in Education
We advance equity and social justice in our schools through transformational learning experiences that cultivate community, foster critical dialogue, challenge our assumptions, and mobilize systemic change.
Equity in education will be achieved when our schools are no longer designed to produce disproportionate outcomes based on one’s race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender identity or ability. This can require an unequal distribution of resources to redress the disparities that disadvantage these communities. We believe that centering race helps us disrupt and transform systems that negatively impact all marginalized groups, making it possible to achieve equitable outcomes for each learner.
Social justice in education is the outcome that would be achieved if power, access, opportunities, and deeper learning experiences were equalized for each student. Social justice is achieved through the intentional elimination and re-design of systems that reinforce and uphold oppressive policies and practices that have been intentionally (and unintentionally) designed to produce inequitable outcomes.
Transformational learning experiences create seismic shifts in the way we think about and understand ourselves and the world around us. Grounded in adult learning theory, these experiences immerse us in critical dialogue, inquiry and reflection that surface and challenge our conscious and unconscious beliefs and assumptions. In doing this, we are able to recognize how these beliefs and assumptions influence our thinking, and can grow our capacity to develop new perspectives, insights and practices.
Systemic change begins with acknowledging that our current systems have been designed to reproduce and uphold institutionalized policies and practices that create different outcomes for different racial groups. We must intentionally dismantle systems that reinforce these disparities by shifting power and privilege to our most marginalized students and adults and work alongside them to reimagine and co-design systems that equalize power, access, and opportunities for all of our students.
Communities of Practice
Communities of Practice regularly collaborate to examine and grapple with authentic student and adult work in order to discover and operationalize more equitable and just practices that improve learning experiences and outcomes for each of their students. While cross-race work is a foundational component of this work, Communities of Practice also include time and space for racial affinity work so that those with a shared racial identity can support one another with their learning.
Developing Equity-Centered Leaders & Teams
Equity-centered leaders work tirelessly to cultivate conditions that support shared ownership for ensuring the school’s mission and vision for equity and social justice. These leaders regularly devote time to examining the relationship between their racial identity, their leadership practice, and their capacity for creating and sustaining a school culture that liberrates and empowers each student and adult learner.