2010 Primary Election

The GATEway Board has asked the candidates for the Rochester School Board to answer two open-ended questions about gifted education in Rochester so that our members are better informed to make a selection for the primary election on August 10th.

  1. More Info

    Video of the League of Women Voters' 2010 Primary Candidates Forum for School Board is available on the Rochester Public Library's YouTube Channel.
    What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District?
  2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

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. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

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 are providing similar focus on high achieving students. If we do not, then overtime these students achievement may suffer as a result. One of the reasons I decided to run for School Board is because I believe we need a community discussion about what it will take to make the Rochester School District the "best public school system" on earth. Intuitively to me, reaching that goal means meeting the needs of all our students.

Our community clearly has the intellectual, political, and financial capacity to set and reach such a goal. I believe if enough people "really" care then anything is possible. The School Board in my view needs to provide the leadership to engage teachers, administrators, and our entire community in this discussion. 

2. 
What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

My view is the District has struggled for years to maintain a consistent level of services for gifted students. While targeted for more, your group no doubt had an impact on reducing the proposed cut to gifted services to one that is proportionate to the $4.5 million of total cuts. The District will likely face continued financial pressure, but as I indicated in my answer to question one, I believe we need to find ways to focus on the needs of all students. I need to learn a lot more about the needs of our gifted students and hopefully your group can help me do that. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with your Board and as many members as possible. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to schedule a time to do that.

Back to top


Richard Hinds

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District?


No response received.

2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?


N

o response received. 



Bill Moe

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

All students deserve the chance to reach their maximum potential. Gifted education gives students the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. It is important to keep this opportunity available in our public schools so that a student's potential is not limited by their family's finances.

2. 
What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

My impression is that gifted students (and their parents) have had to fight to get and maintain everything they've gotten. It seems like services are stretched thinly, and at the very least programs should be maintained at their currents levels.

Back to top


Candidates for Seat No. 4


Mechelle Rugg Severson

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 


It is essential programming towards providing quality, challenging education for all students. The involvement, interest, advocacy and information provided to the district and board members from students and families in gifted programming as well as the GATEway organization is primary in keeping all decisionmakers informed of the needs, 
challenges and outcomes of gifted programming for our students.


2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?


The services and opportuntities provided for students enrolled in gifted programming has gotten somewhat better over the past 8 years that I have been on the board. It is yet inadequate in meeting the needs of all students enrolled, I believe, in part due to to lack of overall district funding. It is my desire to have gifted programming, more accurate identification of all students enrolling in and RPS staffing able to meet the needs of students enrolled in gifted programming K-12.

Susan Nee

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 


The gifted student program focuses on those students who have demonstrated an ability and willingness to absorb education curriculum at a faster pace and a greater depth than most of the student population. These students can and should be challenged academically with a similar peer group.

As our society faces increasingly difficult problems such as climate change, how to better engage in global markets, how to improve health care while managing its societal costs, many of our students who are academic stars today will be the thought leaders at the forefront, tackling these issues. We need to ensure our public school system provides a rigorous and robust academic program that will tap their potential to society.

It is important that the Rochester school district continue to serve all students, including those who require remedial academic support as well as those who participate in gifted programs. It is also important that our public schools have strong communications with parents in our community who see the value in providing the academic challenges offered by GATE programs. Strong parental involvement in schools is a cornerstone to student success. As challenges and opportunities arise in the future, the school district needs to engage with professional educators and parent leaders in the GATE community to ensure GATE services stay in step with the needs of the students who are served.

2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?


Our oldest child is enrolled in Friedell's Highly Gifted program for next year, and another one of our children uses Washington Elementary GATE services. Our children thrive on the additional challenges GATE participation offers. I don't have enough knowledge at this point to give an overall assessment of the gifted services available throughout the school district. I look forward to the opportunity to learn more about GATE services and requirements for our school district's children.

Mike Baker

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

No response received. 


2. 
What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

No response received. 

Back to top


Julia Workman


1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 


Gifted education should be available to all who qualify - both the 
highly gifted, and the "normal" gifted. Right now, only a small segment of our lower socio-economic students have been identified. The assumption is that because children come from poor or immigrant homes that they aren't gifted. Identifying these students will give them the  opportunity to be successful, both in school and in their adult lives.  Gifted education provides an appropriate education to those students from all socio-economic backgrounds who are generally overlooked or discounted, and we need to provide the resources necessary to identify them. The difficulty, of course, is the decline in revenues. There are ways to reach more gifted students through GATE that cost nothing or very little. It would require a different perspective and mind-set than the current (majority) board has. We do a great disservice to those students, at our peril for the future. Changing the way we teach gifted students could be a benefit for all students.


