2008 General Election

Election Day is Tuesday, November 4! Three school board seats are up for election this year. Because the school board controls many of the factors that affect our Gifted Services department, GATEway members can help improve gifted and talented education in Rochester by voting for school board members who are in favor of strengthening the GT program.

GATEway board members formulated several challenging and in-depth questions designed to ascertain each candidate's position on gifted education principles and funding. The questions were:

  1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District and why? What is your view of the services currently offered to gifted and talented students in terms of adequacy and delivery method?

  2. In your opinion, how does gifted education fit in with the district's new focus on efficacy and the five-year plan to close the opportunity gap?

  3. Given upcoming budget cuts, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of meeting the educational needs of students who have been identified as gifted and/or are exceeding proficiency standards?

Candidates were not given guidelines for lengths of responses, so quantity does vary widely. Responses have been left entirely unedited except for format.

We would like to thank each candidate for giving their time and thought to these questions.


Candidates for Seat No. 1
Candidates for Seat No. 3
Candidates for Seat No. 7


Brianna Bly's Responses
  1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District and why? I believe the role gifted education plays is an important one. Gifted and Talented services provide students with enriching opportunities and challenging curriculum that helps them reach their potential and keeps them excited about learning. What is your view of the serviced currently offered to gifted and talented students in terms of adequacy and delivery method? I am excited about the Profoundly Gifted opportunity we have provided our students at Friedell Middle School. I have heard from many parents that are thrilled with the curriculum and the depth in which it goes. Some of the students spoke to the Board on Oct. 21, 2008 and expressed their excitement about the program. All of them said it was the first time they felt challenged. I believe the cluster programs have been beneficial also. The problem I see is that there are more students that could benefit from these options; we just need better ways to identify them. For example, we could use a portfolio system that would be used to determine student participation instead of the current method of tests.
  2. In your opinion, how does gifted education fit in with the district’s new focus on efficacy and the five year plan to close the opportunity gap? Gifted education fits perfectly with efficacy, because the whole focus is to challenge and increase the intellectual abilities of students at all levels. Studies show that if a child can walk or talk by three or four they are wired with enough intellectual capacity to do high level learning. Efficacy does not say all students will be on the same level, it just states that all children can reach proficiency.
  3. What was interesting for me the other day was that I had the opportunity to present the Efficacy Theory to three classes at Friedell. The students in my first class were from the Profoundly Gifted program. As we explored the two theories about how students develop we first talked about the “Innate Ability Model”. I asked them to tell me the first time they felt labeled either “Very Smart”, “Sort of Smart”, or “Kind of Dumb”. They all said they were labeled “Very Smart” when they were very young. I then asked if they thought a person could move up or down in their label under this theory of development. They said a person would move down. Then one 6th grade girl said that had happened to her last year when she started taking Algebra. She told the class that when Algebra didn’t come easy for her and she was having a difficult time she felt very dumb. So in her opinion she moved from a “Very Smart” to a “Kind of Dumb”. Under the Innate Ability model failure and difficulty are proof of ones limits.

    I asked her if she got better at Algebra and she said “Yes, I practiced and I studied really hard!” That is efficacy! 

    The other thing I would like to say about the impact of the Gifted and Talented program will have on the five year plan, is that I believe it will raise the bar for all students. When I talk to Monica Bowler and other staff at Friedell, they tell me other students at Friedell are trying harder now that the Profoundly Gifted program has been implemented.
  4. Given upcoming budget cuts, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses? One priority is to have GATEway represented on the Superintendent’s Ad Hoc Committee for Budget Reductions. The Board has spent needed dollars to increase the Gifted and Talented opportunities for students, like the Profoundly Gifted program at Friedell. It is necessary for us to maintain that program. It is having great success. When we say we must meet the needs of ALL of our students we mean ALL and supporting Gifted and Talented throughout the reductions is crucial. Do you have ideas for obtaining additional funding or for cost-efficient methods of meeting the educational needs of students who have been identified as gifted and/or exceeding proficiency standards? We must continue to tell our story and share our success with the legislature and with the Department of Education. We also need to exhaust grants options and donations to help support the needs of students. I believe clustering helps us be more efficient, we need to explore this option further.

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Christina Delfanian's Responses
  1. I see the role of gifted education as playing an important part in the Rochester School District. Many of our students are advanced. Programs that allow for continuous learning and enrichment or advancement are needed to keep these advanced students engaged and excited about education. This allows our gifted students to be better prepared for college and the workforce.

