Gifted New Bloomfield Students Short-Changed
New Bloomfield 5th grader Anthony John joined New Bloomfield's gifted program a year and a half ago. "When you're doing easy stuff, sometimes you need a challenge," said 5th grader Anthony John, "And they can help you, sometimes. Give you harder stuff."
"In the classroom he just wasn't getting it. He would get his work done," said Anthony's mother Marylin John, "He'd make straight A's, but it was like he needed more."
But Anthony and his gifted classmates are only here a few hours a week with part-time gifted educator Julia White.
"It's a huge challenge. Because inside my classroom they all need different things. We're all writing books but they're all about different things. Some are a reflection of their lives, some are fiction and Anthony's writing the ABC's," said White.
The elementary's gifted program is a simple equation. One teacher for 36 kids, meeting for 2 1/2 hours a week. White uses the time to push her kids, but she says the program hardly pushes its limits.
"Instead of giving them all the resources we can give them, we're giving them the minimum," added White.
Almost everyone would like to see the gifted program expand and have the students spending more time learning. But there are things standing in the way of making that happen like time, priorities and money.
The chance to make changes lies in the hands of New Bloomfield's school board.
"If you take it down to its most basic level, even though we may want to do something and have a great idea about how we want to put it into place, if there's no money, all we have is a really good plan," said School Board President, Leroy Wade.
"Our community is better because it provides those special services," said Wade.
But for this small district, gifted education isn't a number one priority.
"Map scores have a lot to do with how the school districts are evaluated, so it is an extremely high priority," said Wade.
The school board also faces finding a delicate balance for funding multiple special programs.
"I can't sit here and in good conscience say throw more money at my program but cut Special Ed or cut sports programs. But something's got to give for these kids," said White.
But for any changes to be made, the school board says the gifted will have to keep a high profile.
"It's not very productive for one individual to come out of that group to the board and say 'well we think we should do this.' It really does require that everyone work together and that a well thought-out plan comes to the board," said Wade.
White says, her students and their parents are up to the challenge. "I wish we could serve all kids that are above average. I wish we had a full-time elementary teacher, at least one, and be able to serve all grade levels at least one day a week," said White.
Funding for gifted education could be dealt another blow next year. A law is in the works to change the way the state sends money to school districts. The change would mean no money specifically marked for individual programs. The school board would then decide how the money should be divided.