District 13 studying gifted, talented program

Work of task force is January to September

The Columbia Heights School District is focusing on improving its gifted and talented program.

A Blue Ribbon Task Force on Gifted and Talented has been formed to study and recommend improvements to the Columbia Heights program. The task force includes administrators, teachers and one or two gifted and talented experts from outside the district.

In a memo from Teaching and Learning Director Duane Berkas and Columbia Academy Principal Mary Bussman, the current gifted and talented program includes many strong teachers and opportunities for students. However, much has changed since the current program was put into place.

During a School Board meeting in November, Berkas said the makeup of students has changed, as well as the education field. No Child Left Behind had a pretty dramatic effect on the amount of resources that have not put into gifted and talented because a lot of focus has gone into working with students who are behind, he said.

Berkas and Bussman are serving as task force co-chairs. The task force will complete a thorough review of the district’s gifted and talented program, assemble a data book and review current best practices in gifted and talented education.

The task force will also develop a district operational plan regarding the purpose, beliefs and goals of the gifted and talented program; align district gifted and talented program philosophy, beliefs and goals to the Columbia Heights Public Schools District Strategic Road Map; and articulate the district gifted and talented curriculum.

Other charges for the task force include developing recommendations to strengthen, enhance and restructure the district’s gifted and talented program; develop a proposal for the budget, staffing and financing of the envisioned program; and seek and secure input from the School Board, administration, staff, students, parents and public, as well as partners in the areas of civic, nonprofit, business and education.

The work is beginning in January and is expected to reach completion by September of this year. Findings will be brought to the School Board and options will be presented for consideration and approval.

“Gifted and talented has been under funded for a long time,” said School Board member Ted Landwehr. “Whatever we can do to help correct that would be great.”

Board member Laura Palmer said it would be nice to see the program brought into the 21st century.


Contact Kassie Petermann at [email protected]