As the issue of race relations, diversity and equity continues in the Williamson County Schools district, members of the Board of Education will vote Monday night whether to approve enlisting the guidance of a consulting firm to help make headway on the matter.
WCS Superintendent Jason Golden presented the board with a copy of a contract between the district and Fostering Healthy Solutions, a Nashville company that works with organizations to improve and sustain diversity and inclusion practices and performance. Golden pointed out at Thursday night’s board work session that ongoing attempts at self-healing ultimately aren’t working.
“I want you to know that we haven’t just sat and said we need to hire somebody to do this work for us,” Golden said. “We’re doing the work, and what we’ve learned in the course of doing this work and in the course of listening is, it’s going to take more than just us.
“I have heard from families who have experienced this [inequity]. From a strategic standpoint, it’s time for us to have that detailed discussion with our stakeholders about how we’re going to grow."
“Every superintendent who preceded me has taken some action related to race. We’ve brought in speakers, we’ve had professional development, we’ve set up rules, and ultimately we have not sustained enough change for those students to [feel they’re in a good and safe place].”
Fostering Healthy Solutions was started in 2017 by a mother-son duo — Anita Foster-Horne and Shan Foster — who brought their individual professional experience and shared entrepreneurial spirits together to help organizations with diversity inclusion efforts. According to its website, it’s a “person-centered, community-focused, evidence-based company with excellence in service driving our mission.”
The contract with FHS would run through July at a cost of $55,000, with the possibility of it being renewed for the 2021-22 school year. The objective of the project would include the company providing professional assistance in developing a cultural strategic plan, diversity expertise in education and training, policy review and update, and advisory committee facilitation.
It spells out these deliverables:
- Attend regularly scheduled monthly meetings focused on healthy solutions to diversity challenges.
- Provide feedback consistent with the mission and vision of WCS, core values of Fostering Healthy Solutions, and data-driven approach for diversity, equity and inclusion practices.
- On-demand consulting for WCS and its board.
Golden’s presentation of the contract at the board’s work session sparked a good bit of discussion, with some members appearing to be in favor of moving forward with the company and others expressing hesitancy or at least seeking more clarity.
“I think we’re on the right track with the agreement as it is,” said board member Rick Wimberly, who represents District 9. “I was pleasantly pleased with what the deliverables were. I was pleased with the clarity of them. But I was also pleased with the fact that, yes, it’s a baby step, but it’s a pretty dad-gummed aggressive baby step.”
Eliot Mitchell, District 3, is also ready to approve the contract with FHS and to proceed right away.
“This contract gives us the ability to test the waters of this consultant and walk away if we don’t find the product is what we had in mind or that the match isn’t working out,” Mitchell said.
“As I’m going through and looking at all the decision makers on this call, we’re a minimally diverse group of people trying to figure out what to do about a real problem. … I’m OK with this contract and I think this is absolutely something we need to do. Those who think there’s not a problem in our district, in our community that needs to be addressed, then our eyes are not open to it.”
At least a couple other board members appeared to not be ready to sign off on the contract. The cost for the service, which is about $11,000 a month in its initial five-month phase, is a concern for Jay Galbreath, District 6. He questioned rather the district would be better suited to making this a staff position. K.C. Haugh, District 11, feels not enough is known about FHS or what it can ultimately achieve.
“I would love to see some of their work product,” Haugh said. “Maybe there are opportunities to see some examples of what exactly we can expect. It would be good to know what success looks like from this project.
“I understand these are baby steps and we need to develop a plan, and this is the first part of that process. But I’d like to see a little bit more information about what we can expect from this.”
Click here to view Monday’s virtual meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m. and to read the meeting agenda, which includes the contract proposal with Fostering Healthy Solutions. The complete work session from Thursday night can be viewed here.