In his first statement on a controversial "white privilege" teacher in-service training, Supt. Bryan Johnson said, "To accelerate success and continue to turn the corner as a system, we must understand the potential perspectives of our students across communities. We also know that we must hold all children to high expectations. That was the key message of the presentation that has generated so much conversation.
"The schools that were a part of the training serve students that are 90+ percent free and reduced lunch and have experienced challenges with student achievement gains. As a community, approaching our schools that have chronically under-performed the same way that we have for decades and yet expecting a different result does not make sense.
"We have acknowledged on multiple occasions that we will do a better job of vetting third-party, external material. We hate this caused a distraction from the great work being done in our school district. For that, we do apologize to our teachers, leaders, and students who should be and continue to be our focus."
Dr. Johnson also said, "The focus for Hamilton County Schools is on accelerating student achievement and ensuring that our students graduate future-ready. Serving children is our only agenda. We believe that every student deserves access to an excellent teacher, every school deserves access to an excellent leader, and every school deserves access to excellent resources to meet the needs of our diverse learners. Our work to improve as a district, resulting in the historic academic gains we recently announced, touched all communities. We want all students to be successful. We want all of our schools to be successful. Our community must acknowledge that many of our schools have not experienced the consistent success desired for decades. Just over two years ago, the state department had proposed a take-over of chronically under-performing schools. This year, 9 of the 12 schools that have chronically underachieved met or exceeded state expectations for student academic growth.
"Additionally, it has been nearly a decade since our school district experienced the system-wide success we did this year. To have a school district that moved from ranking #130 out of 146 school systems in 2016-2017 for student academic growth to #2 just two years later is truly a testament to the work that is happening in classrooms and schools across the district. To have 45 schools earn a Level 5 in student growth, and 32 Reward Schools is also a testament to this great work. Additionally, 84 percent of the schools in Hamilton County are at or above the state expectation for student academic growth, and 80 percent of our great teachers were the same. Lastly, we out-achieved the state average in five of the eight reported areas, which is the first time our district has achieved that feat in many years. These academic accomplishments are significant.
"We also acknowledge there is still a lot of work to do. We want our schools that have performed well historically to continue to accelerate achievement and our schools that haven’t to improve. We desire that all schools in all communities be exceptional environments for learning!
"To our students, teachers, leaders, and staff: You accomplished a remarkable feat this past school year and had a great start to this year. You’ve accomplished the goal of being the fastest improving school district in Tennessee, now, let’s become the BEST school district in Tennessee.
"We hope the community’s focus remains on the historic academic gains of our schools and children and how we come together to continue to accelerate that work and support ALL learners. Our community should come together to congratulate and encourage our teachers, leaders, and, most importantly, our students. The best is yet to come for Hamilton County Schools. We will continue to have important conversations about accelerating student achievement and improving facilities. We hope that the community joins us in making our children a priority and placing their needs above everything else. Let’s collectively make our only “agenda” the one that puts our children first. Putting children first made Hamilton County Schools the fastest improving school system in Tennessee and will take us to unprecedented heights."
The talk on Aug. 2 by Robert Johnson of Indianapolis, Ind., was to Opportunity Zone Schools teachers and administrators.
It was on "Cultural Diversity, Implicit Bias and Building Strong Relationships."
One slide from the recent speaker says, "White privilege is both a legacy and a cause of racism."
The slide also says, "White privilege exists because of historic, enduring racism and biases."
Another slide says of 'white privilege':
- Less likely to be followed, interrogated or searched by law enforcement
- Skin tone will not affect their credit or financial responsibility
- When accused of crime, portrayed as good person
- Don't lose opportunities when mistakes are made
A slide on Racism says:
- People of color cannot be racist because they lack the institutional power to affect white lives
- Even if minorities sometimes complain about whites, such complaints serve as coping mechanisms to withstand racism rather than actual anti-white bias
- Even when minorities express or practice racism against whites, they are not racists.