The Hernando County School Board (HCSD) agreed to issue a purchase order to VitalSmarts, a corporate training company offering a portion of their course called “Crucial Conversations” to faculty and staff. “Unconscious Bias” has a focus on equity in education. Participants will receive that training on an in-service day currently scheduled for February 12, 2021.
Jason Galitsky, Coordinator of Federal Programs for the district presented the topic at the January 26, 2021 Workshop. Galitsky described the communication course as “how to have conversations about equity, without it leading towards people getting offended or defensive.”
The cost of the course is $107,800.00 which will be funded by a ‘Title I’ grant ($47,530.00), and ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds ($60,269.40). ‘Title I’ provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.
ESSER funds are part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, and provided to LEAs to address the continuing impact that COVID-19 has had on elementary and secondary schools in Florida. This includes developing and implementing plans for educational services and continued learning, whether school campuses are open or closed.
According to the description provided to the board members, the course is designed to “(teach) skills for creating alignment and agreement by fostering open dialogue around high-stakes, emotional, or risky topics-at all levels of your organization. By learning how to speak and be heard (and encouraging others to do the same)…”
Beginning in September 2018, the HCSD began to have staff trained in Crucial Conversations, although the ‘Unconcious Bias’ portion was not included. 17 school and district instructional coaches were the first to participate. Training continued in June 2019 when 26 school and district administrators participated in the training. 4 HCSD staff members, 1 principal, 1 assistant principal, 1 district coordinator, and 1 instructional coach were trained as trainers in June 2020.
The cost for the previous fiscal year was $4,800.00
Galitsky explained that the ‘Unconcious Bias’ track has an intended audience specifically involved in educational equity. Previously trained faculty and staff will be able to add the ‘Unconcious Bias’ training in the future at no additional charge. Afterward, those previously trained will be able to provide training at one-fifth of the cost of VitalSmarts’ trainers. Galitsky’s intention is to provide all training in-house after next year. The district will still purchase materials from VitalSmarts.
In its introductory literature, VitalSmarts terms itself a “Leadership Training Company,” offering titles such as Crucial Accountability®, Getting Things Done®, The Power of Habit,” and lnfluencer Training®. Companies that have used the curriculum include Boeing, Toyota, Mayo Clinic, Lockheed Martin, Google, and Cisco.