Metro State is set to establish a center that helps public school districts deal with equity and civil rights issues, thanks to a multiyear, multimillion dollar U.S. Department of Education grant announced last week.
Awarded to Metro State’s Equal Opportunity Office by the Equity Assistance Centers Program of the U.S. Department of Education, the grant is anticipated to be over $2 million for a total of three years. The initial grant amount of $681,931, for the first year, begins October 2011.
The contract was announced Aug. 4 in Washington, DC by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
The new Metropolitan State College of Denver Equity Assistance Center (EAC) will offer technical assistance and training to public school districts, at the request of school boards, in desegregation and equity issues regarding race, gender and national origin. The center will have a focus on two primary issues: (1) improving school safety, decreasing the incidence of racial and sexual harassment and bullying; and (2) promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in order to reduce achievement disparities. The grant establishes the new center at Metro State as one of 10 Equity Assistance Centers around the country.
The EAC program is funded by the DOE under Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to promote equal educational opportunities and assistance to public school districts in the areas of race, gender and national origin equity. The Metro State EAC will serve DOE’s Region 8, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
"As the demographics in Colorado—and in many other states in the Mountain West—are changing, many of the equity issues around race, gender and national origin are becoming even more pronounced. Meeting the evolving needs of our school populations requires specialized training around issues of diversity, racial, sex and national origin discrimination," says Percy A. Morehouse Jr., executive director of equal opportunity/assistant to the president and the principal investigator on the grant. Through training and policy development, Morehouse says, the EAC can help school districts be more proactive on such issues.
The grant re-establishes Metro State as a provider of equity assistance services for Region 8. The former Mountain West Equity Assistance Center was led by Morehouse at Metro State from 1993-1999. Morehouse ran a similar center atWeber State University in Utah in the 1980s.
Application a yearlong team effort
“The planning process for [the current] grant started a year ago,” says Morehouse, “and the remarkable team that jointly pulled the grant application together was vital to its securing funding.” Morehouse cites a number of individuals, including co-principal investigators Jan Perry-Evenstad, assistant professor of teacher education, and Myron Anderson, associate to the president for diversity, as crucial to the grant’s success. Former Metro State employee Kathleen Rigsby, who will direct the center and retired Office of Civil Rights employee Ramon Villarreal also provided valuable expertise. In addition, Morehouse said, Chair and Professor of Aviation and Aerospace Science Jeff Forrest and Assistant Professor of Technical Communications Christopher Jennings wrote key sections of the grant and David Bernstein, director of the Center for Effective Interventions, provided relevant research on best practices in bullying prevention and intervention. All the staff at the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs (OSRP), under the direction of Gwendolyn Mami, helped with the Herculean task of compiling the grant application.
“The OSRP is a crackerjack team,” Morehouse says. “I thought I was a stickler for details, but I can’t compete with those folks. If anyone wants to write a grant, the OSRP office has tremendous resources.”
Finally, Morehouse credited President Stephen Jordan, who personally called the chief state school officers in the six-state region to solicit letters of support for the grant and to provide contacts at local school districts to which Morehouse then sent a virtual needs assessment survey, developed by Senior Instructional Technologist Ed Jacobs.
College has resources to address equity issues
The grant criteria included demonstrated knowledge of needs in the region, toward which, Morehouse says the survey was a start; the EAC will continue surveying institutions in its start-up year. Other grant criteria included knowledge of current research and best practices, and a demonstration of what resources the College could bring to bear to assist the EAC.
“Really, the resources that Metro State has available already for this undertaking are remarkable,” says Morehouse, who cites the work of Larry Johnson at the Summer Science Institute and Adrian Wycoff at the Family Literacy Program as pioneering in addressing issues of race, gender and national origin.
Furthermore, because the states in the six-state region are primarily rural, Morehouse said, Metro State’s expertise in on-line and distance learning were particularly relevant.
“We’ve already had a request from a district in Wyoming to do something to address bullying,” Morehouse says. “The need is clearly there, and Metro State is poised and ready to fill it.”
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