School Board Candidate Responses To GATEway Questionnaire

Thank you to all candidates who responded to our questionnaire for the 2016 election.

2016 General Election

The general election will be held Tuesday, November 8.  GATEway sent all candidates two open-ended questions about gifted education in Rochester Public Schools.  Their responses are below for you to consider.


Seat 1 ~ Don Barlow


Question 1: Please describe your vision for an ideal program for gifted students in K-12. Consider the varying levels of giftedness and the needs of each level.

No response given.


Question 2: Given ongoing budget constraints, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of providing gifted services to our students?

No response given.


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Seat 1 ~ Richard Hinds (incumbent)



Question 1: Please describe your vision for an ideal program for gifted students in K-12. Consider the varying levels of giftedness and the needs of each level.

The ideal gifted and talented program would allow for individualized learning plans tailored to the needs of each student.  It would provide ample opportunity for students to collaborate and develop problem solving skills with peers at a similar level.  The program would utilize multiple metrics for identifying students that would be appropriate for the program, and would achieve student goals within the considerations of the normal school day, rather than relying on enrichment opportunities to achieve those goals, in order to provide an appropriate educational opportunity on equal terms.


Question 2: Given ongoing budget constraints, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of providing gifted services to our students?

The increase in FTE for the gifted and talented program is a step in the right direction, however, gifted and talented programing has been chronically underfunded within the District.  When it comes to the allocation of funding, we need to view gifted and talented programing in a similar light that we do other programs such as special education; we need to view gifted and talented programing as an essential component to providing an education on equal terms.  That is to say that other programing is geared to maximizing student achievement.  Requiring gifted and talented students to participate in extracurricular enrichment in order to do the same creates a situation that does not provide educational opportunities on equal terms.  In fact, we see that when such opportunity isn’t provided as part of the curriculum for students that are gifted and talented, academic achievement often declines due to a lack of engagement secondary to failure of challenging students.  Importantly, increases in funding need to be sustainable and not simply allocated in the budget as single year items, or through temporary grant funding.   At this point, the most feasible way to increase funding for gifted and talented programing is through the elimination of programs within the District that have failed to show effectiveness, and through the use of additional revenue received from our growing student population.


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Seat 3 ~ Bobbie Gallas


Question 1: Please describe your vision for an ideal program for gifted students in K-12. Consider the varying levels of giftedness and the needs of each level.

Knowing each student comes to our district with their unique set of circumstances, there is the opportunity to build a program for gifted students that is unique to Rochester and ensures students are receiving the best possible education they deserve.  As a school board member, understanding there could be additional funding thru ESSA for our gifted students, I would be conscious of making sure that money was going to gifted and talented.  Knowing programs such as these need support and being a new board member, I would encourage open dialogue about the program and what I could help with to ensure all of our students have the education they need.


Question 2: Given ongoing budget constraints, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of providing gifted services to our students?

I support the gifted program and understand its value to our district. I also believe any cuts to our district need to stay away from students and the gifted services are no exception. Funding is always a challenge, and traditional ways are not always effective.  As a new board member, considering unique approaches to funding would always be looked at.


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Seat 3 ~ Deborah Seelinger (incumbent)


Question 1: Please describe your vision for an ideal program for gifted students in K-12. Consider the varying levels of giftedness and the needs of each level.

Before even considering an ideal program, I think we need to be more diligent in identifying gifted students. Best practice tells us this process needs to be more than a one-time test. Those efforts are expanding in our district.

I’m interested in how the PETS lessons will impact our first grade students and how we can continue to support the critical thinking skills they will be learning. The push-in model found in some of our elementary also seems to have the potential of greater impact.

I would love to see elementary schools offer time for students to engage in structured engagement activities or allow for free time for students to pursue individual interests. When we talk about individualized learning plans, we need to be mindful that there aren’t just sets of plans or tracks that students have to choose from and we can’t wait until the upper grades.

Middle and high school honor and AP classes are self-selected. I think all students should be informed about what those courses entail and if they would be a good fit. There may be an assumption that these courses are about having more homework, with my middle school son, I have found that isn’t the case. Again, the critical thinking process is important.


Question 2: Given ongoing budget constraints, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of providing gifted services to our students?

Although minimal, we are fortunate to have some designated gifted funding. Providing high quality gifted programming and opportunities will help retain and attract more students to our district. Grant opportunities are one way to help bring additional funding into the district, but they cannot sustain support; however, if they provide evidence that the particular program works, the district should consider continuing funding. Engaging the larger community about the importance of gifted education may help secure funding in times of limited resources.


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Seat 7 ~ Ahmed Ragab



Question 1: Please describe your vision for an ideal program for gifted students in K-12. Consider the varying levels of giftedness and the needs of each level.

No response given.


Question 2: Given ongoing budget constraints, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of providing gifted services to our students?

No response given.


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Seat 7 ~ Mark Schleusner


Question 1: Please describe your vision for an ideal program for gifted students in K-12. Consider the varying levels of giftedness and the needs of each level.

For the first question, I would look to you as the experts in that space. While I know there is a wide range of gifted students, from gifted to 2E the needs are wide and each level has its own unique needs.  I do know I'd like to see gifted students identified earlier than they are today.  I'd also like to see more frequent gifted services provided to the students than the current frequency.  For the highly gifted students I'd like to see the HG program expanded to be able to handle all of the HG students.  While I know the HG program was expanded at Friedell, I do not know if all students that qualify, and want to go into the HG program can.  I feel there should be room there for every HG student.  So what would the ideal program look like?  We'd work on that together and build as much of it as we could.


Question 2: Given ongoing budget constraints, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of providing gifted services to our students?

For the second set of questions, while I don't know the districts complete budget (yet), its rather hard to give a concrete answer.  I feel that gifted services are extremely important and would like to see them expanded.  The difficult question is going to be how can we expand the services with the budget constraints.  That's where I would like to see what the district is doing to be more cost effective with the money it is spending.  There has been numerous times I've seen budget items come thru where I highly questioned if it was cost effective.  I'd like to see how much money is being spent specifically on athletics and what the districts cost per pupil is there verses other academic programs and their cost per pupil.  Not that athletics isn't important, it is, I just want to make sure it is in line with where is should be and as it stands right now I doubt it.



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