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A Quarter Of CMS Teachers Enrolled In Cultural Proficiency Program

Lisa Worf
Courtney Mason in her classroom at Piney Grove Elementary.

CMS will soon receive its first private donation to fund the district’s cultural proficiency initiative. CMS started the program last summer and so far most of the district’s principals and a quarter of teachers have enrolled. 

Most CMS teachers are white, but nearly 2/3rds of students are African American or Latino and a quarter come from homes where English isn’t the main language spoken. That’s why the district’s cultural proficiency initiative is so important says CMS Foundation Director Sonja Gantt. She says the year-long program helps teachers to better reach students.

"It's important to make sure teachers are equipped and ready to be able to relate to the students who come in their door," says Gantt.   

The program includes assessments, discussion sessions and what are called community-based cultural experiences. It costs $800 per person and so far has been paid for using district funds and grants. The plan is for all 9,300 CMS teachers to eventually go through the program. It's led by the Winters Group, a firm that works with companies on diversity initiatives.

Four years ago, former CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison's push to hire a racial equity consultant was the subject of a lot of controversy. That idea was eventually dropped and a year later the district began quietly working on this program. 

The $60,000 donation to the CMS Foundation was given by an anonymous donor in honor of Dorothy Counts and three other African American students who were the first to integrate the district's schools 60 years ago this week.