I am a retired Cherokee County school teacher, the mother of three CCSD graduates, and the grandmother of two children currently enrolled. On behalf of what I believe is the majority of stakeholders, I want to apologize to Dr. Hightower for being booed and called a “liar” at the recent school board meeting. I also want to apologize to the speaker trying to highlight the achievement gaps between White and Nonwhite students at Creekview High School. When Ms. Cromer stated, “I can’t hear the speaker”, someone yelled out, “We don’t want to hear the speaker!” What happened to being civil? You don’t have to agree, but you DO have to listen!
I support social emotional learning (SEL), which was instituted two years ago, without fanfare or controversy (but not in secrecy) to address teen depression and the increasing suicide rate in our schools. Bullying has always been with us, but the advent of social media has made it much worse. Teens and adults alike say things on social media they would never say face to face. The lessons are NOT “teaching 4th graders things that haven’t even crossed their mind yet” as stated by a speaker. They are about empathy, including others, and being kind. By 4th grade everyone has had experiences with being left out!
I support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs. Dr. Hightower has tried repeatedly to explain what those words mean in the context of education. It is not a “Marxist Trojan Horse” and it is not “un-American”. Nothing could be more American than recognizing we have many differences; children deserve to feel welcomed, valued, and have equal access and opportunity to succeed in school. Dr. Hightower has repeatedly stated that Cherokee County never had any plans to teach critical race theory.
When SEL was created, it was under the direct leadership of Dr. Debra Murdock, a greatly admired leader in our school system, who is also a graduate of Cherokee High School, has worked her entire career here, and is now the Chief Operations Officer. She also happens to be White. No one complained. Then the county hired Dr. Cecelia Lewis, who happens to be Black, and suddenly people are insisting that SEL and DEI are really critical race theory in disguise!
Unfortunately, Dr. Lewis resigned following this meeting which is a great loss to CCSD. I sincerely hope the Board will stand firm in its commitment to these programs and the values that they represent. If nothing else, this meeting highlighted the need for SEL and DEI programs in our schools. As Dr. Hightower said, “it is misguided to say there is no racism in our community…We must stand together against racism”.