Diversity and inclusion consulting firm Fostering Healthy Solutions has completed a report on Williamson County Schools.
The consulting team was hired in February by WCS after approval by the school board and tasked with creating recommendations on an eventual districtwide cultural strategy plan. The plan is an effort to create a safer environment for students of all identities across the district.
Superintendent Jason Golden told the school board at its work session Thursday that this is the first time the district has had such data in one spot.
“We’re not trying to create a flash, we’re trying to make sure we grow and help these students feel safe,” he said. “We’re going to be very intentional and very deliberate.”
FHS’s report identifies WCS’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as gaps and opportunities in its operations.
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‘A county divided’
The WCS community includes students, families, guardians, teachers, staff and administrators.
FHS conducted workshops, listening sessions and surveys with these stakeholders to construct clear pictures of the district’s current culture and the one desired by its community. The report concluded community member views vary.
“Feedback received includes support for diversity initiatives, opposition to Critical Race Theory, praise for their voices being heard, and a push to stop diversity efforts immediately,” the firm wrote in their report. “These perspectives manifest into the current culture of WCS, a county divided.”
FHS wrote that while some teacher and administrator feedback explained a “need for training, support and accountability,” others were opposed to the idea that diversity and inclusion efforts were needed. According the the report, some said there was “only a problem if you go looking for one with that agenda.”
FHS shared recommendations in six areas: WCS’s policies/handbook, disciplinary action, communication, resources and culture, training and accountability, and diversity equity and inclusion (DEI).
The consultants recommend pursuing immediate implementation and oversight of the plan with the help of an “external DEI expert.”
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FHS recommended a revision of all WCS handbooks (both for students and staff) off of one template used across the district with the inclusion of “clear and consistent policies on bullying and harassment,” as well as a review of disciplinary records to “ensure consequences are fair and equitable.”
FHS encouraged WCS to create partnerships with local groups like Conexion Americas, Nashville LGBT Chamber, API Middle Tennessee and the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance to ensure resources are available for minority students.
Engaging with locales outside the county that have more ethnic diversity can spur innovation and collaboration, the report found.
FHS recommends implementing annual diversity education for all WCS employees despite past controversies. The district should also create systems to track the outcomes of such trainings and surveys to assess the performance of staff and leadership in this realm, the report found.
Lastly, the firm recommended the adoption of one universal definition of diversity, equity and inclusion to be used across all of WCS.
“In developing your definitions, remember inclusivity involves more than race and gender; DEI is a practice in daily behavior, attitude, and understanding of inclusive practices,” FHS wrote. “Diversity is not a checkbox for a completed task.”
When FHS was hired earlier this year, rumors spread through the community and on social media about the firm implementing curriculum.
WCS Superintendent Jason Golden reassured community members that the consultants wouldn’t have a hand in molding curriculum for students.
The FHS report stated the consultants found in their data collection a “disdain” for the Wit & Wisdom elementary school English language arts curriculum. In the area of resources and culture, the team recommended the identification and implementation of “multiple literature options to include all nationalities for all students to experience the culture of their classmates.”
The board will take two weeks to provide feedback on FHS’s recommendations.
Golden said he’s not yet sure whether the district has the resources necessary to implement a plan. But the plan is a long-term focus of the district, which will communicate with the board when they are in need of other resources.
Resources could include an outside diversity and inclusion expert as recommended, among other assistance.
The schools leader says it will take time to create his recommendations off of FHS’s work, but he hopes to present them to the board by November or December.
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