K-12 gifted program progresses

October 24, 2000

K-12 gifted program progresses

By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer

The Washington County Board of Education agreed at a Tuesday work session to move forward with a model of the proposed K-12 gifted and talented program, but it doesn't know how much the program would cost or how many teachers would be needed.

The board agreed to hold a public hearing on the model of the Program for Advanced-Level Learners but did not set a specific time for the hearing. Board member B. Marie Byers was absent.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett said Tuesday's decision allows administrators to work on an implementation plan, which will include the program's cost and the number of teachers needed.

"We don't know what to implement yet," Bartlett said. "Tell us 'yes, I like this model,' and then we'll go back and put numbers to it."


He also suggested that discussions about the program's teachers not be held in public, stating it would be a personnel issue.

The proposed program could replace Project Challenge, which is a program for gifted and talented students at the elementary level, according to Donna Chesno, coordinator of advanced programs.

"Some people are going to be disappointed if Project Challenge isn't there," Chesno said at the work session.

She said Project Challenge needs to be updated and that it doesn't reflect the national standards for gifted and talented students.

At Tuesday night's business meeting, Bartlett said administrators never talked about replacing Project Challenge.

"Nowhere in that discussion has anyone talked about taking Project Challenge away," Bartlett said. "I don't think that's what we're doing. I can assure you we're not going to take a working program away from students."

Bartlett was addressing parents and students in the Project Challenge program who pleaded with the School Board not to replace the program.

"Until we can resolve all of these issues, we're not going to take Project Challenge away," Bartlett said after the meeting.

Project Challenge is a county-funded 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.

The proposed program would also cover middle and high schools. It includes development of thinking and feeling, career awareness, acceleration and enrichment in school studies and independent study. If approved, it could be in place by August 2001.

The school system employs 16 elementary Project Challenge teachers. Administrators did not say if additional teachers would be hired to cover all grade levels of the proposed program.

Board members Doris Nipps, J. Herbert Hardin and Edwin Hayes expressed concerns at the work session that parents of gifted students feel left out of the decision-making process.

Hardin said some parents worry that the School Board will not be able to come up with enough money to hire additional teachers for the program if needed. They also fear the 16 elementary Project Challenge teachers would be spread through all grade levels, decreasing the amount of instructional time for students, he said.

Nipps and Hayes said parents might not trust that the School Board can deliver on the proposed program since the Project Challenge program was never fully implemented or funded.

"We got to have something the public can buy into," Hayes said.

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