‘Equity’ in Chatham County Schools isn’t worth squabbling over

Chatham County Schools' equity commitment was presented at a 'Parent Academy' meeting Tuesday, Feb. 27.
Chatham County Schools' equity commitment was presented at a 'Parent Academy' meeting Tuesday, Feb. 27.
Staff photo by Ben Rappaport

In the latest round of the culture wars in school systems across the U.S., “equity training” is a rallying cry for those from both sides of the political aisle to take up arms and prepare to duke it out over how our children are educated.

The battle has taken form in Chatham County Schools too.

At the beginning of the school year, the district was accused of using “equity training” to force Critical Race Theory down the throats of educators in the school system — a claim the News + Record found to be false, according to a review of the documents and speaking with administrators and teachers who actually attended these sessions.

During last year’s election season, parents and candidates also frequently raised concerns that the school board and the district weren’t being transparent enough about the curriculum taught to students. They claimed CCS needed to do more to gather parent input.

Last month, CCS’s signing of a Justice Partnership, part of a statewide initiative that aims to reduce suspensions in schools through alternative intervention strategies, was also called into question because some parents feared it would allow students to get off scot-free for their misbehavior. The critique calls “restorative justice” a problem in public schools, despite its explicit focus on disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline.

With the district’s approach to equity being so frequently called into question, I decided to see for myself how CCS is tackling the social challenges facing public education today.

Last Tuesday, I ventured to George Moses Horton Middle School for a session at CCS called “Parent Academy: Excellence & Opportunity in Chatham.” It was led by members of the district’s Equity & Excellence for Everybody (E3) team — Chris Poston and Jayme McPhatter.

The presentation provided an overview of CCS’s work in E3 since the program was established in 2020 and defined the district’s approach to equity and other core beliefs. It was an opportunity for parents to learn about the district’s plans and curriculum, to ask questions to administrators and provide feedback.

It was just one of several CCS Parent Academy meetings. Other topics addressed at future meetings include using PowerSchools — the online software that shows grades and assignments; summer program opportunities, and how to advocate for disability awareness in the schools through CCS’s Exceptional Children’s program.


Poston and McPhatter kicked off the presentation by defining the CCS equity commitment.

“We will reduce the predictability of who succeeds and who fails,” Poston said. “We do that by interrupting practices that negatively impact diverse students in school settings and by cultivating the unique gifts and talents of every student to give every student what they need.”

Living up to this commitment, according to the presenters, means advocating for social justice and breaking down barriers for diverse populations.

This advocacy work also isn’t just about talking, it’s about providing funding to see it come to light. Thus far, the district has awarded more than $12,000 in grant funding to teachers, schools, Parent-Teacher Associations and more for projects that support the E3 mission. This includes things like sensory rooms for students who get overwhelmed in class or purchasing Osmo, an educational gaming software that teaches learning fundamentals through play.

Poston also explained how the district advocates for its teachers to be culturally respectful teachers — a different kind of CRT. In practice, this involves things like art, food, music and other aspects of culture into the learning curriculum to make sure every child feels included in their own education.

“Kids need to see the world and lean into their own uniqueness,” Poston said. “Likewise, we want to lean into the uniqueness of our kids in the classroom.”

Cultural respect impacts all students because it allows them to feel seen and heard, he added. This practice also ensures students learn about other cultures and their histories — multiple perspectives are a good thing.

The takeaway from this session for me was that we cannot allow equity to become a taboo word. That’s especially true in Chatham County, where it’s clear our school system is advocating for equity for the right reasons.

Equity means lifting up students who are struggling. It means not allowing the color of their skin or their ZIP code to determine educational outcomes. And it means working toward a future where students in our public schools are on a level playing field.

Yes, there will be trials on that path, but it’s a journey worth taking.

I am not a parent, and I certainly will not pretend to know what it’s like to send a child off to school every day to the care of somebody else. And I am well aware that one listening session for parents — whether you were among the dozen or so in attendance last Tuesday or not — does little to ease concerns you may have about what your child is being taught while they’re out of your care.

Sessions like this, however, are an important step. It shows the district’s commitment to transparency and allows parents a voice in the decision-making process. Perhaps most importantly, it shows that “equity” isn’t a boogeyman some want to make it out to be in the culture wars.

For more information about the district’s equity plans and goals visit

Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at or on Twitter @b_rappaport

Chatham County Schools, Equity, Critical Race Theory, education, E3, Chris Poston


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  • pastor1132

    Amen! Thank you, Ben, for going to the meeting and sharing your experience.

    Wednesday, March 15 Report this