2. 
What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

The current services do not do justice for gifted and highly gifted students in Rochester. For example, gifted students in grades three, four and five have one pullout period of 42 minutes every six days. This is not enough time. Those who have been identified as being gifted in both verbal and non-verbal get two 42 minute periods in every six day cycle. A pullout program is not best practice. Students feel singled out - it targets them as being "different," and they also have to make up the work they missed. I think there is a trickle down attitude from much the popular culture that being "smart" or "gifted" is a pejorative. It can also have a negative effect on those who aren't pulled out, many of whom could be extremely bright, but aren't designated as "gifted." Adults generally understand that children who are pulled from class for remedial services might feel "different" and targeted. But those same adults often think that because a child is highly/gifted don't have those same feelings. They often do.

However, this is not to say that all highly/gifted students are the same, or feel the same, or are immune from the normal pains of growing up. Gifted children come from all backgrounds (as I mentioned in paragraph one), from all economic levels, from all different kinds of families. They don't all have the same personalities and interests. Highly/gifted children cannot be put into one grouping with all having the same characteristics. They are just as unique as those who aren't highly/gifted. And highly gifted children may also have learning issues that need to be addressed at the same time. (I had one who received LD services through the end of his junior year; and he was also highly gifted.)

Although this may be politically incorrect, I will state it anyway. I think that in many cases the spread of abilities in one classroom is too wide, and ability grouping would be more effective in educating students at both ends of the spectrum, because it is very, very difficult to differentiate instruction over a wide spread. I taught high school orchestra for 28 years: 22 years at JM from 1982-2004; 12 years at Century from 1998-2010, and at Mayo from 2006-2009. Except for the last couple of years at JM, and until 2003 at Century, grades 9-12 were in one orchestra. As my numbers increased, I realized that there were quite a few students who would benefit from a separate orchestra (Honors Orchestra) which would challenge them and meet their musical needs. Once a week, those students would have a rehearsal with me while the others were in student led sectionals (not always as productive as I hoped!). I also developed small ensembles - mostly trios and quartets, with one or two students on a part. This way, the music was chosen for their abilities, and all students benefited, because I grouped them by ability and experience. This wasn't a pullout because ALL students were involved. 

Having Honors Orchestra once a week while others were in sectionals did not meet their needs the way I had hoped. It was a start, but we needed to go farther. I wrote up a new course proposal for an Honors Orchestra to have its own separate class. Band and choir already had that. All choir and band students in grades 10-12 auditioned, and then were placed appropriately. My proposal was approved by the principals at all three high schools. It went to Randy Nelson, who didn't pass it on to the cabinet, because it would require additional staffing, and we couldn't afford it. I was unhappy because I felt that he should not have been the one to make that decision - that it should have gone further. If it had been approved, it would have gone into effect for the 2008-09 school year. (There is always a year lag time for new courses - unless it is an intervention for students who are behind.)

 

I was still very concerned about my high-end students, so together we decided to meet on Monday evenings from 6:45 - 8:15. I donated my time to this endeavor. Although it wasn't as ideal as a separate course, it was a big improvement over trying to have a rehearsal during the regular class period. The trade off for the students was that they got to have Tuesday rehearsal "off," which gave me an opportunity to do some real nitty-gritty work with the students who were not in Honors Orchestra.
I became very adept at choosing music which was accessible to and challenging for the average student but would also be interesting and at least mildly challenging to the more advanced students. I was able to adapt it to at least partially meet their needs, in addition to the Monday night rehearsal. It has been my experience that what I did was the exception and not the rule for secondary music teachers.

When I initially taught orchestra at Lincoln in its early years (mid 70s), I had the flexibility to ability group, and permission to include students who were the "wrong" age (not in 4th, 5th or 6th grade) to participate and then placed them with students of like ability. So there were a couple of second and third graders who were playing with fifth and sixth graders. I realize that there can be some difficulties when children are placed with others who are several years older or younger. 

