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RCS Board of Education Candidate Responses

October 20, 2016

school_board_electionI sent each Rochester Community Schools Board of Education candidate questions about Advanced & Gifted Education. Candidates running opposed (Michelle Bueltel and Elizabeth Witten) and unopposed (Sandra Fiaschetti and Kevin Beers) had sufficient opportunity to respond, but only Mrs. Bueltel provided answers to the questions. Mrs. Bueltel’s responses are below.

1) Do you believe the opportunities and education that exist for advanced and gifted students in Rochester Community Schools are sufficient? Why or why not?

I do not believe that there are sufficient opportunities for advanced and gifted students.  In elementary school, the opportunities for advanced students are usually dependent upon the teacher.  Some do a great job of identifying ways to challenge students who already know the material such that a student is engaged and learning.  However, I believe that there should be a more formal process for identifying the students who already know the material and a game plan for how those students will learn more during the current year.  Every child should have at least one full year of academic growth during each school year in every subject.  At the secondary level we already have honors courses in English and math and I would like to see honors courses offered in science and social studies too.

2) What role do you believe the Board of Education should have in recommending or implementing gifted education options in our district?

I believe the role of the Board is to set the expectation that all students learn by being challenged, supported, and engaged.  Board members can encourage and suggest that more needs to be done to meet the needs of students in specific categories.

3) What changes do you believe should be made to best meet the needs of high achievers based on your understanding of the surrounding community, the current finances, and the needs of RCS students?

A greater emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring that all students achieve at least one year of academic growth each year, rather than on what the average test score for a class or grade is on an assessment.  I would think that the addition of honors courses at the secondary level in science and social studies should be able to be handled within our existing structure (i.e. no additional costs or minimal costs associated).  I would hope that allowing a student to sit in on a higher grade level of math, science, etc, would also work within the current structure.  However, when an elementary student exceeds the 5th grade curriculum the logistics become a little more challenging.  One option might be to have pre-recorded lectures for middle school subjects available for a student to watch on-line and the classroom teacher, learning consultant or other resource can potentially provide any needed support at the school.  I know that some parents with gifted students are interested in a gifted program, I do not currently have enough information to know whether we have sufficient interest to sustain a gifted program or what the costs of establishing and running such a program would be.

4) What role should parents have in determining gifted education options for our district?

I believe parents have a right to express their views on education.  If a committee is identified to explore a gifted program, I would hope that we would have parent representatives on the committee.  In the event that there is not a committee, then those views can be directed to the Board of Education and the administration.  It’s every parent’s right and responsibility to advocate for their children.

5) Should gifted education options be implemented district-wide or at the option of the principals and teachers?

My preference would be that education options for all students are offered district-wide.  However, if there is no current district wide plan, I would not tell a teacher that they could not meet the needs of an advanced or gifted student because there is not a formal program in place.  Sometimes programs will need to be piloted in one school to work out all the details before being implemented across the board.

6) Do you support the creation of one or more magnet programs in International Baccalaureate, STEM, Art & Music, Gifted Education, Leadership, Business, or Public Policy? What options would serve our district best and in which grade levels?

While I’m not an expert on these, I’m very interested in looking into magnet or what I call “schools within schools” programs. However, much research would need to be done before deciding to implement one.  Information on how many students would be interested in participating, the cost of establishing a new program, establishing a location for the new program and what if any entrance requirements would be required would all need to be identified and evaluated.  Questions as to whether we have enough in-district students to implement a program or whether we would consider opening a magnet school up to students outside our district would need to be answered.  As to what grade levels these programs apply to, my current thinking is that the grade level for the program is somewhat dependent on the program/school.  I tend to think of IB and Gifted Education starting in the elementary school level, with STEM and Art & Music at a secondary level once students have identified what they are passionate about and where their strengths are.

Any members of RCS Community, please take the time to introduce yourself to the candidates if you encounter them.

Thank you for reading Rochester SAGE!  Together we can make a difference for gifted children!

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