    My view of the current Rochester gifted programs is that they are a good start but we need to do more. The middle school program of accelerated math is great, but this type of program needs to be extended to all subjects. We need enough programs like the Friedell Middle School gifted program to meet the needs of all of our gifted students who would qualify and benefit from this program. The elementary school program should be started before grade 3. Reading the district website and talking to students the experiences did not always correlate. The school should have a gifted teacher in each elementary school that can challenge and excite the students. The website says it does but students did not feel this was the case. I talked to a student who said “I love the gifted program in middle school, but in elementary school all we got was a packet of extra work we did in the hall, it was not fun.” We need to start the challenging of our gifted students early on in their education. This fosters a love for learning that can be lost by middle school or high school.
  2. Gifted education fits into the future of Rochester students. According to the Education Development Center approximately 3060 students or 19.2% of the students in Rochester schools participate in gifted programs. 19.2% of students is a huge number of students and if I am on the school board I would not allow them to be forgotten or their needs not met. Efficacy training is a non statistic based attempt to change the mind set of educators and parents to feel that all children can learn. I would hope we only hired teachers who felt this way and that all parents were as committed as you and I are to the children of Rochester. I feel that as a district we need to make sure all children reach their proficiency by challenging and advancing our proficient students. I believe that the gifted and talented program does fit into the 5 year plan, but I am concerned with the amount of money and staff being used to implement this plan that we may have limited funds for other equally important programs, like the gifted program. I understand the importance of the gifted and talent program and will do all I can to preserve and advance it.
  3. I would prioritize it very highly. We are a good school with very high test scores. This is in part because of the wonderful students and challenging programs we have in the district. We can work on closing the achievement gap and still not lose our focus on advancement and enrichment of the gifted students.

    Grant sources and local business are good sources of funding. Looking at the Javits grant is one option which can be incorporated into increasing minorities in the Gifted and Talented programs. Many of the extracurricular activities and pilot programs could be supported in part by donations from area business that realize that this is their future work force. 
    Lobbying legislators to support more gifted programs may also result in additional funding of such programs.
    Working with volunteers in education to assist and support the staff and students with gifted programming.

    I understand the complex issues that the gifted and talented parents are currently facing. I support gifted and talented education. I pledge to you that I will listen to the GATE parents and implement programs that will not harm and will benefit GATE.

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Richard F. Hinds' Responses

No response received.

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Michael Resman's Responses
  1. One of my daughters moved through the GATE program and successfully completed AP courses in high school that served her well. She is now in an honors program at the University of Minnesota, and reports that many students from small high schools were unprepared for the level of academic rigor they encountered at the U. Despite being valedictorians, they had not had the opportunity to take the high level courses available in Rochester. 

    Providing an excellent education to our best students is critical to Rochester’s growth. Medical and electronic firms recruit the most skilled research staff in the country. They will only come to a community with excellent schools – meaning high ACT and AP scores. The needs of these unique learners must remain a high priority. 

    GATE services can never be “good enough”. The needs of this group are so diverse, complex and individual that teachers, parents and students will – and should – never be satisfied. If elected, I would like to talk with those involved, and make sure we adequately survey how well we are doing. Students and parents should play a larger than typical role in providing suggestions for improvements. These should be matched with staff input about best practices.
  2. The majority of the five year plan focuses on underachieving students. Much has been said about students who don’t meet proficiency. I look forward to working on boosting students not merely to proficiency, but to excellence. The AP track is one method. We may have to look at providing more financial support to enable some students to take the tests. I would like to expand the number of students utilizing the PSEO program. While not demanding the rigor of AP classes, it would put more students on track to a post-secondary education. Participation in GATE classes, particularly in elementary school, could plant this seed. I have called for a climate change for some secondary students. Particularly in middle school, a number of staff tell me that students lose interest in challenging themselves academically. My web site, resmanforschoolboard.org speaks to this initiative.
  3. The majority of the budget is salaries, and most of the cost savings have to come from layoffs. The GATE program is effective and relatively inexpensive, and can’t generate many savings. Part of a discussion of improving GATE services should include exploring efficiencies and increased sources of income. The expanded role of the University of Minnesota in Rochester should also provide opportunities.

