Richland School Board to make changes to gifted program

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 10, 2013 

Parents of Richland elementary students have a couple weeks left to give the Richland School District their consent if they want their child considered for the district's gifted program.

Richland School Board members Wednesday gave a first round of approval to a set of changes to district policies concerning the Gifted And Talented Education, or GATE, program, which now is called the Highly Capable program.

State regulations require the district have parent consent before students are tested for the program. That means permission forms must be in by the end of this month, even though the new policy changes won't be official for two more weeks.

"We can't continue to follow the old policy when we know it's out of compliance," said Assistant Superintendent Mike Hansen.

The program serves academically advanced students in grades 3 to 5. Consideration is based on student performance on the Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, test administered in the winter, scores from the Otis Lennon School Ability Test, or OLSAT and the Highly Capable Student Evaluation Checklist.

Students take MAP tests in the winter regardless of whether they are candidates for the Highly Capable program.

Previously, parents didn't have to provide consent for their student's consideration until later in the spring. But state law is clear it must be before testing occurs, Hansen said, because of the higher stakes for the students.

Other revisions to the district's policies on the program include clarifying the nomination process, how parents are notified and the timeline for any appeals on consideration.

Parent Julie Robertson told the board she still has concerns about some aspects of the district's program, specifically the difficulty in getting students re-tested who were close to qualifying for the program and the use of the OLSAT.

"It's not the greatest test, especially for the second-graders," she said.

However, she thanked the board for the changes it is making to its policies and said she hopes it signals further change.

"That program's just not big enough for the kids who need to be in it," Robertson said.

School board Chairman Rick Jansons said a possible expansion of the program, which is housed at Lewis and Clark Elementary, will be a topic of discussion at the board's retreat scheduled for Jan. 18.

Also Wednesday:

w Jansons told the Herald there is no firm date when the district will conclude its investigation of Superintendent Jim Busey but that investigators should have information to the board in the coming weeks.

The district has investigated Busey since Nov. 8 about a relationship he's had with a district employee. Busey was put on paid administrative leave Dec. 10, a few days after the Herald reported the investigation.

Busey has said the district found no issue with the relationship and problems didn't arise until the matter was made public. He said the district has subsequently offered a settlement to him in exchange for his resignation.

Jansons has denied the district ever concluding its investigation and has said the board has never offered Busey a settlement or discussed one.

w Board members will decide at their next meeting whether to move their regular meetings to another day temporarily to accommodate the schedule of board member Rick Donahoe.

Donahoe is taking a class at Washington State University Tri-Cities for the next four months that meets at the same time as the board's Tuesday night meetings.

Board members Phyllis Strickler and Heather Cleary said they would not have an issue moving the meetings to Wednesdays temporarily. Board member Mary Guay said she wondered if the board could just meet earlier or later on Tuesdays instead, but if meetings were moved to another day, she'd want to keep it a temporary arrangement.

To change the regular meeting time, the board will have to have its next regular meeting on Jan. 22, a Tuesday.

w The board set the agenda for its upcoming retreat.

Along with the Highly Capable program, the board is expected to discuss safety and emergency management issues, the possible future of charter schools in the district, the proposed $98 million bond going before voters in February, Delta High School and few other topics.

The retreat will begin at 9 a.m. at the district administrative offices on Snow Avenue and likely run until 2 or 3 p.m., Jansons said.

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