By Bea Wunston
Pittsboro, NC – Last year, Chatham County Schools instituted a new district-level director position, to be known as the “Equity Executive Director.” On June 7, 2021, the Chatham County Board of Education approved the creation of this new top-tier bureaucratic post, a position to be paid for out of temporarily available federal Covid-Relief, or “ESSER,” funds, a source of money which they knew would dry up after 3 years.
Page, 15 – ESSER BOE Presentation June 2021 (Highlight added).
New director position costs district 6-figures per year.
The cost to the district of the position, as listed in “ESSER III” funding financial documentation, is $115,000. This cost includes salary, benefits and other expenses. Over the three years of available ESSER III funds, the total comes to $345,000.
ESSER funds were also planned to be spent on the CCS Virtual Academy Program, Certified Instructional positions, Teaching Assistant positions, and social workers, among many other areas.
ESSER Planning Sheet 2021 (obtained by public records request)
Director position in charge of equity programs filled within 1 month.
The Chatham County School Board approved the hiring of Mr. Chris Poston on June 29, 2021, only 22 days after the initial board approval of the position’s creation. By this time, the name of the position had been changed from Equity Executive Director to “Director of Excellence and Opportunity” without explanation. Before taking the position, Mr. Poston served as Chatham County Schools Executive Director for Elementary and Middle Grades Education. The position held by Mr. Poston is presently titled “Senior Executive Director of Excellence and Opportunity” (CCS Org Chart, 7/1/22). The official announcement by the school district, shown here, indicates Mr. Poston would “lead efforts to implement the district’s equity agenda as [they] work to support the academic achievement of all students and foster family and community engagement to activate and elevate voice and advocacy for historically underrepresented populations.”
Announcement of Mr. Poston’s hiring, CCS Website
The Chatham County Schools Equity program known as “E3,” Equity & Excellence for Everyone, has been in operation for several years. The first “full group equity team meeting” was held in April of 2016 (source: CCS E3).
Mr. Poston has presented “Equity Champion of the Month” awards to several CCS staff and faculty members during Board of Education meetings since he began his tenure as Director of Excellence & Opportunity.
Screenshot of tweet from Mr. Poston recognizing May 2022 CCS Equity Champion. Retweeted by Chatham County Schools, NC.
Where does this new administrator fit in the district hierarchy?
The Senior Executive Director for Excellence & Opportunity reports directly to the Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services & Instructional Support (abbreviated “ASIS”). The Assistant Superintendent for ASIS position is currently Dr. Amanda Moran, who was hired to fill that post in 2014 by Chatham County Schools after previously serving as an Orange County Schools, NC district administrator (News of Orange County). (Note: Dr. Moran has changed her name due to marriage, and was previously known as Dr. Amanda Hartness).
Chatham County, NC Schools district administration senior leaders, as of July 1, 2022 (from Chatham County Schools website).
Two additional employees now report to the Director of Excellence & Opportunity.
At the April 2022 Board of Education meeting, Chatham County Schools announced plans to create two additional new district-level positions, both of which would report to the Director of Excellence & Opportunity.
Page 8, “Excellence & Opportunity BOE Update 4_12” slide show, presented at CCS Board of Education Meeting in April 2022 [highlighting added].
The Chatham County Schools district Organizational chart published in July 2022 shows “IPF” and “Family & Community Engagement” positions listed under the Senior Executive Director for Excellence and Opportunity. The precise meaning of “IPF” is not clarified on the district website.
Detail of Chatham County, NC Schools district administration structure showing subordinates of Director of Excellence & Opportunity, as of July 1, 2022 (from Chatham County Schools website).
Implementing the District’s Equity Agenda
Browsing the Chatham County Schools “E3” website shows that the “Equity & Excellence for Everyone” Team works on many initiatives, including generating the CCS “Equity Tool Kit” and occupying the valuable time of faculty and staff with “professional development” sessions centering on Equity. Communicating and demonstrating all of the ways in which Equity has become the unifying theme for district operations receives a heavy push, while little to no emphasis is placed on how all of the funds, dedicated staff, trainings, awards, and enforcement relate to individual student academic outcomes.
Perhaps taxpayers should ask how money spent on hiring more bureaucrats at the district level is really helping Chatham County classroom teachers and their students take advantage of “opportunities” and achieve “excellence.” It remains to be seen how the new Director of Equity “support[s] the academic achievement of all students.”
- Is increasing the number of top-level district administrators the best way support academic excellence?
- Why was the position title changed from “Equity Executive Director” to “Director of Excellence & Opportunity”?
- How will Chatham County Schools pay for the position in 2 years once ESSER III funds run out?