Free school for profoundly gifted opens |

Free school for profoundly gifted opens

Tom Gardner

RENO (AP) – They’re three dozen of the smartest kids around, and this fall they’ll be attending the Davidson Academy on the University of Nevada, Reno campus – a private-public school venture that hopes to offer students a rich education at no charge.

Their parents have moved to Reno from around the country and as far away as Australia so the students, who were bored senseless in traditional schools, could receive the classroom challenge they longed for.

“Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I was in grade school, I was considered advanced in some subjects, too. But I have to say it’s a little humbling to be among so many talented students,” U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said at Tuesday’s dedication.

“Not only are you in the 99.9th percentile of achievement, you’re opera singers and novelists and football players and chess masters. And in your spare time, you’ve managed to keep years ahead of most students your age,” she said to the young people.

She mentioned 11-year-old Misha Raffiee, who speaks English, French, Spanish, Latin and hopes to be a neurosurgeon, and Christopher Griffin II, 10, who longs to be a football player, but is considering cracking codes for the government.

“No pressure, kids, but I expect whatever field you chose, you’ll go straight to the top,” she said.

Emma Schmeizer, 13, whose family moved to Reno from Montana, said many people think gifted children are driven by their parents.

“In a way, they’re right,” she said. “Most of us will be out of college before we’re old enough to get a license.”

Marcus Lorang, 11, said he was could not wait for classes to begin.

“Last year, if I had been given the choice of going to school or staying at home eating pizza all day, I probably would have chosen the pizza. Who wouldn’t?”

The school, which opens Monday on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus to its first class of students ranging in age from 10 to 16, is the dream of retired school teacher Jan Davidson and her husband, Don, of Incline Village, who committed more than $10 million to start the academy.

Their former company, Davidson & Associates, was known for the popular Math Blaster and Reading Blaster software series that emerged in the early 1980s. They also are co-authors of the book, “Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds.”

Classes are taught by university professors and academy teachers for students at middle school and high school levels. The students will have the opportunity to proceed through undergraduate and graduate course work at UNR as well as joining research projects while enrolled at the academy.

“At the Davidson Academy, if students master a semester’s worth of course material in a few weeks or a month, they move ahead at their own pace,” Jan Davidson said. “We tailor learning to each student, giving them an opportunity to learn in greater depth and at a faster pace than they would in a typical grade-based schooling situation.”

Officials think it’s the first public school of its kind in the nation because of it’s educational model, ties to the university and lack of tuition.

“We are tailoring the school to meet the needs of the student instead of tailoring the student to meet the needs of the school,” Don Davidson said

The state Legislature approved the academy concept in 2005. It is run by a governing board that includes the state superintendent of schools, the president of the University of Nevada and members appointed by the governor and the academy.

During its first year, the academy’s tuition and operational costs will be financed by the Davidsons.

They hope the 2007 Legislature will appropriate state funds to support the school and the couple plans to continue supplementing it.

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