David Branch

David Branch

I have worked closely with Dr. Rev Hillstrom for eight years or so and I’ve known him for about 20 years.

As a Black man I have struggled working in predominantly white school systems and have looked for resources that would help improve outcomes for the staff I lead and the students I serve. In my 27 years in education this has been a huge part of my leadership journey. As a Black man in leadership, I constantly struggled with the racially predictable outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx students. I have wrestled to find words and more importantly actions that would lead to transformational change. I was intrenched in the status quo of systems normed in whiteness that were only open to incremental change.

However, that began to change over the last ten years of my career. One of the things that has impacted me the most during this time was coming to understanding and apply the CLEAR Solutions Framework to my leadership practice.

This evolution of my leadership would not have occurred without the leadership and guidance of Dr. Rev Hillstrom. Prior to the introduction of Intercultural Innovations Inc’s. (I3) system tools, the district I worked in was on an equity journey with another provider. That nationally recognized organization gave us a framework for having courageous conversations. It was a research-based proven model for developing equity teams and conversations in school systems. One of the challenges though with the group was that it was so heavy in theory, and it was a challenge to apply their work directly to teaching and learning in the classroom.

Dr. Hillstrom brought in his many years of experience working in other large systems that lead to the creation of The CLEAR Solutions Framework. His approach which is connected to academic researched and lived experiences working in school systems changed all of that. Through assessment of our past work, it became obvious that our district was heavy on consciousness but needed to strengthen our convictions and commitments to make transformational change.

I3’s system tools challenged us to move from theory to practice, from raising consciousness and being “woke” to commitment and action. I3’s CLEAR Model clearly did that for me personally as an equity leader. The CLEAR Model validated me as an individual while pushing and supporting me to move my convictions to commitments, or in other words, my beliefs to actions. This is where many of us who work in education get stuck but I3’s system tools provided a clear understanding of whiteness, and provided scaffolds for leaders, and strengthened our will to sustain this important work.

One of the things that stood out to me with I3 ‘s system tools, was at its core is the commitment to act (both for the individual and the system). We can’t just stop at a conversation or theory. We have to act if we want to truly interrupt the racially predictable outcomes from BIPOC (and LGTBQI) students.

As a school principal the CLEAR Model allowed me to have better connections with teachers and staff in terms of what culturally validating pedagogy (CVP) looks like in our school and classrooms. I will close with a few examples:

  • We used the CLEAR Solutions Framework to examine our racially predictable outcomes for Black students at my school. The outcome of this was an acknowledgement that our PBIS model was steeped in whiteness. This led us to a more culturally validating model that embedded more visuals and changed the language using student and family voice.
  • Another example is that I use the system tools developed by I3 pretty much every day in my practice. This includes the observation cycle (pre-conference / observation / post-conference). Part of my pre-conference with teachers included reviewing the CLEAR Model with our teachers and asked them how culturally validating pedagogy (CVP) was explicitly showing up in their classroom and lessons.

I will continue to use The CLEAR Solutions Framework and other system tools developed by I3 to ensure that I am acting to change the racially predictable outcomes for the students of color and Indigenous students I faithfully serve.