Wake school leaders get racial equity training

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Wake school leaders get racial equity training

After a long school year punctuated by a rash of high-profile racially-charged incidents at Wake County schools, the school system pledged to make race relations a higher-priority. Friday's district-mandated event at NC State's McKimmon Center was a part of that pledge.

Dr. Sandy Chambers arrived here, just as she's leaving her post as principal of Brier Creek Elementary School to take the helm of the newly-constructed Hortons Creek Elementary.

Like many in the community, she saw the video of the racist rantings of Leesville Road middle schoolers that went viral last winter. And for Chambers, it was personal.

"That hit home for me; my daughter goes to Leesville middle," Chambers said.

Dr. Chambers is a black mother who will now head up a predominantly white school; and her unique perspective was one of many in Friday's seminar for every Wake school principal.



It's called racial equity training. The school system did not allow cameras or reporters inside - to protect the privacy of what is supposed to be a safe space for school leaders to examine their own feelings about racial prejudice; sometimes feelings they didn't know they had or never expressed.

"Our group this morning has been filled with emotion," Chambers said. "What's emotional is that some of them are realizing the privilege that they have and they just weren't really aware of that privilege."

Inside the sessions, they say the groups went beyond the headlines - like the noose hung from the roof of Wakefield High or the Snapchat picture of the black dance team from Apex Friendship referred to as slaves.

The goal was to teach school leaders how have these tough conversations about race and racism before and after they happen.

"The realization that I need to seek first to understand others' perspectives, so that I can be a good decision maker for all the kids that come into my school and not just the kids that look like me," said Nolan Bryant, the white principal at Cary High School.

"This is the first time that we've tried to address it in a more systemic fashion," said Dr. Rodney Trice, WCPSS Assistant Superintendent of Equity Affairs.

Trice is the lone staffer of his department. He's been tasked with leading the district out of this troubling time.

"[After all of these racially-charged incidents] yes, you have to ask yourself what is going on," Trice said. "But, the next question has to be, so what do we do about it. And, that's what today is all about."

This so-called "Courageous Conversation about Race" that Dr. Trice wants to create is supposed to get larger and larger; including teachers, students and parents too. But, much of that growth relies upon a half-million dollar boost in next year's school budget. It's money that may or may not be approved by county commissioners on Monday.

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