Citing three main areas of focus, the two founders of a diversity and inclusion consulting group introduced themselves to members of the Williamson County Board of Education Thursday evening during a virtual meet-and-greet.
The meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour through Zoom, was the kickoff to five months of consulting work that will be done for Williamson County Schools by Fostering Healthy Solutions. The company is led by its founders, Anita Foster-Horne and her son, Shan Foster, and has worked with school districts across the country to improve and sustain diversity and inclusion practices and performance.
The school board voted unanimously at its February meeting to approve a contract that will pay FHS $55,000 through the end of July. A decision will be made later whether the company and WCS continue their relationship into the next school year.
“We’re excited to be with you to share what we’ve learned, to share our experience and expertise and to share what’s working around the country in respect to school systems,” Foster said. “But most important, to help Williamson County Schools accomplish its mission and vision.
“Everything that we do will be walking alongside that mission and vision and making sure everyone — every stakeholder, every parent, every child, every vendor, every other business that comes inside a school to do work — everyone that Williamson County Schools touches is also realizing that same mission and vision.”
Foster-Horne said the process — and she emphasized the full process could take three to five years to see a difference — begins with three targets that FHS and the school district will work on side by side. The first happened Thursday as board members and the leadership team got to know each other, albeit through virtual means.
“The second piece we want to work on is consulting and establishing benchmarks for success,” she explained. “We want to start getting all the data that we can. We want to see where your great strengths are, because we want to point those out, and where are the weaknesses. We’re going to do this by a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, and that is the best way to understand where you really are and get a sense of where we are now and where we can be. …
“The third piece is designing a customized solution. This is important to the data we will have received and collected because this is where your strategic plan lies. We will help you develop a strategic diversity, equity and inclusion policy for WCS.”
Several board members had questions or presented feedback during the meeting. District 6 member Jay Galbreath, for instance, said there’s a sentiment among some of his constituents and others in the county that shows some may not be comfortable with the approach. He asked how the company can prevent this from becoming a political issue.
“We don’t make it about politics,” Foster-Horne bluntly responded. “We make it about the student. We’re here to enhance your mission, and that is to keep students and teachers safe.
“Our conversations are directed to WCS always. We’re not having sidebar conversations with anybody. That’s not what we’re here to do. First of all, that’s going to keep our transparency intact. We have a business to run, and that means we have a reputation to protect.
“We’re not here to change, to create new things around what you already have. We’re here to enhance what you’re already doing.”
WCS Superintendent Jason Golden had stressed for some time that the district needed professional guidance in dealing with issues involving diversity and inclusiveness. He said Thursday’s introduction puts the plan on a clear path.
“This is step one in a number of feedback sessions to get data and hear from our stakeholders about what they perceive our needs and concerns to be,” Golden said. “What I’m hoping to get out of this is a starting point for our board based on their experience in hearing from their constituents, hearing from our stakeholders. The start of that visioning is how we grow this.”
Click here to view the full meeting.