By JOHN McBRYDE
With the Williamson County Schools’ cultural competency council holding its final meeting of the school year Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the district’s Professional Development Center, one of its original members is hopeful parents of all backgrounds will attend.
Even those who have voiced concerns about the council.
“People are assuming things about this group that are just not true,” said Kalinda Fisher, a sociologist who was at the forefront when the CCC first formed in August 2018. “So much is so fear-based they’re making this assumption that the group’s agenda is to indoctrinate in some way or another, and it’s not. It was borne out of the idea that with the changing face in Williamson County, we just need to be prepared and welcoming. That’s it.”
Williamson County is predominantly white, at 83.4% of the population, according to census data from 2017, while Hispanics are at 4.68% and blacks at 4.16%. With an increasing number of international companies moving here, schools are seeing a greater diversity of students from places like Asia, Middle Eastern countries and Africa, among others.
To address the changing cultural mix, WCS Superintendent Mike Looney initiated the plan for the cultural competency council. Erin Cáceres, WCS special projects manager who was appointed to coordinate it, sent emails to parents letting them know about the initiative.
“My whole thing is understanding and compassion and empathy, so when this council came to be, I thought absolutely I wanted to be part of it,” said Fisher, who has a daughter in her junior year at Independence High School. “We had a good showing at the first meeting, with maybe 25 people. There was a good mix of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Christians, Jewish people, Muslims.
“But by the second meeting, it had quickly dwindled down to where now there are fewer than a dozen of us.”
Among the more vocal of the critics of the CCC is a group of parents who have created a Facebook group known as WCS TN Parents Want Facts, which was established after details of controversial teacher-training videos and the cultural competency council were revealed earlier this year. One of the members and leading advocates, Stefanie Rose Miles, earlier told the Franklin Home Page she planned to attend Tuesday’s meeting so she could get a better understanding of what it’s about.
The group posted information on the meeting to its Facebook page, asking for members to respond on whether or not they plan to attend.
Ultimately, Fisher said that even though Looney is leaving WCS next week for the superintendent job at Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, she expects the CCC to continue.
“I think what we’re trying to accomplish is worthwhile, it’s worthy, it’s right, and I think it’s well-intended,” she said. “I think we need many more voices in this conversation, though. … And I hope that, because so many are up in arms [about the CCC], they’ll come in droves. We can talk and get them to understand the intention of this group, and hep people understand that it never was a closed group, it never intended to be secret, and it’s intended to make sure Williamson County schools are a welcoming place for students to land.”