Olentangy Valley News

Grant will let district expand diversity teaching

State grant worth $231K will help students compete in 'global society'

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Olentangy Local School District recently was awarded more than $200,000 in grant funding for diversity programming and training.

Superintendent Wade Lucas announced at December's school board meeting that Olentangy would receive $231,746 through the Ohio Department of Education's My Voice and Cultural Competency minigrant program.

"It funds our diversity programming, professional development, library material (and) continues to push and help us know and understand what that diversity movement or change in demographics is all about," Lucas said.

Heather Cole, co-diversity coordinator at the district, said the funding will be spent on five areas:

• training for teachers and administrators.

• culturally diverse classroom and library materials.

• a one-day, in-house workshop for staff.

• a video and pamphlet describing the district's diversity programming.

• surveys for students and parents.

Cole said the largest portion of the funding will go toward training for teachers and administrators, noting teachers will have access to courses from January through the summer on topics such as global literature. She said the courses will allow staff to provide "more inclusive environments for all of our students."

Keith Frase, co-diversity coordinator for Olentangy, said the district's focus on diversity also should give students a boost as they enter college or the job market. He said students need to learn about other cultures because they will be "competing in a global society" due to advances in technology and economic trends.

Cole said the surveys are another tool to make sure students and parents from all backgrounds feel included in the district.

"We want to put a finger on the pulse of our parent and student populations to make sure we can respond to their needs," Cole said.

According to the Ohio Department of Education's 2011-12 district profile -- the most current data available -- about 82.18 percent of the district's students were white, 7.72 percent were Asian, 3.93 percent were black and 3.68 percent were multiracial. No other minority group made up more than 2 percent of the district's population.

Cole said the district began training staff in culturally relevant teaching, an education style that takes students' cultural backgrounds and experiences into account, last school year. She said the district has made great strides in teaching about diversity in the past few years and added the goal is to make all the district's students, not just those in minority populations, more comfortable with their peers and the world around them.

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