2010 General Election

Election Day is Tuesday, November 2nd! Four school board seats are open this year. The GATEway Board has asked the candidates for the Rochester School Board to answer two more open-ended questions about gifted education in Rochester so that our members are better informed for the election.

More Info

The Post Bulletin published School Board Candidate Profiles Oct 11-14.


Video of the Oct 13th League of Women Voters' 2010 School Board Candidates Forums will be available on the Rochester Public Library's YouTube Channel.

The League of Women Voters also publishes an online 2010 Voter Guide


  1. In your opinion, how does gifted education fit in with the district's focus on the five-year plan to close the opportunity gap?
  2. 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 for Seat No. 2
Candidates for Seat No. 4
Candidates for Seat No. 5
Candidates for Seat No. 6


Candidates for Seat No. 2


Gary W. Smith

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

I believe strongly in setting high achievement standards for all our students. Our District has made a conscience policy decision to focus its attention (dollars) on closing the "opportunity gap." A decision I agree with. However, if for no other reason than simple fairness I believe we should also find ways to make sure we provide similar focus on our high achieving students.

2. Given upcoming budget cuts, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses?

Expenses associated with the classroom are the highest priority in my view. This includes specialized classes serving our districts advanced learners. While I support the districts focus on the opportunity gap I do not favor funding this at the total elimination of gifted education.

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?

Additional funding at this point in time, most likely must come from outside the system. Partnership development with business and foundations are alternatives to explore. The district working with GATEway should think about how we might develop innovative programs and curriculum aimed at our gifted population leveraging district funding with these outside sources.


Richard Hinds

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

No answer received

2. 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?

No answer received





Candidates for Seat No. 4


Susan Nee

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

My response: First, I noticed you used the term “opportunity” gap. This, I believe, is misleading and inaccurate. Education policy makers and researchers universally refer to the achievement gap. It may sound like a small matter of detail not worthy of clarification. But, I believe to use the wrong terminology, as I know our school district has been doing, is inaccurate and clouds the issue of the wide gap in academic performance in our nation's school children. The achievement gap is real and has societal consequences for our nation. 

As the five year plan focuses on those students who are not meeting minimum proficiency standards and gifted student services is targeted at the opposite end of student achievement, I can't visualize a part of the five year plan to extend to student GATE services. It certainly is possible for a student to be gifted and fail proficiency tests, but the focus of the Five Year Plan is to target students who have significant trouble with math and reading skills and are not meeting minimum proficiency levels in these areas. To that extent, a gifted student could be discovered during the remedial teaching process and thus achieve at a high level with coaching and extra help. 

2. 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?

I've looked at ISD 535 budget numbers, comparing the 2006-7 budget to the 2009-10 budget, focusing on the growth of district non-capitol budget items. In 2006-7, our school district invested $542,400 in GATE funding. Funding level for 2009-10 was $ 641,000. However, the 2009-10 budget also noted that the district reduced GATE staffing as part of district budget cutting. It is my view that our district needs to continue to fund GATE services at a level that meets the needs of the students it serves. In a community with the educational and professional level of our population, parents expect schools to fully fund student academic requirements across the board. This is fundamental to the role of public education, to support all school children in their academic growth. 

I will vigorously debate the merits of continued funding of a robust GATE program in our school district. It puts our community's school system in a leadership position and is required to continue to attract and retain an educated working force for our high -tech and medical industry base. It also gives us strength to maintain student enrollment in our district, protecting against further reductions due to parents choosing to enroll their children in neighboring school districts. I will get more familiar with the proposed School Within A School for Gifted Students which was planned to be opened at Sunset Terrace elementary school.


Julia Workman

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

There is only an oblique nod to GATE in the Five Year Plan. See the top of page ten, Current Status column: “A lack of consistency in challenging curricula and differentiated instruction.” 

The goal: “All students of all abilities will be challenged academically and successfully earn a diploma.” 

Strategies: “Eliminate low-level courses.” Measures (How will we know when we arrive?): The percentage of kindergarten students who have completed early childhood screening priorto kindergarten.” 

This is a travesty. As a board member, I will insist on a complete review of the Five Year Plan. Much of the language is educational jargon, and has little or no meaning. GATE should be receiving just as much, if not more, funding and expansion as the opportunity/achievement gap. The requirements for our success as a community and a state means that there needs to be more effort and concentration on GATE students who will be the leaders and innovators of the future.

2. Given upcoming budget cuts, how would you prioritize gifted education among other district expenses?

The Five Year Plan does not address GATE. In the introductory letter to The Five Year Plan, (p.3) the superintendent states in the second paragraph: “ Therefore this plan includes parents, businesses, community members and leaders who all have a stake in making sure our students attain proficiency and achieve their full potential.” (Bold face added.) GATE students need more support to reach their full potential, and the district can’t afford to do otherwise (thinking long term). 

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, I want to see more budget cuts in areas that do not directly impact students. Our resources need to be re-distributed to meet the needs of all students. “All means all!” Some of the money that is being spent on success coaches in the high school could be redirected to GATE education. Contrary to popular belief, GATE students also need instruction and coaching in order to meet their potential.