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Bradley D. Trahan's Responses
  1. An honor I received with regards to work that I have done with the RT Autism Awareness Foundation, Inc. that my wife and I founded in May 2003 game from a Gifted and Talented student at Bamber Valley. This student selected me as her "local hero" for the work I have done to bring Project Lifesaver to Olmsted County. A program that saves lives for those with special needs and may wander. To this day, I am truly humbled by this young student seeing fit to select me. We clearly have to give these bright students the tools they need to excel even more than they have for what age they are. One role I truly would like to see, if its not being done already with our gifted education is students it that while there are programs for High School Mentorships at that grade level, I would really like to see our Gifted and Talented mentor their peers while they progress through their educational career. If we are going to challenge our Gifted and Talented, I would like to see them bring that awesome knowledge and challenge and mentor their peers. I would certainly like to gain more knowledge in this area but it appears the Gifted and Talented staff is well represented and my opinion is that as long as we provide OPPORTUNITIES for our Gifted and Talented-that is most important, just like it is for any student.
  2. All means all and while our Gifted and Talented have outstanding abilities and students who we challenge beyond the general school program, we can't lose focus of that and making sure we are meeting the needs of our Gifted and Talent just like we need to meet the needs of our Special Ed students and our mainstreamed students. My position on the 5-year plan is that we must watch it develop and along the way analyze it and see in what areas are we doing well and in what areas could we improve. As it relates to efficacy, I personally have already that while I support the 5-year plan, I do not support the efficacy training and mainly is because staff have told me that they were already doing some of this of what is being taught in efficacy training and staff have told me that they do not know where this will lead us. With that said, I have made a commitment, win or lose in this election, to take this efficacy training as a community member to challenge myself what is being expected of our teachers in the classroom. I am a BIG advocate for more teachers and para's in our classrooms, especially at an early age to help those students who need it most. We provide intense education for our students with special needs and they make great progress, why wouldn't we do it for our students in the Achievement Gap?
  3. If the answer is would I cut back on it? No! I hear so much about "cuts" and hear very little about "generating revenue". I would not want to see any cuts in this area. We need to evaluate areas like transportation, administrative salaries, individual building budgets, etc. before cutting from our students education! I would like to see what is being done in the form of writing grants for our Gifted and Talented? As we are challenging our Gifted and Talented, I believe our Community work force with the Mayo Clinic, IBM and Chamber of Commerce member's would be great avenues to help create some cost-efficient methods to meet the educational needs of our Gifted and Talented. A strong government. A strong education. And a strong private sector makes for a strong work force. And I'm in big favor of exploring other school districts success in this area. We need to work smart-not hard and by doing so will make this program efficient even more. I close with that while learning much more of our Gifted and Talented program[s] within our school district, I truly feel it is a vital piece of our district and we need to do what we can to provide the tools for not only our Gifted and Talented students, but staff as well to make sure that as we prepare them for further education, that we know we have done all we could do at the local level to prepare them that much better for college and beyond.

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Jeff Kennelly's Responses
  1. Gifted education and the HG program at Friedell Middle School both provide wonderful opportunities to students to interact and lean with their peers. Absent this program these students might continually feel they did not fit in with the mainstream curriculum and never be challenged at an appropriate level. My conversations with some of the parents involved with GATEway leads me to believe that Rochester has an opportunity to expand this program, identifying talented students at an earlier age and challenging them as soon as kindergarten.
  2. The district is currently allocating a disproportionate amount of funds to support efficacy and the five-year plan. While the overall goal of the plan has merit, the implementation methodology is flawed. There is simply no defined roadmap to reach the end point and without it funds will continue to be thrown at various strategies in a random approach. Already, administrators and board members have telegraphed their intent to pull funds from other programs, GATEway included, in order to dedicate additional resources to fund the five-year plan.
  3. Gifted programs should be given equal consideration to programs directed at other student groups. Rochester must maintain its commitment to support all students, whether excelling, meeting standard or working below proficiency level. One of the consequences of directing too many resources at any single student group is to deprive others of funds, a practice that has in other school systems nourished only the middle and not the top or the struggling students. The result is mediocrity for all students. Rochester has sufficient funds, if responsibly managed, to add resources directly to the classroom and direct individual attention to students in need and to continue to fund programs for gifted and challenged students.

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Bill Moe's Responses
  1. I would like to see current programs expanded so that we can challenge children at all educational levels and improve all students' achievement.
  2. I think GATE gets shortchanged by efficacy by focusing on the achievement of the minimum standards. We need to challenge all of our students to do better.
  3. All student funding needs to be looked at at the same level. Gifted programs should not be cut to preserve programs to benefit opportunity gap programs. We need to be certain we are not favoring one group of students over another.

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James Pittenger's Responses
  1. I think gifted education is and should continue to be an integral part of the services provided by the School District. It’s our responsibility to help all students meet their full potential. Therefore, we need to provide appropriate educational opportunities to each student. 

    I think the District has done a relatively good job of providing services to gifted and talented students. We provide enrichment opportunities for gifted students at every level. However, that doesn’t mean we’ve done everything we could to optimize opportunities for students.

    Last school year, the School within a School program for highly gifted students was started at Friedell Middle School. That program provides advanced curriculum for highly gifted students but still maintains the necessary social and educational contacts between peers. In my opinion, that program should be replicated at every level and at every school. I think it exemplifies how the District should try to provide services to all students. Whenever possible, students should be allowed appropriate opportunities to learn and grow while also having the opportunity to bond with their peers and to be “just kids.”
  2. I think the five-year plan supports gifted education. The focus of the plan goes beyond closing the achievement/opportunity gap between majority and sub-group students. It recognizes individual potential and supports the idea of providing opportunities for all students. The Efficacy aspect of the plan starts with the belief that all students can learn. This belief clearly is focused on creating positive expectations for every student. 