I was the one who initially hatched SEMYO (although am not usually publicly recognized) because I recognized that the higher ability/experienced students needed a venue outside of their school orchestra to really thrive. This is fine for students who have the time and finances to do this. We don't put Honors, AP and gifted classes outside the school day; why do we have to do that for our music students?

The point of this was to demonstrate that I have experience with providing opportunities to high ability students with limited or no resources. Just as I learned that the Honors Orchestra students thrived with like ability peers, I think we need to do more of the same for our highly/gifted students as well. As the "pull out" from regular rehearsal of Honors Orchestra students wasn't as successful as I had hoped, it was still better than nothing. And the Monday night rehearsal was better yet. The best solution, would have been a separate class, which the district (Randy Nelson, anyway) chose not to support.

I think that we could have highly/gifted students in their own class for grades 3, 4 and 5. They would be with students their own age (rather than a first grader with fifth graders, which is HUGE). Because they are similar in that they are highly/gifted, there wouldn't be the stigma of a pull out. Social and emotional needs would be better addressed when they are with their intellectual peers of the same age would certainly make it a lot easier for the teacher who wouldn't have to provide broad differentiated instruction, who could then have a narrower, more effective focus. (It's also widely assumed that Honors and AP classes in high school meet the needs of highy/gifted students, but that is not necessarily the case.) I would like to see teachers hired who have specific training in gifted education - and possibly the development of a "gifted" seniority list, so that when cuts are made, other teachers who are not trained or interested in gifted education would not be thrust into those classrooms. 

We already bus students out of their neighborhood for choice schools. With some creativity, I'm sure that we could establish individual classrooms throughout the district which could take advantage of this. Or, if there are enough students, a "school within a s school," or perhaps its own building. 

I would also like the district to be more proactive in identifying highly/gifted students and not wait for the teacher or parent to identify them. My second son, who is now 24, was identified as gifted in sixth grade on the basis of a standard achievement test that is used either nationally or over a broad geographic area. (Iowa Basic? Stanford? That was awhile ago; sorry I don't remember the specifics!)

There also needs to be staff development for all teachers so that they at least have a skeletal understanding of who highly/gifted students are. They need to realize that a highly/gifted student may also be LD, ADD, ADHD, OCD, behavior challenged, etc., and that (in my experience) this is more frequent than is usually assumed. My experience over time with students in grades 4-12, many of whom were highly/gifted who also had some disabilities, gives me a perspective that is necessary on the school board. We can do much better in providing for the students in the upper range. I get really tired of hearing, "Oh, they're gifted - they're so smart, they can do it on their own." I think it is very short sighted to have spent so much money with so little return on the students in the gap to the detriment of highly/gifted students who COULD to be the leaders of tomorrow. (Please don't misunderstand; I think that we need to focus on the gap students, but what we are doing right now is not effective, and the students in the top 20% have suffered as a result.)




Candidates for Seat No. 5




Michael Resman

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

As the parent of a child who benefited from the GATE program, I am aware of its value in preparing students for demanding college careers. We have an obligation to serve all students, providing each with the best education possible. This must include the specialized classes and support necessary to challenge advanced learners.

Strong growth in the fields of medical and computer research is anticipated in the Rochester area. Rochester’s future will be determined, in part, by the community in which these highly sophisticated job-seekers choose to live. Services to our highest-performing students are closely tied to economic development, and should be viewed as excellent investments.

2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

The Gifted Education Program provides excellent opportunities to help students reach their potential. Although an effort has been made to involve more students in Advanced Placement courses, providing additional choices should be considered.

I suggest that an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program be considered for Juniors and Seniors. This excellent curriculum is widely recognized, would help attract students to the District, and would offer Rochester families another option. Additional Advanced Placement course offerings and College in the Schools courses would provide students more opportunities. Input from parents, students and teachers is crucial to the process of developing new programs.
Additional information can be found on my website, www.resmanschoolboard.org.


Greg Gallas

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

No response received. 


2. 
What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

No response received. 


Dawn M. Johnson

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

Gifted education is needed in Rochester to make school challenging for students who already demonstrate high learning capacity or those that demonstrate a high level of achievement. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC, 2010) defines gifted students as:

....Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities (para. 1).


G

ifted education is meant to accomplish task of meeting these students’ needs using teachers with the proper train

ing to serve this special pop

ulation.


