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Florida Keys News
Monday, June 17, 2013
Gifted programs will get reprieve

Students in the local school district's gifted program have just received another endowment: their program, for another year.

School district officials, after hearing from concerned parents, decided to allocate the financial resources needed to keep the gifted programs alive.

Superintendent Mark Porter announced the decision at Tuesday's School Board meeting in Tavernier.

Concerns had been raised earlier this spring by the parents of third, fourth and fifth graders who attended the program on different days of the week at Gerald Adams Elementary School.

An email campaign was launched and appears to have borne fruit.

"As we looked at the allocation, and the kids who meet the standard for gifted, the district was able to allocate three additional teachers for this important program," said School Board Chairman Andy Griffiths. "I'm pleased that we're not going to see a diminishment here. The FCATs force us to focus on the lowest performing quintile, but we really need to challenge kids on both ends of the spectrum."

The allocation essentially maintains a status quo situation for the programs in terms of resource allocation. Each "building," or school, receives a share of the teachers' time. They must then decide how best to utilize them.

"Basically, the superintendent has reinstated an allocation for the gifted program, which means that 1 teacher per 50 students will be allocated over the entire district," said district Chief Operating Officer Theresa Axford. "Now that the principals have been given the allocation, they're going to have to look at how they plan to use it."

For example, schools can opt to take part in a "Pull Out" program, such as the one at Gerald Adams, where gifted students from nearby schools are bussed to the school, which is in a central location, one day per week.

Conversely, schools in remote locations sometimes opt for the "Consultative" model, in which the gifted teachers make recommendations, and help organize a curriculum appropriate for gifted students in that school, obviating the need to bus them long distances for classes at other schools.

"When I was at Sugarloaf, it made sense for us to go with the Consultative model," said Axford, a former principal at Sugarloaf School. "Because we're pretty far from Key West and Marathon. We also designed a book club as a component of the program. There are other schools in similar positions, which may opt to approach the program that way."

The school principals have quite a bit of latitude in deciding how to use the allocation. The only stipulation is that it be used for gifted kids, in one way or another.

Monroe County Director of Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Lesley Salinero welcomed the allocation announcement.

"I think it's a very positive step," Salinero said. "In spite of all the financial challenges we're facing, we need to reach out to the gifted kids. They're our best and brightest students, and we need to make them excited about learning."

tschmida@keysnews.com

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