Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011 | 11:28 p.m.
The Clark County School District on Thursday approved hiring an outside consultant for $313 an hour to provide multicultural training to teachers.
Zaner-Bloser, an educational materials publisher, will provide 18 days of professional development and materials between now and May 15, 2012 — costing the district $74,700. The consultant will work with about 350 teachers, training them on how to teach effectively in increasingly diverse classrooms.
During the past two decades, Clark County has experienced enormous population growth as families flocked to the glittering gaming and construction mecca of Las Vegas. During the same period, the School District saw the number of Hispanic, Asian American and African American students jump to record levels.
“Our student demographics, our classrooms have changed tremendously,” said Greta Peay, the director of the district’s equity and diversity education department. “Being that we are the fifth largest school district with students from very diverse backgrounds, we need to offer teachers assistance and training.”
In previous years, the diversity department’s five employees conducted district-wide workshops and conferences to promote cultural awareness among teachers. Last year, the department held 75 training sessions and three major conferences.
The workshops, however, only dealt with raising cultural awareness, not so much teaching teachers on how to become more “culturally responsive instructors,” Peay said. Zaner-Bloser will help teachers incorporate multiculturalism into their curriculum, she said.
The consultant will conduct bimonthly meetings and site visits with “equity and diversity school site liaisons,” a teacher chosen by the principal at each school. The goal is to help teachers teach a subject like writing using books that highlight different cultures, backgrounds and physical and mental abilities.
Zaner-Bloser will provide classroom sets of multicultural literature — books such as “I Speak English for my Mom” — at no cost to the district. The Columbus, Ohio-based company is also donating five additional days of professional development. The free materials and professional development is valued at $56,595.
Peay plans to encourage selected teacher-liaisons to train other educators on how to incorporate multicultural lessons into their classrooms. While the diversity training is not state mandated, the training and diversity liaisons are “crucial,” Peay said. It’s akin to the work that special education or English Language Learner specialists do, she added.
The proposal to draft a contract with Zaner-Bloser for these services was passed by a 6-1 vote, with School Board President Carolyn Edwards dissenting.
Edwards took issue with the $2,500 daily pay rate for the consultant. Peay argued the compensation accounts for additional costs, such as travel and lodging for the consultant.
“It’s not an acceptable rate of pay,” Edwards said. “It’s exorbitant to spend that much for one person per day.”
School Board member Linda Young — who is African American — said that while the pay does “seem a little bit exorbitant,” it’s beneficial to have trained teachers sharing ways to involve diversity in the curriculum.
“It’s quite inexpensive when you look at the far reaching effect of integrating literature from a cultural diversity perspective,” she said.