School District's Diversity Chief Quit Before She Even Started

ProPublica dives deep into the story of a Black educator driven out of 2 jobs by white parents
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2022 7:45 AM CDT
School District's Diversity Chief Quit Before She Even Started
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/maroke)

(Newser) – In early 2021, Cecilia Lewis was looking forward to pulling up roots from her Maryland home and starting a new job as a Georgia school district's first administrator for diversity, equity, and inclusion. What Lewis had seen as an exciting opportunity, however, never panned out, thanks to white parents who pushed back against her hiring and accused the district of trying to teach "radical ideologies." Writing for ProPublica, Nicole Carr lays out Lewis' story, which started when she accepted the DEI position with the Cherokee County School District, a job she thought would allow her to support the "whole child" and address district disparities tied to race, disabilities, socioeconomics, and other factors. However, as the time drew nearer for the Black educator to head to Georgia, word started getting to her that white parents from one of the district's wealthier neighborhoods weren't happy she was coming.

Their main complaint, drawn from conservative talking points circulating nationwide: that Lewis was coming to force critical race theory, or CRT, and a "woke" liberal agenda upon the students and community. Lewis says she wasn't even familiar with CRT, which she thought referred to "culturally responsive teaching." But things got worse as her first day approached, with the parents against her hiring—motivated by national anti-CRT groups intent on stopping "indoctrination" and ousting school board members who didn't align with their beliefs—becoming increasingly hostile to her arrival.

A flood of emails soon demanded Lewis' firing, but the last straw was when she virtually watched a chaotic May 20, 2021, board meeting, where the superintendent nixed the district's DEI plan she'd been hired to oversee. "[The] foundations of everything that I was asked to do ... just shifted, and I was not a part of the conversation," she says. "That's it," her disgusted husband told her. "We're not doing this. You are not going there." She quit the next day, before she'd even started. Read more of Lewis' story here, including what happened when she accepted a job as a social studies supervisor in another Georgia school district after the drama in Cherokee. (Read more Longform stories.)

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