School bus Masters

Williamson County Schools will be holding three more listen-and-learn sessions with the consultant it has hired to address concerns over racism and inequities many students in the district have experienced.

Fostering Healthy Solutions, a Nashville consulting firm the district’s school board approved to hire to help provide a safe learning environment for all students by creating a culture strategy plan, will be on hand for parents and other WCS stakeholders to voice their thoughts on a couple of questions:

  • What changes would you like to see implemented for students and why?
  • What changes would you like to see implemented for WCS?

The hour-long listen-and-learn sessions will be held Friday at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Attendees must register beforehand, and each session is limited to the first 100 people who register. The sessions will be open forums with comments that will be limited to two minutes each.

FHS, which consists of founders Anita Foster-Horne and her son, Shan Foster, was hired earlier this year after an increasing number of students across the district were victims of racism and other forms of bullying.

“It became very apparent to us that [the issue] was deep enough and common enough that we needed to take a step and look for a reasoned, deliberate process to define the challenges we have and to develop goals and action steps to improve how we serve all of our students and keep them safe,” WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said during last month’s superintendent’s report on the district’s YouTube channel.

“A big chunk of what they’re doing is finding out from our community our students’ experiences and need and our community’s fears and concerns related to how we grow in creating an environment for our students to feel safe.”

As demonstrated by the more than 30 public input speakers at the May 17 Williamson County Board of Education meeting, not everyone in the community is on board with the plan involving Fostering Healthy Solutions. Some have voiced concern the consulting firm is introducing a new curriculum and including critical race theory, a concept that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the United States.

Kristen Jackson of Nolensville, for instance, pulled her two children from WCS to homeschool last fall over her concerns over CRT.

 “Critical race theory identifies individuals as either oppressors or oppressed,” she said at the meeting. “Bullies are bullies. In critical race theory, one is an oppressor, a bully, not based on behavior but on gender or race. It teaches our children that they are either born a bully or a victim of bullying.”

Others support the hiring of Fostering Healthy Solutions.

“We are grateful to Superintendent Jason Golden and our school board for taking courageous and necessary steps to address the racial harassment that continues to be a blight on our local schools,” said Jennifer Cortez, one of the founders of the nonprofit One WillCo. “Our focus is straightforward. We want reasonable measures put in place to give our students of color the value and support they have needed and deserved for far too long. The responsibility rests on our whole community to support these crucial efforts."

FHS is expected to wrap up the first phase of its work by the end of June. In addition to three series of listen-and-learn sessions, the firm has sent surveys to students in grades 8-12, parents, teachers and administrators. The Fosters have also looked at student handbooks and internal policies, with the plan to make recommendations on their findings.

“Our expectation is over the course of the summer we’ll be able to develop a good, clear identification of our challenges, develop some goals and start working on some action steps to improve that,” Golden said.

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