2014 General Election

GATEway sent all candidates two open-ended questions about gifted education in Rochester Public Schools.  Their responses are below for you to consider.

  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.
  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?

Don Barlow

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.

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.


Anne Becker

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.

My vision for an ideal program for gifted students is one developed by professionals in our district whose passion and expertise is gifted education. My role as a Board member is not to describe nor come up with the ideal program, but to value and support gifted services in the district. In that capacity I was very happy to hear after the resignation of Ms. Lawhead the District chose to and Ms. Bowler accepted the position of POSA:Gifted Services & HSCC. She is a wonderful example of a professional who has passion and expertise in this area. I am confident with Ms. Bowler leading our gifted services in the district, our gifted students will be inspired, challenged, and empowered to reach their full potential which is what we want for all our students.

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 value and support gifted education in our district. I understand our district has a higher percentage of gifted students than the national average. What a wonderful opportunity for the district to have all these gifted students and for the students to have such a big peer group to interact with. So when I look at budget constraints I will do my best to keep budgets cuts away from students. Other expenses need to be reduced before cuts impact students. As for ways to obtain additional funding or cost efficiencies I will look to groups like GATEway and state and national groups that work closest to gifted students to generate these efficiencies. These professionals are the best group of people to evaluate if something is a cost efficiency or simply a cut of services.


Jean Marvin

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.

In a perfect educational world, every learner would have an individualized learning plan that would provide the appropriate challenges, support, and pacing for his or her needs. Assuming that scenario is unlikely, gifted students should be provided with the opportunities and the champions that can make their years in school engaging, relevant, and joyful, and that will address their academic as well as emotional needs.

Mandatory, high quality professional development for pre-service educators as well as educators and administrators currently in our schools must be developed. There is plenty of information about what this should involve including identification, ways of differentiating and compacting curriculum, and working with gifted underachievers including those from underrepresented populations.

Early identification, beginning at perhaps age two or three should become standard, and pre-school programs for those identified should be developed. Throughout a child’s education, options should be available for his or her advancement: cluster grouping, school within a school, acceleration, mentorships, and summer programs would be among the options as would be world language programs offered in elementary school. High school teachers could travel to teach middle schoolers when appropriate so the students’ social and academic needs could be met.

Although enrichment programs provide valuable experiences for many bright kids, they should not be confused with the kind of robust gifted program our schools should provide.

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?

Funding for gifted education remains an uphill challenge because it doesn’t evoke from the general public the same kind of empathy that special education does. Not surprisingly, however, many gifted students and special education students suffer the same kind of fate when schools don’t provide for them appropriately. Acting out, dropping out, becoming marginalized, feeling hopeless may characterize students in both groups. Going forward, much needs to be done to assure that gifted education receives the same level of attention and funding as special education. In order to make this happen, teachers, administrators, school boards, and the public need to be educated about the potential gifted students have for their schools and their communities and the obligation communities have to nurture that potential.

In addition to lobbying for public funding, private funding should be actively sought either for specific programs (medical fields, technology, engineering, etc.) or for more general applications (e.g. a highly gifted preschool program or school within a school.) Expanding the secondary program which allows students to be mentored by a professional at his or her place of work is a start. Engaging professionals and businesses in the community in discussion about how our gifted students could benefit from their expertise and about how the businesses, in turn, could benefit from the value these gifted young people could return to the community is another initiative we need to expand. Continuing to work with post-secondary institutions and providing more PSEO options for secondary students can be cost effective as well.


Terry Throndson

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.

My vision for an ideal program isn't fiscally possible with the budget funds available. There are so many needs everywhere that can't provide the ideal programs either. We have to work with our funds available and try to do the best we can, which is short of what is needed.

I know this isn't the answer you are looking for. Each gifted student is gifted in different areas and levels. The right way would be to fund and make available the needs of each individual gifted child. The funds aren't available for this. So we have to share in the needs of all students and try to do the best we can with what we have available in our public schools. An alternative would be to enroll gifted children into a private school/s who have more funds and materials available. And how affordable is the cost of this option?

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?

Budget constraints make it more difficult to prioritize education for all students. They all have special needs. Rochester School District annual budget in over $259 million. 86% of that is spent on wages and benefits. That leaves 14% left for other needs to maintain the school district. Out of that come costs of maintenance of property, buildings, technology, materials, food, training of teachers/staff, transportation, sports, music, arts, legal costs -just to name a few of the many needs. And in this 14% additional requests for more money for special needs for the gifted & special need students, sports, extracurricular school activities and programs. The needs are just endless but the amount of funds available are not.

Ideas for additional funding or cost effective methods? Dig deeper into your pocket if possible? Not a very likeable idea is it. And maybe you already have. I say this with much respect.

Back in the 80-'s into 90's I was a volunteer for Junior Achievement for 12 years. I started out with 1 class at Kellogg. I taught what was called "Personal Economics" teaching kids how important school was and starting to seriously think/plan about what it is they want to do with their life. How to write a check, use of credit cards, how to read/find "want ads" for work, look for work without finding want ads. Learning about how to fill out a job and credit application. How to prepare for a job interview, write a resume and many other job related skills. I went from 1 class at Kellogg to 3 classes, 1 at Willow Creek and 2 at Friedell. JA classes had to be no less than20 minutes and no longer than 90 minutes, no less than 9 weeks but no longer than 12 weeks. My classes were 90 minutes for 12 weeks and I kept the students engaged. I spent 14 hrs. a week and donated thousands of dollars over the 12 years to support JA.

At Friedell, I personally paid for field trips and transportation a couple times each year. We went to places of business's and job sites. Back then I raced stock car, Class A-Motified. 500 HP & up engines. There were a couple students interest in HP of all kinds. I took the class to a stock car dirt race track. I had other stock car drivers volunteer to bring their race cars and show them to the students. They sat in the cars, were permitted to start the engines and feel the vibrations/power/noise of the high HP's. Some of us did a short 3 lap race and even got their teacher to drive my car and try to speed around the track. Found out it wasn't all that easy. The kids loved this time and then back in class we talked about car engines, transmissions, rear ends, safety, driving and responsibilities of driving.

Some kids were into engineering and thus taken to working jobs sites for tours and interaction with the workers about the construction, safety and work skills. I went to different business's sites for industrial arts type work, business's with labs, assembly lines, what ever I could line up.

My point here is that many business's in Rochester are willing and able to come to Friedell, (all schools) teach/talk about their profession, work skills etc. and even have a field trip to their business's. The problem is that now there's liability/safety issues, legislation/school policies that prohibit/restrict business's from their participation in our schools. There is the issue with some school educators who object to this because of union policies/practices. (Job security)

There are business's very willing to help out and challenge our gifted students, in fact all our students. Parents & community need to help change the school policies, legislation and the thinking that prohibits business's from donating time, field trips, supplies, donations and just being involved. All that is needed is to get involved and ask. This is where you would could find additional funding and cost-efficient methods of providing services to all students.

I continue to visit Rochester schools and other outside school district school to teach, watch classroom learning (math, reading, science, art), & other other school activities. I have attended all 12 H/S graduations (11-14), speaker at 3 of them, provided materials/supplies for industrial arts classes at my expense, and help in the veterans activities at Mayo & JM H/S.


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