CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Hundreds of Charleston County School District staff members will be taking part in training to better understand racism.
CCSD says The Racial Equity Institute workshops are being offered in partnership with the YWCA Greater Charleston.
In June of last year, Charleston County School District board members said 100% of staff should be trained in cultural competency. Currently, CCSD says there are about 1,000 employees going through implicit bias training and 295 of those employees will also be participating in the Racial Equity Institute training.
“So what the REI training does is bring the facts and historical background of why we have these types of structures in place, where the laws and policies that were put in place, in some cases, decades from what we’re operating under now,” CCSD Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Donald Kennedy said.
According to Kennedy, this training will help staff members move away from a focus on personal bigotry and bias because the workshop presents a historical, cultural and structural analysis of racism.
“The purpose of that is for the collective leadership of the district understand why we are where we are,” Kennedy said. “Then, what are the things that we need to do to either mitigate those negative consequences are to advocate for change in policy advocate for change enough in the legal structure.”
But, the objective might sound familiar.
In August of 2018, a team with Clemson University researched and analyzed issues related to diversity, inclusion, and sources of tension throughout the district.
The next month, the Shared Futures Project got underway. The $370,000 contract brought in a company to look back at the history of CCSD and help co-create a set of four scenarios about the future of education in Charleston County and some possible paths to get to those endpoints.
From there, Mission Critical was born which actions included: changing attendance lines to give all schools the best chance of success, considering the addition of an early college middle school, providing training for teachers on how to be successful in “high-challenge settings,” and recruiting new and highly successful teachers and principals.
Kennedy said the goal of the new REI training is to advocate for change in policy which is a continuation of the items listed above.
“Coming out of those things were certain actions, the cultural competency training as an example,” Kennedy said. “So what we are doing, through the cultural competency training is creating a foundation so that we can have enough people that can be slotted into that foundation that we can, over time, we can eliminate some of the negative stuff taken place over the last 70 years.”
Kennedy said he’s hoping this training will help identify areas that need systemic change, specifically when it comes to the segregated system in parts of the county.
“Our kids, they graduate from high school, and they will go on to a multicultural world but the lives that they live as they grow up here and get educated here in high school… they’re in a single culture and they go off to college and go off wherever they are, and they’re interacting with people all over the world,” Kennedy said. “We have not prepared them for that.”
According to the contract between CCSD and YWCA, the training is costing $118,000. Kennedy explained $92,500 is being funded through a Title II Grant which is specifically for professional development or training for district staff. The remaining $25,500 is coming from CCSD’s general operating fund.
“We need to take, as a system and as a community, we need to be thinking about the future of our children,” Kennedy added. “And so part of that thinking is how do we prepare our children to operate effectively, to live effectively in a multicultural world.”
Kennedy said he would like to see recommendations, from this training, going to the school board in the fall of next year.