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 Clarendon Hills Middle School 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 Dr. Tonya Moon and Dr. Catherine Brighton presented in person a preliminary report of their evaluation of the gifted program. 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 many of the same concerns speakers mentioned at the Jan. 23 meeting.
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 Elm School.