If you live in Williamson County and have questions or misgivings about the school system’s Cultural Competency video series then, like most people, you’re likely to contact your school board representative.
And you would expect your school board representative is on top of things and knows just as much as the superintendent.
If you’re in Williamson County, however, assume nothing.
Your local school board representative might just pass the buck to Superintendent Mike Looney.
Franklin resident Christine Deekens said she learned that lesson this week when she tried to reach out to school board member Rick Wimberly about the videos. Teachers in the school district must watch these videos, which preach “white privilege” and America’s supposed dysfunctional history.
Deekens said she met with Wimberly for an hour but, afterwards, said he still didn’t address her concerns.
“His responses to me were outright copouts,” Deekens told The Tennessee Star this week.
So, she sent Wimberly an email recapping their meeting and all her questions that remain unanswered.
Deekens forwarded those emails to The Star, which, among other things, communicated the following to Wimberly:
“As I reflect on our meeting, however, I am troubled by what you supposedly DIDN’T know – given that you encouraged me to take many of my questions to Dr. Looney, claiming he is the one with all the knowledge and answers,” Deekens wrote.
“It seems to me that Dr. Looney has been given cart blanche to do whatever he deems is best without the board’s knowledge, or approval, or oversight. That’s a lot of power given to one person without any checks and balances. Quite frankly, this alarms me. And Rick, with all due respect, it just doesn’t make sense since as you well know Dr. Looney works for the board, not vice versa.”
Among other things, Deekens said Wimberly knew nothing about the development of the Cultural Competency Council, and when and how often they met.
Among the questions Deekens said she wants answered:
• “Who brought Horacio Sanchez in for the Module 1 training, and how much was he was paid (if any) and by whom?”
• “Considering the ‘mistake’ of using the term ‘white privilege’, what are the existing and future plans for using Peggy McIntosh’s 1989 publication, ‘White Privilege, Unpacking the Knapsack’?”
• “It has been reported that the third module has been halted and is in revision. Is that true? If so, when will it be completed, who will approve it, and when will it be made public? If not, why?”
• “Would you confirm to me in writing that Cultural Competency Council meetings are open to the public and the media, and not just when two board members are present?”
• “What individual and/or company produced the video series? If done in house, what are the names of the individuals involved in the filming/editing?”
• “What are the names of individuals, companies or organizations that WCS has in the past or in the present contracted with to provide guidance and/or recommendations for training and training materials related to ‘cultural competency’?”
• “What role do Erin Caceres, Laurette Carle and Dave Allen have in creating professional development programs for cultural competency? Who has final authority to approve their recommendations?”
Meekens ended her email by declaring this to Wimberly:
“PLEASE UNDERSTAND I am requesting these answers from you, not Dr. Looney. I have copied him on this email as a courtesy.”
Wimberly replied back and told Deekens he answered her questions to the best of his knowledge and Looney was best situated to help her.
Looney then sent Deekens an email promising to answer her questions sometime next week.
Deekens’ response to Looney:
“With all due respect Dr. Looney, I have requested answers FROM MY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER, not you, so please provide answers to Rick so he will know what you are doing, and HE can pass along that information to me,” Deekens wrote.
“Please provide answers to my questions to Rick. There is no need for further contact from you.”
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Rick Wemberly” by Rick Wemberly. Photo “Mike Looney” by Mike Looney.