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Special ticket prices available for MERC division members, students (k12, undergraduate, and graduate), VCU faculty and alumni, and retired educators. All tickets include lunch and parking.  

Advancing Educational Equity: Supporting Diverse Learners in Metropolitan Richmond Schools Through Community Engaged Research


Public education is for all students. This foundational principle compels schools and divisions to meet the unique needs of diverse populations, continuously evolving to reflect the communities they represent. “Diversity” in public schools transcends multiple domains, including race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, language, ability, ambitions for life beyond high school, and other identifiers. By many standards, school divisions in the MERC region are highly diverse, representing urban, rural, and suburban communities. Our schools and divisions are entrusted with serving all students equitably, a task that presents considerable challenges but also tremendous opportunities. 

The strategic plans of MERC school divisions reflect a multifaceted commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as does the VCU School of Education. It is no surprise that the three current MERC studies determined by our Policy and Planning Council emphasize these principles. Our Achieving Racial Equity in School Disciplinary Policies and Practices study explores the patterns of racial gaps in exclusionary discipline as well as the factors that drive these inequities. Our Teacher Retention study seeks to understand the recruitment and retention of educators, including factors contributing to a diverse teacher workforce in metropolitan Richmond. Our Professional Development for Success in Culturally Diverse Schools study investigates strategies for providing high quality professional development for educators working in rapidly diversifying schools. In each of these studies, we seek not only to engage the national conversation related to these issues of diversity in public education, but also to generate practical, actionable recommendations that support equity in our region’s schools.  

The 16th annual MERC Conference will bring together researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and students to advance the mission of school divisions in metropolitan Richmond to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. The event will encourage conversations about opportunities that exist as a result of diversity, as well as the challenges that arise. Through all conference activities, there will be a focus on finding solutions to the challenges we face, and in moving from understanding to action. 

The goals of the conference are: 

1. To explore the varied ways that stakeholders in MERC school divisions understand diversity, equity, and inclusion in their schools. 

2. To discuss local educational research on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, with an emphasis on practical, actionable implications for MERC division schools. 

3. To share current efforts for advancing equity in MERC school divisions, highlighting how these vary based on the communities they serve.  

4. To offer tangible, sustainable takeaways for how to promote equity in schools, classrooms, and communities. 

5. To build community within and across stakeholder groups with the hope of encouraging collective action on these topics.







15th Annual MERC Conference 


The MERC Conference Planning Committee is comprised of representatives from the VCU School of Education as well as each of the seven MERC school divisions. 

VCU School of Education Committee Members

Sandy Ting, Graduate Student - Curriculum, Culture, and Change

Melissa Cuba, MERC Education Specialist

Brionna Nomi, Graduate Student - Curriculum, Culture, and Change

Zoey Lu, Graduate Student - Research, Assessment, and Evaluation

Jesse Senechal, Director

David Naff, Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation

     JoAna Smith, Spanish Teacher - Midlothian High School
     Laura Faulcon, Associate Principal - The Phoenix Center

Andy Armstrong, Executive Director for Business Operations

Cindy Sinanian, Teacher - Elmont Elementary School

Drew Baker, Professional Development Specialist

Gwendolyn Price, Director of Research, Testing, and Evaluation

Lynn Clayton-Prince, Director of Special Education

Angel Rather, Student - Powhatan High School

Michelle Boulanger-Thompson, Occupational Therapist