Beginning next fall, parents of gifted and talented children will have support at each Baraboo school. A teacher will be assigned to help parents get their students the educational challenges they need to reach their potential, the School Board unanimously agreed Monday.
The board reviewed a two-page draft job description for gifted and talented coaches.
Assigning coaches district-wide will not involve hiring new teachers. Rather, certified teachers already working at each of the district’s schools will take on the role in the way some teachers are math or literacy coaches, said Lori Mueller, director of curriculum and instruction. A stipend of $1,500 would be added to the salary of teachers who accept the job.
The role of the coaches would involve:
• ensuring a continuum of services for high-potential and achieving students in all areas of gifts and talents.
• advocating for high-quality services for students identified as gifted and talented and their parents.
Mueller said the district should not wait for parents to demand additional opportunities for their student. Rather, district staff should identify talented students early.
“We should reach out to parents and say, ‘We think your child might need more services,” she said.
The coaches would work with fellow teachers on strategies they can use in the classroom to provide greater academic challenges and opportunities to their most capable students, Mueller said.
While she has the role of gifted and talented coordinator, Mueller said she can’t meet the needs alone. She needs trained teachers in each school building to work with students and their parents.
“We would like to someday see that grow, but this is a start,” Mueller said.
District Administrator Crystal Ritzenthaler noted that Mueller is the only staff member assigned to work with gifted and talented students now. In the past, programming for highly talented students was provided at each school by educational assistants who were not certified teachers.
“This is an attempt again to bring that support back to the building level where people know those students,” she said. “It doesn’t meet all the needs right now, but it’s a great start.
Parent Karen Ailsworth said she represents about 50 local families whose children are gifted and need more challenge in the classroom. She said in past years she has seen such efforts in Baraboo shrink, just as her son and daughter needed them.
“I think this is fantastic,” she said. “I don’t mean this as a knock at the schools, but the program has been gutted.
“These (gifted) kids, they get left behind and they’re tuning out,” Ailsworth said.
In addition to the $10,500 for teachers’ stipends at seven schools, there will be additional money set aside for supplies, said James Long, the district’s business director.