After years of trying internally to address racial issues within Williamson County Schools, the county’s Board of Education voted 12-0 Monday night to get guidance and help from an outside source.
The approval is for the contract agreement between WCS and Fostering Healthy Solutions, a Nashville consulting firm that works with organizations to improve and sustain diversity and inclusion practices and performance. The company was founded in 2017 by Anita Foster-Horne and her son, Shan Foster, who brought their individual professional experience and shared entrepreneurial spirits together to help organizations with diversity inclusion efforts.
The firm will be paid $55,000 through the end of July with the possibility of renewing for the 2021-22 school year. WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said the relationship with FSH will begin immediately and will focus on three main action steps.
“No. 1,” he said, “with initial orientation and training, they’re going to have an introductory meeting with the board, with board training and then executive training with staff.
“Second, they’re going to review our policies and procedures related to bullying, discrimination and harassment, and our disciplinary measures. They’re going to provide guidance and resources for our administrators and teachers.
“Third, they will establish advisory groups that include former and/or current administrators, faculty, staff, parents, students and community members to lead diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.”
While the board’s vote was unanimous and followed supportive discussion from members, there was pushback from three of the speakers during public comment.
“We represent a group of parents and teachers that believe the primary purpose of an education system should focus on teaching our students the education basics,” said Lynn Holcombe, a resident of Brentwood.
“Items that fall outside that primary purpose should be left to families. That includes teaching or indoctrinating students into any political position. … We ask you to focus on the basics and don’t go down the path of pushing any politics or political views in school. This potential detour into racial politics is dangerous and is not an overriding issue in our schools.”
Board member Sheila Cleveland, who represents District 7, later countered that it is the district’s responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students.
“I feel our job is to create an environment in acceptance and inclusion, to create an environment where students feel safe so they can focus on their education and growth,” she said.
“We have to start somewhere and we have to start soon. This may not be the perfect solution, but we won’t know what works and what doesn’t until we have a benchmark to start from. We do need to do something, there’s no question about it.”
African American history course to be added
On a related noted, Golden said the district will be adding a course on African American history as an elective at Centennial, Page and Ravenwood high schools in the 2021-22 school year. Several students have approached him and his staff requesting the course be added to the curriculum.
Monday night’s meeting can be viewed here.