By Hania Raza
As the newly appointed Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Debbie Taylor has recently taken charge of a very important mission.
Taylor implements programs for the students and provides training for the staff to promote diversity and fairness. These are vital values to have in all educational institutions, and they are crucial for the advancement and improvement of a civilized society.
“North Cross is a school that produces future leaders, teachers, politicians, doctors and lawyers,” said Taylor. “Having diversity and inclusion at a place like North Cross helps to make our next generation better than the present and the last.”
Before coming to North Cross, Taylor went to Johnson C. Smith University and then worked for 15 years at the John Crosland School in Charlotte, NC, an independent school for students with learning differences. She also worked at Brookstone Christian Schools for four years and James Martin Middle School for four years. She started her work in the DEI program at her last school, but she has been passionate about it for the majority of her life. She expressed that it has always been a big part of her life.
“Once you realize you are being treated unfairly, differently and excluded you become passionate about being treated fairly. I have taught my students that everyone is equal. That everyone should be treated fair and with kindness and respect,” said Taylor. “I knew that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was something I have always done and something I wanted to continue to do.”
After relocating to Virginia this past April, Taylor came to North Cross because it was highly recommended.
“After hearing about North Cross, interviewing, and being on campus,” Taylor said, “I felt it would be a great school to work for.”
During her time at North Cross, Taylor said that she wants to provide a safe space for students, where everyone will feel respected and part of the school.
“I see North Cross as an institution that will embrace different cultures, religions, races, economic status and sexual orientation,” Taylor said, “A place where everyone is comfortable, acknowledged and celebrated.”
Taylor continued by saying that she wants to “increase awareness about biases and stereotypes that many do not know that they have and display.”
So far, Taylor has already made a positive impact on the school by involving the students in Hispanic Heritage Month.
She recently announced that she will be giving out a gift card to the person who can name the most influential Hispanic People.
Stephen Belderes, the director of the upper school, said that he is highly impressed with Taylor’s ability to make a difference at North Cross.
“I think she has already brought a positive change, just in the relationships that she has already established in the last three weeks,” Belderes said. “I’ve actually been really impressed with that.”
“I want everyone to understand we can not fix problems we do not acknowledge,” Taylor said. “Talking and learning about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion does not cause division, it brings awareness.”
By Gracean Ratliff
As the new head of school was being chosen, Dr. Proctor provided the Herald staff some reflections on his legacy.
Monday, June 6, 2011, Dr. Christian Proctor started his position at North Cross as the ninth Head of School. With about 120 fewer students than there are now, North Cross was a lot different: a different campus layout, less strict dress code, bus routes, no air conditioning in the CAC, no extensive Lower School Spanish program, no Global Studies program, no CrossWalk, and no Shanghai campus; Dr. Proctor has drastically changed North Cross for the better.
Previously, Dr. Proctor worked at other private schools in Texas, South Carolina, and Louisiana; but Roanoke felt like home. Unlike the other schools he was at, where he was only there for a short amount of time; he felt that he actually got to put an impact on North Cross.
“It was the first school that I came to, to kind of fix after 11 years” Proctor said. “It's the first one I decided to stay at for a long time, and so because I stayed for a longer time, I was able to do some things I'd never done before.”
Some of his fondest memories were the Christmas bonfires, where the lower schoolers would smile cheek to cheek waiting in line to meet Santa. He also remembers cheering on his son, Andrew Proctor ‘14, in his football games.
Proctor said Richard Cook and Mark Thompson gave him valuable advice. He could rely on a strong faculty of longtime teachers like Meade Martin, Jennifer Landry, Stephen Belderes, to name a few.
However, after 11 years of being the Head of School, Dr. Proctor will say farewell to North Cross. “As of late February, last year, I announced my departure at the end of the ‘21-22. school year to begin a career in consulting,” Proctor said. He plans to take what he learned from the school to connect American schools with international schools.
“My goal is to use the international connections that I've developed, over seven years now of having a school in Shanghai, as well as examining schools in other countries, to use those connections to develop a consulting practice that would put schools in America together with schools in Asia.”
Dr. Proctor made the school financially sound, and led the school in the $16.5 million campaign to renovate the new campus. The campaign included three, $2 million gifts to renovate, which resulted in a new Upper School, a new Library, a new walkway, and a new entrance.
“I wanted to make sure that I was leaving the school in very good shape for the next person,” Proctor said.
“Schools are unbelievably fun places to work, because you get to come to work with faculty that are interesting and fun to be with and you get to meet all of these students that have 570 different personalities.”
Although watching many students go from being in JK3 to sitting in front of everyone in the senior chairs on the first day of school, and watching them go from girls and boys to young ladies and gentleman; it was a good time to depart from the school.
Next September will be Proctor's first time in 55 years that he will not start a first day of school. As much as he is going to enjoy having actual vacations now, he will miss ringing the bells on the first day of school, announcing the lower schooler’s teachers, and watching everyone's big smiles as they see their friends they haven't seen all summer.
“[When I announced my resignation] I wrote down on a sheet of paper the things I wanted to accomplish before I left,” Proctor said. “The first one being to finish reconstruction, done. The second being to fill the dorms. This year we have 32 exchange students living in the dorms, and we have 10 more beds to fill. The third and final goal being to get fully accredited, which will surely be done under our next head of school.”
He hopes the future of the school will continue to thrive and reach “the next level” as he says, and only go up. He has hope for the years in the future and knows that North Cross will be in good hands.
“I think, by me leaving and bringing a new person in, who will take it to that next level, the school will be in an even better place than it would be if I was there.”