Reflection #15: Fostering an Anti-Racist Culture with Dr. Henry Turner

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

With 15 years of experience as a high school administrator, Dr. Henry Turner is most proud of the collaborative environment and efforts he works to establish to empower students to fight hate and bigotry within their school community. Committed to preparing his students to flourish in an increasingly digital future, Turner has led two successful 1:1 laptop programs, on the premise that technology is a means to solve real-world problems, create equitable opportunities for all, and narrow economic and racial gaps. 
Dr. Turner proudly serves as principal at Newton North High School in Newton, MA.  He is dedicated to amplifying the culture and interests of North’s diverse community, one of the nation’s top large, comprehensive high schools. Dr. Turner has helped Newton North continue its focus on Social Justice by creating new courses such as Sustainability and Action through Literature as well as the Seals of Biliteracy, Civic Action and Social Justice which students can attain to be placed on their transcript. 
Recognized for his inclusive leadership style and dedication to student advocacy, Dr. Turner was named 2021 K12 Principal of the Year.  The award recognized his efforts to implement antiracist learning skills, incorporate culturally responsive instructional practices, and ensure the sustainability of these practices by addressing necessary structural and systematic changes to combat systemic racism. 
The story that impacted Dr. Turner’s focus
Dr. Turner reflected with Barbara about the story of a group of students with confederate flags that happened in September 2016, two weeks after he had become principal of Newton North High School. 
Several articles about this incident:

Students unfurl Confederate flag near Newton North High
Newton North High School: Talking To Students When A Symbol Of Racial Hatred Is Unfurled Close To Home
Students Wave Confederate Flag at Newton North High School
Newton Students Wave Confederate Flag – NECN

Newton North is a Comprehensive High School–Design and Visual Communications program created Public Art Project, which is a part of the Career Technical Education (CTE) Department. Students in the Career Tech program brainstormed ideas for a Cultural Design. It took three years and now students are looking at creating a 3D design for the school.

Listen to the entire reflection with Dr. Turner because it went really deep about the culture, anti-racist work needed, and the importance of teaching and modeling diversity, equity, and inclusion. Learn about his own experiences along with how schools can change.