In response to racially charged incidents within Williamson County Schools in recent years, parents and concerned community members have formed a grassroots advocacy network to help promote safety and equity for all students within the public school system.
According to a press release, the group One WillCo was co-founded in 2020 by WCS parents Revida Rahman and Jennifer Cortez, and further organized by Dr. Maya Bugg, Inetta Gaines, Tizgel High, Marci Carter, Kate Keese and Sara Konecny. The group’s website is now live and will serve as a central information hub for the community to highlight opportunities for engagement with elected officials, and for tracking media coverage related to diversity, equity and inclusion within WCS.
Cortez said the group has been having conversations with WCS board members and Superintendent Jason Golden, and she has mostly been encouraged by their willingness to make changes within the district.
“We’ve been working with board members all along and I will say I do see them moving forward,” Cortez told the Home Page. “My experience with the board and with Superintendent Golden has been they are trying to make smart decisions and put action into play. So I do see lots of good faith on their part.”
One WillCo says it is a nonpartisan and politically unaffiliated network of Williamson County residents who represent all walks of life, united by the belief that every student, regardless of skin color, deserves a safe and equitable learning environment, according to the release.
It seeks to provide positive support, encouragement and varied perspectives as needed by the school district and its leaders, with the singular goal of escalating the pace of progress toward systemic solutions on behalf of current students, staff and families who continue to experience inequalities and inequities.
Cortez, who has lived in Williamson County since 2004 and has four children who have attended or currently attend WCS schools, had visited with several families of color to learn about their experiences in the district. The stories she heard were what she expected.
“I grew up in the South,” she explained. “I grew up in this environment where I’m very familiar with the racism that’s embedded in our culture that we’ve all inherited. So I wasn’t surprised to hear [that some of the students of color] had been experiencing name calling and racial slurs and things like that.
“What surprised me was how when students tried to advocate for themselves, it was such a hit or miss operation. Sometimes the teacher would be well-equipped and would know how to offer them cover and support. Other times, the administrator might have been ill-equipped to handle it and it ended up causing more harm. That’s when it became so clear to me that the system needs some help.”
One WillCo is open to any Williamson County community member who seeks to be a part of supporting racial equity within WCS. More information can be found at www.onewillco.org.