Parents glimpse gifted program

September 28, 2000

Parents glimpse gifted program

By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

Parents got their first glimpse Wednesday of the model for a Washington County Board of Education gifted and talented program that may replace Project Challenge but some left the meeting frustrated at the lack of explanation of how the program will be funded and staffed.

School Board officials want to determine the model for the Program for Advanced-Level Learners first and determine staffing and budget needs later, said Linda Fernandez, district director of curriculum and professional development.

About 50 people attended Wednesday's two-hour meeting at the Washington County Board of Education auditorium at which a look at a draft model for the proposed program was featured.

Parents questioned how the School Board can seek to implement the program in August 2001 if staffing and budget haven't been figured out.


If the program is to serve about 15 percent of students more than the 16 current Project Challenge teachers would be needed, a few parents said.

The plan is to have the program, if implemented, replace Project Challenge, said Donna Chesno, coordinator of advanced programs.

Project Challenge is an elementary school program that focuses on gifted and talented students identified through test scores and grades. It teaches logic, problem solving, creative thinking, critical thinking and research.

One of the proposed program's main underpinnings is that it will be available at all schools and in all grades, Fernandez said. The program is different from Project Challenge in that it is K-12 and has more depth, she said.

Fernandez and Chesno are scheduled to update the School Board on the plan at its Oct. 24 meeting. That presentation will include going over staff and funding needs for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Fernandez said she and Chesno have not yet looked at budget and staffing needs. They asked parents to focus questions and comments on the ideas in the model rather than on budget and staffing questions.

Some parents left the meeting unsatisfied.

"There is a total disconnect happening at this meeting," parent Rick Baldasarre said at one point.

"This program is all very good in a theoretical basis," he said after the meeting. But parents came to hear the specifics of how the program would work, including funding and staffing information, he said.

Roxanne Ober, secretary of Paramount's parent-teacher association and a School Board candidate, said she was frustrated at the lack of specifics. While the program sounds good, she wants to hear how it would work and how much it would cost, she said.

Ober was one of the PTA officials who objected last fall when the School Board changed the amount of time Project Challenge teachers spent at particular schools.

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