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D181 Board Discusses Schedule for Gifted Program Overhaul

Since the presentation of Dr. Tonya Moon's findings, administration hired a consultant to lead a committee that would develop a philosophy statement for the gifted program.

The District 181 Board of Education further discussed the future of the district’s gifted program Monday night at after Superintendent Dr. Renée Schuster prepared a recommended schedule of action that would begin with the creation of a philosophy-writing committee made up of teachers and administrators and led by a recent district hire.

Monday’s discussion came three weeks after . Moon’s team, which was not present Monday, recommended eliminating the ACE Program, which takes kids the district deems to be gifted out of their home school for one full day each week, while rethinking the district’s gifted identification process and establishing a guiding philosophy statement.

Under Schuster’s proposed schedule, that philosophy statement would be drafted by the writing committee between the board of education’s Feb. 27 and April 9 meetings. The committee would be led by Dr. Jessica Hockett, who was hired by District 181 administration as a temporary consultant after being recommended by Moon’s team. 

Also by the April 9 Committee of the Whole meeting, according to the superintendent’s plan, a transition program for the 2012-13 school year would be developed. By June, the philosophy statement would be finalized and by December, a plan for future gifted programming would be decided on.

Originally, Schuster proposed having a small number of parents serve on the writing committee, but the board recommended delaying parent participation until after the philosophy statement is developed by educators and administrators.

“I think that’s what you need to do,” board member Russell Rhoads said.

Rhoads said teachers and administrators would take an unbiased approach to the future of the program since they don’t have kids in the program.

Hockett is currently a gifted consultant in Arlington Heights School District 25. Schuster said Hockett has the skills to bring people with different points of view together to find common ground.

“The strength she is bringing is facilitation and getting people to think about difficult and controversial issues,” Schuster said.

The superintendent said the district is paying Hockett approximately $6,000 for her leadership in the philosophy-statement development process.

Board member Yvonne Mayer said she didn’t like the fact that administration developed a schedule for action and hired Hockett before board members were given the chance to discuss Moon’s final report and give the administration direction.

“I think we’re going about this a little bit backwards,” Mayer said.

District 181 community members again took to the microphone Monday during pubic comment and voiced .

Board member Marty Turek said after public comment that it’s clear the district needs to move beyond discussion and begin the planning process at its Feb. 27 meeting.

“We have to declare one way or another where we are on this program and decide what we’re doing with it and quit dancing around the fence on it,” Turek said.

The board’s next business meeting, where Turek said he’d make a motion to start the planning process, is scheduled for Feb. 27 at .

Steve Woodward February 14, 2012 at 06:42 PM
To accommodate the Superintendent, might I recommend the next meeting be re-located to an Arthur Murray's studio, as she continues tap dancing to divert attention from the central findings of the Moon Report. It appears Dr. Schuster is intent on moving forward with a fatally flawed gifted program regardless of what the $43,000 report or the taxpaying public dictates. She hastily hired yet another consultant, not to determine how to integrate gifted "specialists" into the overall teaching environment, but to generate a document that will re-validate discredited, "indefensible" practices. The most revolting soft-shoe of the night was a call for "more data" despite an independent evaluation (Moon et al) that charges the district with committing "educational malpractice". The D181 board and the public must not back down and will not be muffled -- even by procedural censorship. Last night's ban on public comment during the "public comments" section of the agenda was a breach of democracy and a trampling of the First Amendment. It will not be tolerated again.
Joe O'Donnell February 14, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Thanks for the comment, Steve. The board in recent months adopted a new Committee of the Whole procedure whereby public comment is taken with each agenda item, instead of one comment session at the beginning at one comment session at the end. Because the gifted program item was put near the end of the agenda, a lot of people did have to wait quite some time. While the new procedure does enter the community comments right into the board's discussion of items, seemingly a pro, it can take awhile to get to some items, which seems to be a con.
Steve Woodward February 14, 2012 at 07:34 PM
It's not enforceable.
John Czerwiec February 14, 2012 at 08:05 PM
The overly combative attitude evidenced by some "community members" is a cause for concern. The FACT is there was AMPLE public comment. Much of that comment revealed that those who are most vocal have a very poor understanding of how D181 has delivered services to students, how the current curriculum was developed, and an overall philosophy of not just educational practice in the District but our state / nation. It is exceedingly curious that the most vocal opponents seem VERY intent on letting world know that to them APPEARANCE matters more than substance. They go out of their way to paint a picture of the District in the most unfavorable light possible while ignoring the data that shows no other district has as great a percentage of schools on the Illinois Honor Roll For Academic Excellence http://www.ilhonorroll.niu.edu/scripts/awards.asp?awtype=E&year=2011&so=city&searchStr=* I liken these complainers to "prohibitionists" who seem in intent on banning the mention of the terms "gifted and talented". Like Orwell's Ministry of Truth they seem to want to eliminate the "unpersons" with high apptitudes. Perhaps they are too blind to realize their rallying cry against the current implementation of curricular enhancement as "exclusionary" is much like the process of admittance to the supposed fine colleges they've attended or their career choice which have large barriers to entry. Contrast this to the heartfelt pleas for compromise and accomdation from those being served

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