POTTSTOWN PA – A first-ever audit of gifted education in the Pottsgrove School District will be conducted in coming months at a cost of $12,800, as authorized by the Board of School Directors in a divided decision Tuesday (Jan. 28, 2014).
Board members voted 5-4 to sign a contract with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit for a review of what and how the district teaches those considered its most talented students in kindergarten though 12th grades. The Bucks County team would scrutinize program content, instructors, and methods in a way similar to audits begun five years ago by the state, Supervisor of Special Education Michelle Macluckie said.
Board members generally agreed a review might be helpful, but four opponents – Rick Rabinowitz, Kelley Crist, Patti Grimm, and Matt Alexander – deemed the cost too high.
“Spending this money now is not the right idea,” Rabinowitz said. “I’d rather save the money and try and work with the people we have” for such an analysis, he added, citing a need to reduce a more than $800,000 deficit in the district’s 2014-2015 preliminary budget.
“I think we’ve already done that,” Superintendent Shellie Feola countered. “We can continue to talk among ourselves all we want,” but obtaining outside expertise on best practices for the program would be both more valuable and more productive, she said. The study’s cost was “typical” for its kind, she noted.
Objections also focused on what some parents claim is the district’s failure or reluctance to expand benefits of the gifted program to a second tier of learners they say deserve equal attention: a larger group of advanced students across all grades who are do well in higher-level courses but who do not meet Pottsgrove’s gifted criteria.
Pottsgrove’s program has never been audited by the state, Macluckie said, but its staff wants to be prepared for the eventuality. Beyond that, she said, the audit would allow the district to help improve the program so its students could make further progress.
“I see this as an opportunity to take our high-performing kids and move them even higher,” board President Justin Valentine said in support. He was joined in voting for the program by directors David Faulkner, Diane Cherico, Theodore Coffelt, and Dee Gallion.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Jan. 28 meeting):
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