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RCPS looks at gifted program options
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Parents gathered at the Rockdale Career Academy auditorium to hear about proposed changes to Program Challenge, the Rockdale County Public Schools elementary gifted program and ask quesitons to Chief Academic Officer Rich Autry. - photo by Michelle Kim

 Gifted programs may move in-house (Jan. 26, 2011)


Number of gifted students
(as of January 2011)

Barksdale, 57
CJ Hicks, 20
Flat Shoals, 24
Hightower Trail, 48
Honey Creek, 69
JH House, 13
Lorraine, 119
Peeks Chapel, 32
Pine Street, 35
Shoal Creek, 75
Sims, 21



The shape of Rockdale’s elementary gifted program is still up in the air, according to discussions between Rockdale County Public School officials and parents of children in the Project Challenge gifted program.

About 50 parents and teachers in Program Challenge, the gifted program for RCPS elementary students, met for presentation and question session with Chief Academic Officer Rich Autry Tuesday evening on the proposal to move the gifted program in-house to each school.

Autry said the school system had taken a step back on the changes initially proposed in January. The proposal was met with alarm from many parents of gifted students who pointed out at the February school board meeting that the in-house model would severely limit the breadth of subject areas available to their students and students at schools with fewer gifted would be isolated.

Autry said, on Tuesday, "I’ve had people ask me, why do I need to come to this (meeting) if it’s a done deal? From the superintendent’s charge to me, and me sitting here, the deal is not done. I don’t believe in wasting people’s time and efforts in futility. I want to listen to you, listen to solutions."

Autry said he had met with Program Challenge teachers that morning who had presented alternatives that would still address the goals of curriculum accountability, increasing the numbers of students identified as gifted, and increasing the hours of gifted instruction students were receiving – especially for fourth and fifth graders.

"I am intrigued by that concept because it meets to the letter of where we’re trying to go," said Autry. "They’ve come back with some very detailed suggestions on how we might construct a hybrid model to where we could get additional service hours for third, fourth, fifth grade students by having the PC center open and also having them have more time in the building to collaborate, test and work with gifted students in their home school."

He added that some schools with high numbers of gifted students are even thinking of piloting everyday classes in-school for their gifted.

While a few parents voiced support for eventually moving to an in-house model with a gifted instructor for each grade, the majority expressed concern.

Parent William Aten pointed out different teachers have different strengths. If there were only one or just a couple gifted teachers in each school, "It’s kind of a crapshoot on whether you’re going to get a good teacher," he said.

Many told personal stories of how much their children look forward to their Program Challenge day and how having such a wide range of semester-long classes that the students chose from and a cadre of dedicated teachers made the difference in their children’s lives.

"My son comes home wanting to do extra work for them," said parent Lindsay Price.

Julie Lubenow described how her daughter became passionate about meteorology after taking a Program Challenge class on natural disasters. "She is wired so differently," said Lubenow, adding that her daughter needed to be surrounded by her peers.

Parent Julia Brown said the discussion at the meeting was pretty much what she expected to hear. The questions the parents had were ones without firm answers because everything was still being determined, she said.

Autry said before the brakes had been put on the plan rollout, the aim had been to implement the changes by August for the 2011-2012 year.