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?

Once again, there is much ballyhoo in The Five Year Plan about garnering financial support from businesses and others in Rochester. In conversations with John Wade before the primary, he shared his disappointment that the district has not shown initiative in collaboration with The Chamber of Commerce. We must appeal persistently to business’ self-interests in recruiting and hiring highly educated employees and how supporting GATE would benefit them and the community in the long haul. I would push the Board to spearhead this and as a board member I would meet with GATE leaders/teachers to present a plan to the business community. I would also want to meet with GATE students and the GATE community to brainstorm possible revenue sources, including grant writing.





Candidates for Seat No. 5


Michael Resman

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

If all does mean all students, this must include those who are gifted. My view of the five year plan is that it is intended to provide all students the opportunity to succeed in life. I am as concerned with those students who will choose to work with their hands as I am those who strive for the upper reaches of academia. Both paths require much different preparation, and should be provided in a public school setting.
 
It’s a mistake to view the District’s mission narrowly. We can not focus only on ‘closing the gap’. While this has been most talked about, it does not reflect the broad efforts staff are making.  Our task is to provide the best education possible to each student.
 

2. 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?

First of all, I hope that there will be no more cuts. With large class sizes and decreased course offerings, we are already offering a lower quality education to students then had been provided for generations of Rochester children. If the referendum passes and the State funds schools appropriately, we won’t have to cut. We could then use budget adjustments to fund new efforts. I would look for administrative efficiencies and  expenses generated by the five year plan – such as efficacy coaches – for cost savings.
 
If we do have to cut, simple fairness would dictate that all aspects of the program should suffer equally. I need to closely review the budget reductions that have been made in the last few years with that in mind.
 
Some of my suggestions will require start-up money. District policy prohibits donations being used for staff, but wouldn’t preclude using them for one-time expenses. I would suggest, and offer to help, in soliciting the largest employers in Rochester for funds to start an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and to expand AP offerings.
 
There may be some ways to use technology to offer classes to small groups of students – a foreign language for instance – via interactive TV, with students located at their home schools. This kind of planning would require a great deal of input from teachers, a lot of time, and a close watch on costs.
 
Even in the face of budget cuts, we can not be the District of doom and gloom. We must use these difficult times to lay the ground work for initiatives. An IB program or year-round school proposal could require 18 months of consensus-building and planning. Those efforts could be started immediately. Then, as soon as we had two nickels to rub together from the State (or received donations) program improvements could be implemented.



Terry Throndson

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

No answer received

2. 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?

No answer received





Candidates for Seat No. 6


Deborah Seelinger

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

The district's five-year plan addresses gifted students in a round-about way and lacks specific strategies to address those students. I would like to see more specific language on how the percentage of honors graduates and percentage of graduates taking at least one AP course will be achieved. I believe the Gifted Services Department realizes that current tests do not identify minority children as easily or as often. Capturing those students in earlier grades will allow them more academic opportunities in middle and high school. While the stated goal that "all students of all abilities will be challenged academically and successfully earn a diploma," is a worthy one, there is no strategy for challenging students who are already above proficiency.

2. 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?

I believe that cuts in the Gifted Department are an easy "target." I believe before the cuts are made, the school board members need to receive solid information and analysis about how many students are served by gifted services, the cost per student and the impact of cuts on the department. With many of the cuts, there is speculation on the potential loss of students to the district; I believe the school board needs to take that into consideration as well. Are parents of gifted children more or less likely to remove their students from RPS if their academic needs aren't being met? Are there other good educational options for those families? For example, cuts in athletics may mean families move from the district, but if they are looking for team athletics, they will have to move to another school district to get those needs met. If a family leaves the district because of loss of academic opportunites, they could go to another district, attend private school, or use online or homeschool options.In addition to direct department cuts, other reductions or changes will have potential impacts on our gifted students. For example, a change in the high school schedule may reduce opportunities for our students to take Honors or AP courses, a reduction or elimination of Inter-School transportation will prohibit students from subject acceleration between 5th and 6th or 8th and 9th grade. 

The Gifted Services Department, as well as the district as a whole, should always be looking for additional revenue sources. The use of more widespread differentiation in classrooms could be a more cost effective way to serve all our students, but there would be costs for training and staff development.


Anne Becker

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

The district’s definition of “opportunity gap’ is as follows; our commitment to ensure equity and access to the resources and support that will ensure optimal development for all students. When I read the five year plan it appears to focus resources and energies on lifting up the floor not raising the ceiling. Having an outside organization looking out for our highest achievers is valuable. Students at all levels need advocates making sure we are providing equity and access to resources and support that will ensure their optimal development.

2. 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?

As a school board member it will be my job to advocate for all students. When making budget cuts I will focus on what is best for students, period. It is my belief that the students should not be the ones making the sacrifices. One way we can obtain additional funding is by offering the best education in the area. If we provide the best education in the area students will not leave our district for surrounding districts, thus their dollars will stay with ISD 535. We need to leverage technology more effectively to facilitate the trend toward more individualized learning. We need to look to the community for help. We need to be creative in times of limited resources to find ways to meet the educational needs of our gifted students.