TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — After Gifted and Talented Education funding was lost last year, the school district has unanimously approved a $19,000 program that hopes to identify and educate students deemed by the district as an at-risk population.On Thursday, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Superintendent Steve Jennings said the plan, initially presented at the board’s June 15 workshop and OK’d later in the month, will work toward identifying GATE students as early as third grade.“Certainly we will begin implementing the program right away, and it certainly reflects a lot of work by administrators, teachers and parents,” Jennings said.Considering the lagging economy, both board members and staff at the June 15 presentation considered funding miraculous — albeit frugal.“The proposed (GATE) budget of $19,000 is, I would say, pretty bare bones to run a GATE program if that’s the direction the board wants to go,” said Dave Curry, director of educational services.Part of the funding ($7,000) will provide GATE testing to all third grade students annually and training for teachers and coaches at the elementary level. Furthermore, Glenshire Elementary, Kings Beach Elementary, Tahoe Lake Elementary and Truckee Elementary each receive a $3,000 teacher stipend.
The program is the result of a joint effort between district staff and a GATE task force created in the Spring of 2010 after parents voiced concerns about the state allocating GATE funding for other uses, the end result being a decreased focus on GATE programs.On June 15, the board asked Curry why he deems GATE students — those who are exceptional in their learning ability — as an at-risk student population.Curry said in some cases, exceptional aptitude, if left undirected, can result in serious behavioral problems.“GATE students have a different way of thinking and processing and they can easily get bored with a standard curriculum if they’re not challenged in a specific area,” Curry said. “When they get bored they shut down and they become more of a problem than an addition to the class’s learning environment.”Leisa Petersen, a GATE parent and task force member, said this is a good place to start in rebuilding a full GATE program for s district facing tight financial constraints.She said the program would also help eliminate a tug-of-war among GATE parents trying to get their children in a certain classroom.“Some teachers have taken a personal decision to make this a big deal and they have gone to classes on their own,” Petersen said. “Sometimes it becomes this game where if you don’t get that teacher who’s taken (GATE teaching) ... then you know your child is not going to get the attention they need.”Petersen said she is concerned about the lack of a structured GATE program, which leads to some parents moving their children out of the district.“It’s so tragic because I feel like we shave off that top, and my student doesn’t know who her real peers are because they’ve self selected out (of the district),” she said.Though the initial program is targeted toward elementary students, Curry said as it develops and more funding sources are located, there will additional emphasis toward middle school students; high school GATE students already have Advanced Placement classes to accommodate them.