Reference: 

NAGC. (2010). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved July 20, 2010 from 

http://www.nagc.org/index2.aspx?id=548.


2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

I feel that the current gifted services in the Rochester School District are not meeting many students’ needs. A district this large should have a better gifted curriculum than what presently exists. The development of gifted education services must be based on valid and reliable research. That research is then accommodated to meet the needs of the district. There is a high probability that many students are not receiving services according to the national standards. These minimal and exemplary criteria set several standards that were developed by a team of experts in education (NAGC, 1998). The Rochester school district needs to consider adding the following; (a) adding gifted services for pre-kindergarten through second grade; (b) addition of a separate program for students third through twelfth grade who qualify in all subjects; and (c) yearly testing of those who qualify or wish to qualify. 

Reference: 

NAGC. 

(1998). NAGC pre-K-grade 12 gifted program standards introduction. Retrieved July 20, 2010 from http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=546.


Daniel Arthur O'Neil

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

Gifted education is essential to the School District’s goal that “All students of all abilities will be challenged academically …”

While much of the media focus is on improving student performance of those at the lower end of the spectrum, we should not neglect or ignore those for whom the standard curriculum would not pose a challenge. Every child deserves to reach their maximum potential. One of my hobbies is running marathons, but I’m not very fast. In my training, I work to close the gap between myself and faster runners. To be successful as a runner, I must focus my energy on increasing my speed and not hope that others will slow down. In a similar way, the school district must encourage each student to reach their highest potential and provide programing to achieve that goal. Gifted education is similar to a coach for marathon champions – it is essential for success. 

Also, gifted education can provide the challenge essential to motivate students. Having graduated from a very small school, I was fortunate to have been offered advanced math courses – including probability and statistics – through creative instructors and self-paced instruction. Those challenging class offerings were the foundation of my academic success. As a result, I graduated in the top 5% of my West Point class, and I was selected to attend graduate school in preparation to teach probability and statistics. Unfortunately, I had classmates who did not take advantage of such programs and quickly became bored. Often, boredom can cause undesirable outcomes including drug abuse – even in a small town like Lester Prairie, MN. In Rochester, we must make gifted programs available and attractive to all students who have the ability to succeed in them. 

The intent of our district should be to make every effort to recognize the gifted and talented needs of our students and provide appropriate programming. The leadership must make available programs, personnel and payments that include gifted education as part of the core services of the district.


2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?


The Rochester Public School system has a lot to offer gifted students, but there is room to grow. Over the past few years as Service Academy Field Force representative for the 1st Congressional District, I am exposed to the academic achievements of those students who seek admission to West Point. I am quite impressed with the educational experiences of students who maximize their opportunities throughout their time in the district. Rochester has a set of offerings beginning with enhancement programs beginning in elementary school, but in most schools it doesn’t begin until third grade. In middle school much of the focus is on programs like Rochester Accelerated Math Program (RAMP) and the school within a school program at Friedell. Further, several extracurricular groups provide opportunities at middle schools. In high school the emphasis is on Advanced Placement programs where students are encouraged to take the most rigorous courses they are capable of taking to best prepare them for college and life in a global economy and workforce. Further, at Mayo Clinic I have been the work direction provider for students who have taken advantage of 

mentor programs.

With the benefit of academically-focused organizations like IBM and Mayo Clinic, Rochester has a significantly higher proportion of gifted students than most areas of the state – and nation. As such, we must provide more programs and resources that match the standards necessary to challenge a large number of students. In addition, we must recognize that among even among gifted students there are those who are truly exceptional. We must provide a combination of challenge and autonomy to prepare those students for the academic rigor of top colleges and universities. In my own experience, while I was valedictorian of a class of 42, While I eventually was quite successful, my first semester I was unprepared to study on a daily basis at West Point. With the benefit of years since that first semester, I know now that a mentorship program may have introduced perspective and humility that would have been extremely beneficial in my academic career. 

While these programs accomplish a lot with relatively little time and money, not all students take full advantage of the offerings – and still there are capacity constraints. Further, we must recognize challenges and choices that students have to make to participate including changing schools or being separated from friends. We must find innovative ways to offer and fund programs for an increased number of students at more locations. Finally, I believe strongly that mentorship beginning in middle school and continuing through graduation should be a cornerstone of our programs and that we must call on the community to provide opportunity for these experiences to all qualified students. 

