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Farquhar Middle School Confronts Race and Achievement

Farquhar Middle School“At one point I made the statement that I felt that race mattered,” recalls Sharon Mosley-Ramsey, a participant in the Farquhar Middle School study circle. “For a minute I felt kind of racist, but I told the group that I believed that. For me, being a Black woman is everything. I don't think that there's any point that I can step out of who I am. If I walk in that door, I'm a Black woman.”

Mosely-Ramsey participated in the study circle initiated by Farquhar Middle School principal, Scott Murphy, to confront race and achievement.

Like most other schools in Montgomery County, we have an achievement gap. The performance of students by race was something I wanted to discuss openly and honestly” explains Murphy. “I found study circles to be a really good way to do that.”

For six two-hour sessions this past fall, Murphy and Mosley-Ramsey participated along with a racially diverse group of seven parents and five teachers. Together they built relationships and trust, came to a common understanding of the issues at Farquhar, and created action steps to address school/home communication and outreach to parents.

Parent Maxine Nettleford appreciated how the study circle helped to break down barriers between parents and teachers. “A teacher that you thought of one way, and they were there [in the study circle], now you think of them differently. I'm sure those teachers see us differently and they realize that some of us are doing our part at home.” Andrew Goldberger, a staff development teacher at Farquhar, says that as a result of the study circle he now is looking at people's reactions and trying to understand different perspectives. “I think I came out of it a little bit more inclined to have more courageous conversations about race with certain people.”

Mosley-Ramsey, a parent of two Farquhar students, particularly valued the diversity of perspectives in the study circle. “There were Black people there that disagreed with me and that's always interesting so that people see that there is no one ‘Black view' or no one ‘Hispanic view.'” PTA president Dawn Dolan says, “We are setting a good example for the students.”

Principal Murphy found the experience to be valuable both personally and professionally. “I got to know parents and staff on a much deeper level personally than I would normally. I got to hear about their backgrounds, how they were raised culturally, their educational situations. We had some parents who told their personal stories about hardships they had to deal with. Being a younger administrator [and hearing] some of these stories about how segregation or racism affected their education — was mind boggling. And then to discuss how some of those barriers are true today brought it full circle for me. It certainly cements my vision and passion for student achievement…and my vision as a leader.”