Issued on behalf of Mrs. Lisa Estep, Board Chair
The New Hanover County Board of Education shares the community’s concern over the Black History Month lesson at Codington Elementary School that was part of a recent news story. We understand the stated purpose of the lesson, but we do not believe the strategy of using this game to teach historical facts about a topic as sensitive and painful as slavery was appropriate. Though it was not the intention of our educators to downplay or trivialize slavery, we realize that it has caused angst and heartache within our community.
The Board has requested a report on this matter from Dr. Markley and his staff who have oversight in the area of classroom instruction and curriculum. Assistant Superintendent Dr. LaChawn Smith met with the principal and teachers for a discussion on the issue and about how the district can support our educators with this issue in the future. The district has already begun some work in the area of making improvements in cultural competency.
New Hanover County Schools established an Equity Committee that began meeting over a year ago to discuss and enhance equity in access and opportunities in the district. They have already begun implicit bias training. The same training is already scheduled for all principals in June 2019. The district will also be implementing further actions in the area of cultural competency to ensure that instances such as this one are not repeated:
Cultural competency training for all NHCS employees is being scheduled for the start of the new school year. Meanwhile, all principals have been instructed to have discussions with their staffs about this topic.
Members of the Equity Team have attended workshops on equity and bias at events across the state recently. The team is in the process of scheduling their next meetings to debrief and form the next steps.
The district will conduct a large-scale book study on cultural competency, with one of the book recommendations for the study being Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students.
On March 18, 2019, the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Group will engage in a focus group discussion about equity, bias, and access in the district.
On March 26, 2019, the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Group will also engage in a focus group discussion about equity, bias, and access in the district.
Specific work is being done with secondary principals with regards to increasing enrollment of under-represented student groups in advance courses. Most of this work is being done with principals during the secondary schools’ break-out sessions at the Superintendent’s monthly principals’ meetings.
NHCS Human Resources has been directed to examine the on-boarding process for new teachers. The goal is to have cultural competency training for the several hundred new teachers hired each year and continue training with staff each year. Further, HR has been directed to continue to recruit more highly-qualified minority teachers.
The Superintendent has been asked to develop a plan on how to hold principals accountable for implementing policies and procedures around cultural competency.
We have a very diverse student body and school staff, and we are working to bring cultural sensitivity to the forefront to support that diversity. It is unfortunate that this incident occurred. Moving forward, the Board will follow up to ensure that these actions are implemented. We respect and value the input of all community members. We apologize for any hurt this may have caused.