In summary, Rochester does provide opportunity for gifted and talented students. Recent enhancements to the program have been useful, as offerings have been dismal in the somewhat recent past. As we move forward, we should build upon our strengths. As a Senior Project Manager in the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, I believe that creativity is essential for business success and that intellectual challenge drives creativity. For our district to thrive in the coming century, we must motivate and inspire all students to reach their potential. Creative, innovative leadership in gifted education should be a core element in our success. 

Back to top


Terry Throndson

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

No response received. 


2. 
What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

No response received. 


Candidates for Seat No. 6


Deborah Seelinger 

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

I believe gifted education plays an important role in our district. With higher than average numbers of students that test in the gifted range, in addition to students who remain unidentified, our district needs to dedicate and protect resources to serving these students. If we are to be an inclusive district that serves the needs of all our students, gifted education needs to be part of the educational spectrum. The district's support of gifted education can be an important factor for families choosing our district over nearby districts or other options.

2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

Based on personal experience, the current elementary pull out program was limited in meeting the needs of my student. While it offered an opportunity to interact with social peers, it did not provide a consistent level of challenge. At the middle school level, I have found math acceleration and the "flex" option offered in some course units to be adequate in meeting my student's needs. Through my work with GATEway I have learned about other options for offering services and am hopeful that with continued involvement, GATEway can help the district provide opportunities that better reflect best practices. In addition, the work GATEway has done to establish the Highly Gifted program at Friedell is exceptional. I hope there will be similar success at the elementary level.



Anne Becker

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

The role I see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District is as follows; until our school district is more responsive to how individual students learn and challenge them accordingly there will be a place for GATEway. During this time of budget cuts and schools focusing so many resources on bringing up the bottom, having an outside organization looking out for our highest achievers is valuable. Gifted education can provide outside opportunities for student growth. Students at all levels need advocates making sure we are providing a thorough and challenging curriculum. 


2.
What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

I think the school district has many opportunities for students to challenge themselves. However we should be offering more. That being said our problem then becomes how we provide the richest education we can in these times of budget constraints. I feel we should look in many areas to do this. One opportunity to offer enrichment is by looking at what may be offered online. Courses only a few students want to take are hard for the district to offer because they become cost prohibitive. Using online technology makes them more affordable. Other places we can look for enrichment is to our community. Can we expand the mentorship programs offered? What partnerships can we cultivate? In this time of limited resources we can offer more if we are creative.


Fred Daly 

1. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District? 

Students learn at different speeds and in different ways. In a classroom of students most will be ready for the lesson being taught and will be comfortable in the teaching method. The systems works well for them. The students who aren't quite ready or learn in different ways get left behind and need extra help if they are to be successful. The gifted and talented are at the other end of the spectrum. They are more than ready for the material and are comfortable with the teaching methods. They are forced to idle while the rest of the class leans what they already understand.

Gifted and Talented programs allow these students to move faster and in greater depth. These students are capable of doing advanced courses and the programs lets them move at a pace that keeps their interest and prepares them for college. I expect Gifted and Talented to remain a key program. I would like to see G&T students offered the opportunity to advance as quickly as their interests and ability allow.


2. What is your view of the current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?

I see a strong commitment to helping all students reach their full potential. We try to serve this group by having gifted and talented classes in elementary and middle school and Advanced Placement courses in High school. One of the perceived problems is the tests students must take to be accepted into G&T. Educators disparage the value of tests then make acceptance into program contingent on passing some tests. We try to give G&T students challenging courses but our current system places artificial limits on their learning.

I think we could do a much better job if gifted and talented students could be grouped in a choice or charter school. This would be difficult because the public would perceive this as elitist. I would like to see the use of on-line learning grow because it opens up many subjects we can't afford to offer in our schools. On-line learning makes it possible to teach subjects in multiple ways to match learning styles and allows levels of difficulty to be matched to the individual student. G&T students could tailor their high school experience to their career interests and also take courses from universities for credit.

My vision is to eliminate the grade level system and let students progress at their own pace. When they are ready to pass the course final exam, they should take it and move on though the next level. This will mean many changes in legislation, employment contracts, teacher training and school administration so the transition will be slow but it has to happen. Technology and the competitive world environment make change inevitable. The education business model is over 100 years old and needs to be upgraded to maximize student potential. I believe Gifted and Talented is a program that can lead the way in transforming education.

Back to top