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South Hills

West Jefferson could hire consultant

| Friday, March 23, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

West Jefferson Hills School District leaders could hire a consultant to expose students and staff to the more diverse world outside of the “TJ bubble.”

School board members are scheduled to vote on March 27 to bring in Donald Sheffield, president of TAME, Inc. (or, Techniques Assisting Motivation and Excellence), as a consultant for the district to build cultural competency at a price not to exceed $2,000 a day .

Sheffield, whose resume includes serving as the former director of diversity outreach at Pennsylvania State University and former administrative assistant to Joe Paterno, has worked with numerous school districts across the region including Quaker Valley, South Fayette and Penn Hills.

“TJ is a pretty homogeneous community,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said. “I mean, it's a bubble. TJ is a bubble and we need to teach our kids to be culturally competent because when they leave the grounds of Thomas Jefferson and West Jefferson Hills, they need to know how to work in places of diversity and a world that's very diverse.”

Sheffield will work with the yet to be formed multicultural student union at Thomas Jefferson, as well as work with staff and administrators to create cultural competence.

“We've had a number of incidents this year and we really want to engage him to work with our staff and our kids,” Ghilani told school board members at their work session on March 20. He did not publicly offer information on the incidents he referred to.

According to the latest School Performance Profile results released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, a majority of students in the West Jefferson Hills district (almost 93 percent) are white. Black students make up almost 2.5 percent of the district. Data shows that 2.43 percent of the students are Asian, 1.22 percent are Hispanic and another 1.22 are multi-racial.

Also, about 17 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged, and less than 1 percent are English learners. Data shows that almost 8 percent are in special education.

“We all know that West Jefferson Hills does not represent the rest of the world and our students need to be equipped and prepared to work with people from different cultures and different societies and acknowledge one anothers similarities and differences,” Ghilani said.

The superintendent said he talked with school leaders across the region before selecting Sheffield.

“I met with him and I really liked his message and how he approaches it,” he said. “It's educational best practices, but it's also about preparing kids for a world that's diverse.”

School board second vice president John Hosmer asked how many hours Sheffield will be working in the district.

“It's not going to be a ton of meetings. It's not going to be a ton of days. I don't see it necessarily being days, I see it more being half days, one hour meetings here or there,” Ghilani said.

Ghilani said after the board meeting that he does not have the total number of hours Sheffield will work with the district because district leaders still need to “draw up the plan.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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