Full-time gifted teacher on Montrose parents wish list

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Parents at Montrose Elementary School in Bexley are unwilling to slam the door on having a full-time teacher for the GATE program for gifted students.

After a lengthy debate at the June school board meeting, and discussions with Superintendent Michael Johnson, the parents returned to the July 16 meeting asking that Gifted and Talented Education program position be increased to full-time from its three-quarter time status.

They believe that Montrose is serving as many gifted students as Cassingham Elementary, which has a full-time GATE teacher.

Last month Johnson explained that the school has the correct staffing for its GATE  program, based on the number of students identified as gifted.

He reiterated that he is not recommending a change in staffing for Montrose.

The parents countered that the number of gifted students at Montrose has doubled since the policy was set three years ago, and that GATE teacher Lesley Ressa is also working with additional students in an accelerated academic track.

"How is it equitable that I am teaching the same number of classes in four days" that the Cassingham GATE teacher conducts in five, Ressa questioned.

Parent Stefanie Mendevil said that Ressa does not have enough time during the week for adequate planning or to respond to the changing needs of the student population.

Board Vice President Andy Sutter explained that he wanted to make sure that all students are receiving the same level of services, while being responsible in spending what he called "other people’s money."

"Are we equally serving the needs of the same population of students at Cassingham and Montrose?" Sutter asked Johnson and Curriculum Director Anne Hyland. "Are all grades that are receiving gifted education services at Cassingham also extended to Montrose?"

Johnson offered assurances that services are being provided equally, and suggested that time for class planning could be obtained by adjusting the schedule at Montrose.

The superintendent said that it is unlikely that any changes at Montrose could be implemented by September. Any adjustments, if deemed necessary, would take two to six months to take effect, he added.

Board President Diane Peterson commented that she is reluctant to micro-manage the decisions of the district’s administrators.

"I’m not an educator," Peterson said.

Board member Joan Fishel agreed, but said she would like more information on the issue, questioning whether a policy that is three years old needs to be updated.

Sutter said that he does not want to hold back gifted students. "I want to serve overachievers. I want to produce more overachievers. I would like to have a whole district of overachievers."

But there is an immediate need that should be addressed, he offered. "I would like to have answers sooner than later, even if they’re not perfect answers."

In other business, first-term board member Joan Fishel announced that she plans to run for a second term in November.

Michael Levey, a former board member appointed to fill the unexpired term of Susan Zanner, said that he will not be running for a full term.

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