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Slow down ambitious plan for gifted students
A Times Editorial
Published December 4, 2007
Opinions are abundant about how the Hernando County School District should retool its programs for educating gifted students. An enhanced gifted curriculum in every elementary and middle school? A designated school where students would be bused from all over the county? A combination of the two?
As a committee of educators and parents continue to work on an ambitious plan for improving services to gifted students, it is becoming clear that one aspect of their assignment is a tad too ambitious: the timetable.
The School Board and superintendent Wayne Alexander have said they plan to establish a gifted education center by August 2008. Given that the committee isn't expected to give the board its recommendation until late March, it would not leave adequate time to get teachers, parents and students in place by August, or to address the logistics of transportation and materials.
This important initiative should not be rushed. Students and parents have waited too long for a gifted program that is more focused and consistent. Toward that end, it would be advisable for the board to target full implementation of the revamped program for the 2009-10 school year.
In the meantime, however, the board could establish a pilot program for 2008-09 without creating a burden on resources, students or parents. Elementary School "J" is scheduled to open in August. It can accommodate more than 2,000 students kindergarten through eighth grade. Since the intent is to focus on students in elementary and middle schools, it would be easy to begin a school within a school at Elementary "J" using the 50 or so gifted students who already are zoned for the new school.
Doing so would give the committee more time to make a recommendation, and for board members to adjust and act on it. It also would provide administrators and teachers helpful time to measure the program's successes and weaknesses in preparation for a larger effort the following year.
Another good use of the extra time would be to poll the parents of gifted students to gauge their approval of the board's plans. There are fewer than 400 elementary and middle school students who will be affected, so that is not an unwieldy task.
The committee meets today for the second time. As its members explore the meaty issues of this important topic, they also should consider adding these words to their recommendation to the board: