PITTSBORO — After 25 years in education — 14 of them in Chatham — Chris Poston will soon be starting a new role: Chatham County Schools’ Executive Director for Excellence and Opportunity.
Poston has served as executive director for elementary and middle grades education since 2018, a position he will continue in until a new director is named. His new role, also brand new to the district, will involve leading efforts to implement the district’s equity plans, which have formally been in place for the last five years.
“I’m extremely excited about being named Excellence and Opportunity Director for the district,” Poston told the News + Record. “It’s just an opportunity for us to support students, and support students in a real systematic and thoughtful way.”
The CCS Board of Education approved Poston for the role on June 29. Though he won’t fully start until another K-8 director is named, he’s started planning for increased student support at schools, as students and teachers alike work to recover from remote learning challenges — something he said will be an important part of equity work moving forward.
The district’s Equity and Excellence for Everyone (E3) team — of which Poston is a founding member — focuses on supporting students by eliminating barriers for student groups as well as by using and providing culturally relevant resources across the system.
Work by the E3 team in the last few years has led to the district revising various policies, such as dress code and discipline, making language on district forms more gender inclusive and adding more diverse texts and curriculum to classrooms. Last semester, the group launched its two-year equity training and assessment efforts with a group called The Equity Collaborative.
In his new role, Poston will work with the E3 team, principals, curriculum coaches and senior leadership to implement CCS’s equity agenda. Recently, the district launched focus groups at some of its high schools to hear student concerns and ideas more directly.
“That’s been really powerful,” Poston said. “... We are a diverse community. So I think listening and taking in the perspectives of students across our community — from rural Chatham County to the northern part of Chatham County — making sure we really listen to our students and to our teachers and to our community (is important.)”
Several community members and CCS employees congratulated Poston on Twitter after he shared the news.
“Time to celebrate!” tweeted Dr. Amanda Moran (Hartness), who is assistant superintendent for academic services and instructional support and has helped lead the district’s equity efforts. “We’ve been dreaming of this role for 7 years! My heart is happy.”
“Mr. Poston, I cannot think of a better person,” N.C. State’s Director of Technology for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs Keith Medlin added. “Your community ties, obvious deep care for children, and passion for ensuring that every student succeeds is evident in all you do. Congratulations!”
Poston previously worked as an elementary classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal. In 2015, he was named the Wells Fargo Region V Principal of the Year, and selected as CCS’s principal of the year in 2015 and 2017.
He grew up in Chatham, attending Pittsboro Elementary, Horton Middle and Northwood High — he graduated from there — so he’s uniquely positioned to know and respond to community needs.
Looking ahead, he’s thinking about how to create “a culture of love,” something new Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson has been challenging staff to do as a part of the district’s theme for the year: getting to the heart of CCS.
How can teachers and administrators help students feel safe and welcomed at every school? How can they provide a rigorous curriculum and also remove barriers for students, whether it’s internet access, technology devices or social/emotional support? Those are questions Poston will focus on answering in his new role, particularly after the pandemic has exacerbated many pre-existing challenges for students.
“Whether it’s in the classroom or barriers in some systems that are set up, we make sure that every kid can reach his or her potential,” Poston said. “We want to make sure that we are being really thoughtful about our policies that really impact our students. It was a perfect opportunity to create this position — I’m just thankful to have an opportunity to serve.”
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.
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