If you registered for the Conference by October 2, this series is included!

Election 2020: Building Community Amid Political Polarization


Educators are anxiously anticipating the fall election. The 2016 election was disruptive and rancorous in many schools, reflecting a deeply divided country. Fast forward to 2020, and election season will likely test our school communities. However, if we can get past the understandable anxiety, we have an opportunity to strengthen our communities through conversation and connection.


In this conversation, we’ll reflect on the lessons of 2016, discuss the dynamics that make the 2020 presidential election particularly challenging, and offer some tools for creating spaces where students can navigate conflict and challenging conversations.

Learning Goals:
• Participants will understand the Pause/Reflect/Repair protocol for challenging conversations
• Participants will reflect on the value of norms in grounding conversations.
• Participants will understand the distinctions between being non-partisan and neutral and how that can help them support inclusion during the election season.



Brave Conversations During Election Season (and Beyond!)

We’ll reflect on the lessons of 2016, discuss the dynamics that make the 2020 presidential election particularly challenging, and offer some tools for creating spaces where students can navigate conflict and challenging conversations. You’ll gain an understanding of the Pause/Reflect/Repair protocol for challenging conversations, reflect on the value of norms in grounding conversations, and delve into the difference between being non-partisan and neutral–and how that distinction can help you support inclusion during the election season. 

Greg Bamford
Co-Founder and Senior Partner

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Greg served as Associate Head of School for Strategy and Innovation at Charles Wright Academy and Head of School at Watershed School. He is a co-founder of the Traverse Conference and serves on the Board of Trustees at his alma mater, The Overlake School. Greg has been a featured speaker at dozens of education conferences, has consulted with a wide range of schools nationally, and has written for numerous publications including Independent School, Net Assets, The Yield. He earned his B.A. at Georgetown University, M.A. at St. John’s College (NM) and Ed.M. at Columbia University.


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Forming Young Citizens in Turbulent Times: Opportunities and Challenges for Boarding Schools

The 2018 NAEP scores illustrate that U.S. schools – both public and private – are not equipping young people with the knowledge or skills required for effective citizenship; fewer than one-third are proficient in civics, geography, or history. This shouldn’t surprise us, as American education has systematically turned away from two key factors that can exercise a long-term, positive impact on civic outcomes: a knowledge-rich curriculum, and strong, normative cultures that include classroom deliberation as a routine practice. How can American private schools leverage both curriculum and culture to accelerate students’ civic preparation – even in today’s polarized political climate? Professor Berner will bring a research-based approach that will be particularly useful to school leaders in developing and explaining their approach to citizenship education.

Dr. Ashley Rogers Berner

Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins School Education


Dr. Ashley Berner served previously as the Deputy Director of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy and the Director of the Education Program at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, UVa. Dr. Berner has published articles and book chapters on the relationship between educational structure and state funding in democratic nations, religious education and citizenship formation, and teacher preparation in different national contexts. Palgrave MacMillan published Pluralism and American Public Education: No One Way to School in 2017. She consults regularly on projects that examine the academic and civic outcomes of different school sectors. Her teaching experience took place in a Jewish pre-school, an Episcopal secondary school, and an open university in Louisiana. She serves as a gubernatorial appointee to the Maryland Education Development Consortium. She holds degrees from Davidson College (Honors A.B.) and from Oxford University (M.Litt. and D.Phil. in Modern History).




It Starts at the Top: Creating a Climate of Inclusion During Election Season

Spring and summer coronavirus-related school closures overlapped with national protests against racial injustice. School policies and practices that negatively impact the experience of students of color are under scrutiny, and within an election season, all of these dynamics are present, and even exacerbated. This session will offer school leaders suggestions and strategies using a shared language, an evaluative framework, and case studies to create and foster a climate of inclusion and belonging during this election season — and beyond — with a specific focus on faculty, staff and boardroom dynamics.

Nishant Mehta
Partner and Independent Schools Practice Leader
Storbeck Search & Associates


Nishant served as Head at The Children’s School (TCS,) lauded as a “model to follow” by NAIS’s Independent School magazine. He has twice co-chaired NAIS PCC, served on the faculty of Student Diversity Leadership Conference, Diversity Leadership Institute, and since 2018, NAIS Institute for New Heads. He has served on the Boards of NAIS, CSEE as Chair, and currently Woodruff Arts Center’s Alliance Theatre, Children’s Museum of Atlanta, NBOA and Asheville School. He is a script advisor to Sesame Street and founder of The Inclusive Leader Book Club. He earned his B.A. at Washington University and M.A. at Columbia University.


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What Now?: A Conversation About Navigating The Weeks (and Months) Ahead

Though Election Day will be behind us on November 5, the result may not yet be known. Regardless of how the early votes come in, the weeks ahead may be challenging. Join TABS Executive Director Pete Upham and a panel of experts for a conversation about where we go next, and an opportunity to share experiences and lessons learned in breakout rooms for leadership, faculty, and residential life staff. Our specific agenda will be determined by the circumstances that emerge during election week.

Moderated by Pete Upham
Executive Director of the Association of Boarding Schools

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Pete Upham has been Executive Director of The Association of Boarding Schools since 2007. Earlier in his career, Pete spent thirteen years in boarding school administration and teaching, several as Assistant Head at Asheville School.  Pete also owned and managed CWJ Consulting, a firm assisting schools, educational organizations, and non-profits in the areas of strategy, advancement, and planning.  Pete is former Board President for Hanger Hall and former Vice-President of the Board for the Diocese of Charlotte Schools. He is also a poet; his work has appeared in a number of national and international journals. Pete was educated at Hotchkiss School. He did his undergraduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar and National Merit Scholar, and earned his M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he is currently completing a doctorate. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and children.

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Emily Breite
VP of Learning Strategy and Professional Education

Emily was most recently Executive Director of Admission for the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), after previously serving as Executive Director of Educator Outreach. She has served as a teacher and administrator at Lovett School and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, widely considered a national model for innovation. Emily earned her B.A. at Harvard University, and M.A. at Middlebury College.