The Olentangy Local School District is planning a series of equity and inclusion workshops this year with the first, "Discussing Race and Racism with Children," slated Sept. 20.

Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, a history professor at Ohio State University and lead historian for the National Civil Rights Museum, will lead the conversation, which is free and open to the public.

The workshop will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the district's administrative offices, 7840 Graphics Way in Lewis Center.

The workshop is designed to teach parents of all backgrounds how to recognize opportunities to engage in conversations with their children about race and racism.

The first of several monthly workshops was announced during the district's Sept. 6 board meeting.

Other events planned this school year include a cultural-exchange potluck and seminars on preparing students for a global workforce and building empathy.

Board member Julie Wagner-Feasel said Jeffries is an excellent speaker and she is proud to welcome him to Olentangy.

"Some of the things he says may be uncomfortable for people to hear, (but) it needs to be said," she said.

"We support people and students of all backgrounds here and it only leads to the strength of our district."

Those who wish to submit questions to be answered during the workshop may register and submit them at the website tinyurl.com/olentangydiversity.

Jackie Powers Merkle, curriculum supervisor of equity and inclusion, said the district is focused on "promoting a culture of inclusive excellence" through four points:

* Ensuring processes and opportunities meet the needs of all students

* Recognizing success is integrally linked to valuing and affirming the diversity of students

* Ensuring equal access to educational opportunities

* Active, intentional and ongoing engagement with diversity and inclusion, not the delivery of isolated initiatives.

"Our district has continued to diversify across all identity markers over the last 15 to 20 years," she said.

The district also plans a Multilingual Family School Resource Workshop on Sept. 18 at Olentangy Orange Middle School, 2680 E. Orange Road.

The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Interpreters and child care will be provided.

Olentangy first held a multilingual family night last year to better help parents connect with their child's school community, Merkle said.

"Our district has 44 languages spoken at home," she said, with the top five being English, Telugu, Chinese, Spanish and Tamil. Telugu and Tamil most commonly are spoken in India.

The district's diversity committee also has set among its goals this year to increase equitable enrollment in high school Advanced Placement courses and to hold more professional development on culturally relevant topics, Merkle said.

In addition to Merkle, Olentangy employs a full-time K-12 diversity leader and has 24 staffers who serve as diversity liaisons at buildings across the district.

For more information on Olentangy diversity initiatives, visit www.olentangy.k12.oh.us/diversity.

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