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Equity and Inclusion

Vision: Promoting a culture of inclusive excellence for students, staff, and families

 The Olentangy School District believes in promoting an environment of inclusive excellence for all of our students, staff members, and families. In order to achieve this goal, we emphasize the following beliefs, values, and actions:

  • We strive to ensure structures, processes, and opportunities meet the needs of all students.
  • We recognize that our success is integrally linked to how well we value, engage, and affirm the rich diversity of our students, staff, families, administrators, and community members.
  • We focus on ensuring access to educational opportunity, cultivating student success, and fostering high-quality learning.
  • We believe in active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity and inclusion - not the delivery of isolated initiatives.


Jackie Merkel

Jackie Merkle, Supervisor of Equity and Inclusion

A former high school social studies teacher in Los Angeles, Jackie has earned her Ph.D. in Multicultural Studies at The Ohio State University. She currently lives in Gahanna with her husband Tyler and their black lab Zeke. Jackie is a strong advocate for empowering student voice and she believes in developing platforms where all stakeholders can have input and be heard.

Heather Cole

Heather Cole, District Diversity Coordinator

Heather has been in the district since 2001; the first 13 years serving as an elementary educator in first, third, and fourth grades. She currently lives in Westerville with her husband Michael and two sons Maxton and Zeke. Heather is passionate about her work with students, families and community members in breaking down barriers through relationship building, authentic conversation, and mindful listening.

Mikela Thomas, District Diversity Coordinator

 Mikela Thomas, District Diversity Coordinator

Mikela is a wife and mother of three (Michael 17, Mason 14, and Maliyah 11).  She has been an educator for 14 years and has held leadership roles in OLSD as a member of the Building Leadership Team, Diversity Liaison, and K-12 District Diversity Chair.  She is doctoral candidate at Northcentral University and will receive her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership. As a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, Mikela continues to provide outreach and public service to the community.  Mikela has an infectious passion for diversity, inclusion, cultural awareness, and social justice and she hopes to continue to spread awareness to all.

Shannon Griffen, K-12 Diversity Chair

 Shannon Griffin, K-12 District Diversity Chair

Shannon has been working in education for over 10 years and will be completing her masters in Educational Leadership this spring. She is extremely passionate about diversity, inclusion and anti-bias education. She hopes to transform student, teacher and community relationships by providing resources and support for teaching tolerance, encouraging conversations around tough topics, and engaging in social activism. Additionally, as a 4th grade teacher, mother and all-around book lover, she recognizes the power of representation and diversity in literature, and founded literallycultured.com earlier this year. Shannon is a wife (her husband works as a PE teacher at Indian Springs Elementary School) and mother of three boys; Osi, Langston and Eli. 


In 2010, Olentangy Schools formed a Superintendent’s Diversity Committee made up of passionate community members and staff which began addressing some of the most pressing issues facing students in our district. The committee spearheads conversations, recommendations and efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion that are necessary to facilitate maximum learning for every student.  Based on the committee’s early recommendations, a Diversity Coordinator was hired for the 2012-2013 academic year.  

Additionally, diversity liaison positions were created to support staff and students in every building. This structure allows the district to meet needs at the local level as well as to create programming and initiatives system-wide.  With steady growth, changing demographics and a strong commitment to the work, the district hired a full-time administrator to oversee the equity and inclusion department and initiatives throughout the community.

Explore Our Program


 Jacqueline Merkle
Curriculum Supervisor of                    Equity and Inclusion
      (740) 657-5068

 Heather Cole
District Diversity Coordinator
     (740) 657-5052

 Shannon Griffin
K-12 District Diversity Chair
     (740) 657-3032

 Mikela Thomas 
District Diversity Coordinator