2018-Primary-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. What role do you see gifted education playing in the Rochester School District?
  2. What is your view of current services for the gifted students in the Rochester School District?
Candidates for Seat No. 2
Candidates for Seat No. 6

Candidates for Seat No. 2

Melissa Amundsen

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

Since I was one of the people who originally composed these questions for school board candidates a number of years ago, it would give me an unfair advantage to answer them now that I am a school board candidate myself.  However, if anyone would like to discuss the topic of gifted and talented education in Rochester Public Schools, I am always open to meeting with them.


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

Since I was one of the people who originally composed these questions for school board candidates a number of years ago, it would give me an unfair advantage to answer them now that I am a school board candidate myself.  However, if anyone would like to discuss the topic of gifted and talented education in Rochester Public Schools, I am always open to meeting with them.



Vangie Castro

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

I think any program that provides resources for students to thrive and achieve is important in any public education setting. However, because there has been data to show graduation rates are lower for students of color in Minnesota and RPS, there’s a greater responsibility for programs like Gifted and Talented to ensure they are working hard to identify students of color into these programs. According to a study published in 2016 by AREA Open, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Educational Research Association found that the odds of black students getting into the Gifted and Talented program is 66 percent lower than it is for a white student, and Latinx students chances are 47 percent lower. Is this because students of color are less gifted than their white counterparts, or is there some racial biases in how students are being tested for these programs? When we look at the number of students of color enrolled in RPS and those that are in the Gifted and Talented program, what would the numbers tell us about how we are doing? Is the current G&T program helping to close the graduation rate disparity for students of color?


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

I believe that Gifted and Talented services for students  in the District are currently lacking in support and resources. Even though the program has received additional funding, it only maintains the current status quo. There are currently 8 to 9 teachers in the district dedicated to the Gifted and Talented program for a school district with almost 18,000 students. That is a heavy lift for those teachers. However, it’s not any different from other programs such as for students with special needs and Newcomers classes. Even at the High School level, they are lacking enough instructors to teach AP and Honors courses. In my opinion, it is important to provide the funding and resources that the students need to develop to their fullest potential. Students who are not challenged in school may become disengaged and can end up becoming disruptive in class, or worse -- drop out altogether. At the end of the day, it is important as a school board member to ensure we are doing what we can with the budget we have to provide the support and resources students need to become successful at school and in life. Moreover, it’s also our duty to find ways to better fund the district in order to provide world-class programs like Gifted and Talented.



Bruce Kaskubar

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

No response given.

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

No response given.



Candidates for Seat No. 6

Greg Gallas

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

No response given.

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

No response given.


Cathy Nathan

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

I want our District to make decisions that support all students' learning and growth and allow our teachers and staff to bring their best skills and ideas to the classroom, so gifted education must have a central role. When we talk about the needs of our student populations, and competition for scarce resources, the needs of gifted students always needs to be on the agenda, alongside the needs of children of color, immigrant and refugee students, special education students, and students from low-income families. From my experience with the student population in Rochester, the needs of our students often cross into multiple categories, including gifted services. Our Gifted Services staff have also brought numerous innovations to District curriculum and programming over the years, which have served as models or content for other District programming.


I have seen the importance of gifted services first-hand. Gifted programs and staff contributed so much to both of my children's educational successes. The pull-out programs and collaborations and conversations between gifted services staff and their classroom teachers made the difference between a frustrating school experience where they would have been disruptive in the classroom to a positive, engaging and challenging school experience.

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

Resources have always been and will always be an issue. We are fortunate to have the dedicated state funding and that the district has supplemented that funding with local general fund dollars for gifted services, although the resources remain underfunded. Furthermore, we cannot take for granted that the resources for gifted services will always be a priority. Therefore, I believe the District needs to be more intentional in their assessment of and public communications about the current status of gifted programming and share highlights of successes and what we need to improve.

 I was a member and the facilitator for the Gifted Services Advisory Committee (GSAC) from 2007 until it was discontinued in 2013. GSAC was a group of parents, teachers, staff, administrators and community members who met monthly to talk about the current status of gifted services in RPS, talk about best practices in the gifted services field, and do short-and long-term planning for new programs and services. So much of what we see in gifted services came from that committee’s work and conversations, including the highly-gifted elementary and middle school programs, cluster grouping and differentiation, Primary Education Thinking Skills (PETS) for all first graders, prevention of cuts to gifted services during previous district budget cutting cycles, adding additional gifted services staff, and alternative identification methodologies. GSAC helped develop an annual presentation to the school board on the number of students in gifted services by school and grade and other demographic factors, expenditures, staffing, program implementation and outcomes. That information was so helpful to parents and the school board in their understanding of where gifted services were and improvements needed.

 I believe the Gifted Services Advisory Committee needs to be resurrected, with a new generation of parents, staff and community members to discuss, research and provide input to the direction of gifted services in RPS. There are many areas of gifted services programming that the gifted services community and the board need to hear about:

 •     Primary Education Thinking Skills (PETS) for all first graders

•     Results of the Purdue University partnership for the total school cluster grouping and differentiation at Bamber Valley, Gibbs and Franklin

•     Outcomes from the highly gifted program at Friedell

•     Status report of implementation of the highly-gifted program at Kellogg

•     Strategies and status of identifying of students from under-represented groups for gifted services

 This reporting would be essential to helping the school board decide if the resources for gifted services are adequate to meet the needs of today’s Rochester students, and help to re-ignite the conversation on innovations in gifted education that we have not been considering. It would also help to educate the community on the status of gifted services and the needs of our gifted students and hopefully spur conversations on how community resources and partnerships could be used to enhance the gifted services programming.



Abdi Roble

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

No response given.

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

No response given.


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