    I think Efficacy promotes the appropriate use of assessment data. Rather than using test results to label students and schools, it requires the use of those data to identify the educational needs of each student. This process is applied to all students—from cognitively delayed to highly gifted—to provide individualized help appropriate to the needs of each student. 
  3. I think this is the most difficult of the three questions. The depth of the projected deficit is such that budget cuts very likely will affect educational programming. Every student deserves opportunities to meet his/her potential. When budget cuts affect educational programming, opportunities probably will be reduced. 

    Having said that, I think we should seek additional funding and/or enhance programming through some of the collaborative partnerships the School District has developed (Mayo Clinic, UCR, Chamber of Commerce). I think the increased emphasis on AP and Honors level classes in the five-year plan should be a priority because it will provide additional opportunities for students. We also should look at expanding successful programs already in place, such as the Friedell Highly Gifted School within a School. This program allows differentiated instruction for highly gifted students, but also allows participation with peers in general education classes.

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Michael M. Baker's Responses
  1. I remember when My oldest child brought home the information saying she qualified to be in the Gifted and Talented Program at school. What a proud parent I was because my child was being recognized as being gifted and talented by the school district. I bought into the plan simply because of the recognition and pride that I felt. I was interested in the success of my child and was for her participation in the program. For that reason alone to me the program is a Marketing Success to get parents involved because it automatically boosts self esteem. Not only of the child but the parent also. They both buy in.
  2. Every child has unique gifts! Every child has special talents! Fits right into the Efficacy plan that every child has the ability to achieve. If every child feels the self esteem from belonging to this type of group and they are recognized, and the parents made aware of this program it's a winner!
  3. It is not a "must have" type of program. Kids that are truely gifted can take advanced classes such as AP classes or do Post Secondary if needed to be challenged. I had twin girls who were 5th & 9th in their class at JM last year. Both were offered free College Educations. neither went to the gifted and talented classes. My older three kids were not as "gifted and talented" as the younger two but benefited from the program more from the self esteem it brought them. The program would be a tough cut, but it is not a necessity to have to keep when decisions become difficult by cutting back.

    Thank you for your time to ask these questions! I hope the information I have provided helps you understand the benefits this type of program has had on me and the impact it has had on the family.

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Georgiana Castellanos' Responses

No response received.

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Othelmo Da Silva's Responses

No response received.

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Cris Fischer's Responses
  1. Gifted education is profoundly important to the Rochester School District. With the five-year plan, I believe there is a tendency to think that the emphasis is on educating students who are struggling in school. This issue must be tackled; but it can only be successfully addressed in the context of highly successful academic programs for all students. Differentiation of services for students means that we must differentiate, and provide the appropriate academic challenges, at all levels. When we talk about a multi-ethnic global economy, the education of our best and our brightest to lead this knowledge economy is essential for the success of our students, our schools, our community and our world.

    I believe we have made some significant improvements in the services offered for gifted and talented students, in particular with the addition of the HG program at Friedell Middle School. At the elementary level, I am glad to know that we are doing some clustering as I feel that is a good program to provide a more challenging level of instruction at the elementary level. Pull-out programs are not the best way to educate any students and I would like to see a move to provide gifted education with a more efficient delivery system.
  2. Again, I believe that the five-year plan can only be considered successful if improvement is seen at all levels. As we raise expectations for our students who are achieving at the lowest levels, I believe we will see that the mindset is supportive for academic achievement for all students. 

    The efficacy model is a mindset encouraging and believing that all students can learn and “get smart.” We all know that there are many students who are smart, who don’t necessarily achieve to their highest level, and efficacy helps nurture these students as well. I have seen many, many students who do not achieve at the highest level, or take tough classes, or downplay being “smart” because it is not “cool.” If the mindset is that all students can learn and “get smart,” our best students will continue to be encouraged to set a strong example for other students.
  3. Budget cuts will not be easy and with the magnitude of the cuts, we will more than likely be touching a piece of all areas of the District. That being said, I believe that we do not adequately fund gifted education at the level we should so I will certainly be working very hard to protect the initiatives we presently have in place. 

    We must continue to work with our legislators to provide funding for gifted education; but the reality of that happening this year, in light of the fiscal crisis at the state level, is minimal. I wish I could tell you that I had some terrific idea as to how we could fund gifted programming within the context of the present system of funding education. Since we must deal with the realities of our lack of funding, I do believe that “clustering” is a very positive way to approach educating our HG students. Studies have shown that it is effective for all levels of learning and it would seem to me to fit well into the five-year plan and the efficacy model as well.

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Marcia Matz's Responses

No response received.

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