Guilford County superintendent describes conditions for women superintendents as ‘toxic and hostile’

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras described conditions for women superintendents as “toxic and hostile” in a tweet on Friday morning.

The tweet followed the announcement that Dr. Angela Hairston, the superintendent over Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, will resign.

“This is such a loss for children,” the tweet reads “The toxic & hostile work environments that female superintendents endure in NC and across the US must be investigated & addressed. Silence = Complicity #ISaidIt”

Hairston said she chose to accept an opportunity dear to her heart within another school district that she could not pass up.

When asked about the tweet, Hairston addressed the challenges superintendents face:

“People, parents educators want superintendents to give them what they want, which is really a sense of being normal again,” she said. “So that was probably a response to what we’re all feeling, which is a sense of emotion and urgency, but we have to understand that’s because of a prolonged sense of change we’ve been in, so my response is always to be patient and kind.”

Jack Hoke, the executive director of the North Carolina School Superintendent Association said no complaints had been filed by Contreras or other female superintendents across the state.

He said the tweet would be addressed at an upcoming meeting with the association’s executive board.

Deena Hayes-Greene, Chair of the Board of Education, said Friday that she would support an investigation as mentioned by the superintendent.

She pointed to studies of the roles gender and race play in the workplace, calling it a historic and systemic problem.

Hayes-Greene and the communications director for the district pointed to comments made during recent board meetings as a source of conflict.

In the most recent meeting, Board Member Byron Gladden said to Contreras that “getting an attitude” was not an effective way to respond.

Contreras responded by saying she doesn’t have an attitude and said “I’m speaking” as the two talked over each other.

Later in the meeting, Gladden apologized and said he was matching the energy of the discussion.

Linda Welborn, vice chair, said that the board does have conflict, but she doesn’t believe that it’s based on gender. Welborn added that seven women and two men currently serve.

Board Member Patrick Tillman said he had not seen the tweet, but that he has never treated the superintendent differently because she’s a woman and has not observed that behavior.

Contreras was not available on Friday to answer additional questions.

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