Last December, Lane Ledbetter landed his dream job as superintendent of one of the top-performing school systems in Texas: the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, where he grew up.
At 50, Ledbetter thought returning to his hometown would be a chance to give back to the community that shaped him. But so far, his tenure leading the district of 8,400 students has been dominated by a supercharged debate over how the suburban school system, 30 miles northwest of Dallas, handles issues of race, identity and student discipline.
As students settle in at the start of a new school year, Southlake residents on both sides of the fight have largely looked to one man — Ledbetter — to find a path forward. It's not yet clear, however, what that path is.
"I do believe if any community can come through this, then certainly it's the city of Southlake and Carroll ISD," Ledbetter, who is white, said in a recent NBCNews.com interview. "They can come through this."
The city's fight over the school diversity plan is the focus of a new six-part narrative podcast by NBC News. The series, "Southlake," documents the district's initial efforts to address racism after a 2018 viral video of white high schoolers chanting the N-word led dozens of Carroll parents and students to share stories of racist, insensitive and discriminatory incidents. The audio documentary also traces the rise of an organized and well-funded local campaign to kill the diversity plan and win control of the school board.