Shelby County Schools (SCS) may pay up to $480,000 for two racial justice and equity trainings offered by a social justice nonprofit. New Leaders, the nonprofit, offers trainings to develop equity-focused, anti-racist educational leaders, with an emphasis on teaching about race in the classroom and the end goal of achieving social justice.
The SCS Board of Education discussed the plan to contract this training during its Academic Performance Committee meeting on Monday.
SCS Deputy Superintendent of Schools and Academic Support Dr. Angela Whitelaw (pictured above) presented the two contracts during the meeting. The first, New Leaders’ PLC (Professional Learning Community) Scaling Best Practices, would cost up to $230,000. According to the presentation, SCS administered this first program last year, and impacted 25 elementary schools, 3 K-8 schools, and 9 middle schools.
The second program, New Leaders’ Leadership Network, would cost around $1.05 million. Just under $800,000 of that would come from external philanthropy and cost-sharing, according to the presentation. Whitelaw said that this program impacted around 300 teachers and 6,000 students last year.
As The Tennessee Star reported last month, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill effectively banning critical race theory from all K-12 schools. Although the new law doesn’t mention the words “critical race theory,” it does cover its main tenets:
(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) An individual, by virtue or the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex;
(4) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex;
(5) An individual, by virtue or the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex;
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex;
(8) This state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist;
(9) Promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government;
(10) Promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people;
(11) Ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex;
(12) The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups;
(13) All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; or
(14) Governments should deny to any person with the government’s jurisdiction the equal protection of the law[.]
The Star noted last week that Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn promised to publish a compliance guide for educators by August 1.
New Leaders’ most recent content reflects their commitment to racial equity in education. In an article last month, New Leaders explained the importance of principals and other school leaders addressing systemic racism in schools. The nonprofit said leaders should adopt “culturally responsive” practices – a synonym for critical race theory.
Addressing systemic racism in schools does not have a singular fix. It remains an ongoing adaptive challenge, requiring leaders to engage in open dialogue. Principals need to create safe spaces for staff to surface internal biases and provide professional learning opportunities to build culturally responsive practices (Desravines, Aquino, and Fenton, 2016). How principals ensure equity of voice and coalesce their community around this work illustrates adaptive leadership.
The book cited in that article, “Breakthrough Principals: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Stronger Schools,” was created by the nonprofit. The book asks principals how race influences their perception of students and teaching, and suggests that a regular dialogue around race creates more equitable schools.
“[P]rincipals work with staff to directly address the inequities identified within the school,” stated a passage in the book’s fourth chapter. “In this stage, you provide professional development that builds awareness among staff of how their income, educational attainment, race, gender, or sexual orientation influences their actions and attitudes, such as helping white teachers to be aware of their race and how that puts them in a position of power.” (emphasis added)
New Leaders’ other educator resources includes the 1619 Project, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Learning for Justice, and the CNN and Sesame Street collaboration on racism.
Several of Big Tech’s biggest names are listed as New Leader donors: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
All of New Leaders’ tools and resources for educators are available here.
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