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Cultural competency certification offered

CONYERS - After receiving results from a diversity needs assessment in May, officials at Rockdale County Public Schools are finding various ways to implement programs to attempt to improve the school system's areas of concern.

The National MultiCultural Institute, a private, nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., conducted a seven-month study of the system, and officials reported their findings, along with suggestions of what schools could do to improve the educational environment for students, families and employees.

"The diversity audit identified a need for a comprehensive, systematic approach to training all personnel in the area of cultural competence," said Rich Autry, assistant superintendent for support services at RCPS, about one of the organization's findings.

Because of the suggestion, officials at RCPS have implemented a Cultural Competence Training program in which administrators, teachers, central office employees and other system staff have the opportunity to earn Cultural Competency Certification.

In the program, school system officials will encourage all employees to get 20 hours of training over three years to earn their certification.

RCPS has 18 courses, most being two hours, for employees to take to earn their 20 hours. Courses include personal bias, the diverse community, customer service, multicultural literacy and embracing differences and culture; they are led by internal and external trainers.

Autry said Linda Sevigny, RCPS professional development director, selected a research-based list of classes that would allow employees to learn to have a culturally competent working and learning environment. Autry said it's possible courses could be added or revised according to staff needs.

Most classes are two credit hours.

Employees who chose to participate in the program will be able to take classes during teacher workdays, pre- and post-planning days and on professional learning days at various locations, including their home schools, a professional development facility and online.

In the class, employees will hold discussions, have interactive participation and learn relevant applications for their individual classrooms.

"Each class will have different requirements, but all will have an authenticity requirement for the staff member to demonstrate newly acquired skills in his/her workplace," Autry said.

The courses are free to all RCPS staff and are funded through Professional Development Title IIA federal funds.

The 2008-09 school year marks the first full year of implementing the certification program. RCPS officials designed a three-year roll out for all staff members, although the program is scheduled beyond three years to train new staff.

RCPS officials' primary focus for year one is on administrators and central office employees; all employees also will be introduced to opportunities with the program, according to Autry's presentation to the Rockdale County Board of Education at its June work session.

Teachers and staff will be the primary focus for year two, and during year three, officials will focus on all remaining employees who haven't been trained.

"Our implementation plan involves a multi-year roll out of opportunities for all certified and classified staff members," he said. "We are utilizing this approach in order not to overload or interfere with other professional development opportunities during the school year."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.