Aug 282013

By Julie Wiessner
Alyson Bottke, Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) teacher for the Winslow Unified School District, presented information to the district governing board Aug. 21 meeting explaining how the program is facilitated in the Winslow Schools and received approval for changes in qualifying for the program.
At the elementary schools students enrolled in GATE take part in pullout programs during the school day, while accelerated programs are available at Winslow Junior High School and Winslow High School.
Some characteristics that indicate that a student may qualify for the GATE program include the ability to learn new material faster than peers, the ability to retain knowledge of materials taught for longer periods of time, or the ability to deal with concepts that are too abstract or complex for same age peers. Other indicators are students with a passionate interest in one or more subject matters, who display self-motivation and who can process more than one task at a time.
If a student displays characteristics in one or more of those areas, parents, teachers or staff members can request the screening tests to determine if the student falls into that category. In the Winslow district, screenings are given three times a year, in September, December and May.
In presenting her information Bottke also made a request to change the qualifications for entry into the program, raising it from a 92 percent to a 94 percent score on the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) to more closely comply with best practices proposed by the GATE program by cutting down class sizes.
The GATE program best practices state that the ideal classroom ratio is one teacher to 18 students at the elementary level, and in the accelerated classrooms at WJHS and WHS, the ratio is one teacher to 24 students.
Bottke noted, “When I first began teaching GATE classes nine years ago, there were from eight to 12 students in the classroom, now there are 24 in the elementary classes. Some groups in the accelerated classes have 34 students and above. I am having to split classes.”
Those students currently enrolled in GATE would be grandfathered in and would continue to receive services as they have been thus far. The newly adopted 94 percent passing the CogAT test would only apply to future students tested for the program.
In other action, the board:
* Approved a policy change that will prohibit professional, support staff personal, non-emergency and religious leave on the first two days of staff meetings at the beginning of a new school year.
* Approved travel for one employee to attend the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) West Conference scheduled Sept. 27-Oct. 3 in Portland, Ore.
* Approved a reversal of a decision to deny a day of non-emergency leave for an employee.
* Approved the renewal of an intergovernmental agreement with Scottsdale Online Learning Program Services.
* Held the first reading of a policy change that will prohibit the smoking of simulated tobacco, and electronic and smokeless cigarettes by staff members, students and the public while on school property.
* Approved hiring Penny West as a substitute teacher; Christine Cochran, Diane Hancock, Mary Helen Nelson, Nina Ortiz, Bernadette Rindahl and Carleen Walton, emergency substitute teachers; Samantha Cox, classroom aide at Jefferson Elementary School; Verna Francis, Nicole Ervien and Janice Thompson, classroom aides at Bonnie Brennan School; Mary Scarborough, part-time classroom aide at Jefferson Elementary School; Jennifer Wilbanks, classroom aide at Washington Elementary School; Jessica Demontfort, WHS junior varsity volleyball coach; Eden Goding, WHS stage manager; Brandon Guzman, WHS assistant varsity football coach; Todd Hunt, WHS junior varsity football coach; Sarah Moore, WHS freshman volleyball coach; Devon Sawyer, WHS junior varsity football coach; and W. Eugene Smith, substitute bus driver.
* Approved the transfer of Valkyrie Chartier from part-time to full-time special education classroom aide at Bonnie Brennan School; Laurel Palmer, from math teacher to special education teacher at WHS; and Kathy Schlesinger, from high needs special education aide to special education classroom aide at Jefferson School.
* Authorized the termination of Matthew Palmer as a substitute bus driver.
* Approved extra duty for softball, including Kelli Fifelski as eighth grade coach, Brian Wilcox as seventh grade coach, Carlos Zamora as eighth grade volunteer and Richard “Mitty” Smith as seventh grade volunteer; for football, including Robby Wilbanks and Kyle Johnson as eighth grade coaches, Adam Reeves as eighth grade volunteer, and Leland “Bubba” Billie and Drew as seventh grade coaches; and Prescott Winslow, math/career tech classroom volunteer; Gina Williams, WJHS Student Council; and Cassandra Schumacher, WJHS Honor Society.