Five Williamson County citizens spoke during the Williamson County Schools Board of Education meeting Monday, asking the board and the district to take action to improve WCS culture and structure regarding issues of race.
Four parents and one WCS teacher were among the speakers Monday. Some asked the school to form a parent advisory committee for diversity and inclusion, among other recommendations.
Kate Cotton, a teacher at Renaissance High School, asked for more teacher training for how to address tensions that may be caused by racist incidents at the schools.
WCS Superintendent Jason Golden thanked the speakers for their comments, encouraging the community to continue to stay involved. He shared that the district has been working behind the scenes to hire a professional to create a comprehensive plan for “sustainable change.”
The district decided to start looking for a professional consultant after hearing from a previous Cultural Competency Council; from individual students, staff members and alumni; and from reading student experiences on social media.
“Another focus point we had, after all … that we heard from our stakeholders, was that, if we’re going to grow our competence, that, if we’re going to grow how we serve our diverse student body and our teachers, we really needed professional help,” Golden said.
The district has reviewed incidents spoken about on various social media accounts. While Golden did not mention @dearestwcs on Instagram specifically, that is one account (on which hundreds of students and alumni have anonymously shared their experiences with discrimination in WCS) that has garnered a lot of public attention, and some citizens have mentioned it previously in their comments before the school board.
“We reviewed all that information, and we found that, while some of those incidents were reported and were investigated through our human resources department or at the school level and were addressed, many of those were left unreported,” Golden said of the unspecified social media posts the district reviewed.
“That was another example for us of those indicators that there may be many students in many situations who just aren’t comfortable and haven’t been comfortable reporting those incidents, so we included in our focus this year growing our culture so that students would be more comfortable reporting those incidents knowing that there would be an appropriate response from school administration.”
Addressing those who asked for a parent committee focused on diversity and inclusion, Golden said that may be an appropriate course of action, but he wants to wait on help from a professional before forming such a group so as to be comprehensive in his approach.
“I think, based on again what we’ve talked about, that’s the most appropriate step, rather than responding or reacting to a particular request and having something that might make a little flash but not help us sustain growth,” he said.
During the school board’s work session on Thursday, Golden said he had scheduled a meeting this week with a potential consultant. He told the board Monday a proposal concerning this topic will likely be coming their way within the next month.
The school board will meet again for a work session on Thursday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. For more information, visit WCS.edu.