Parents speak to Jackson School Board on budget issues, gifted program

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Parents and a student approached the Jackson School Board for answers regarding budget cuts, including those to the district's gifted program, Alert.

During Tuesday night's board meeting, five parents presented their thoughts on the value of gifted education even in times of economic difficulty. The group included a government worker, university instructor and former teacher, parents who said they were familiar with the challenges facing the district economically and with federally mandated testing.

"I come to you with a fair amount of sympathy," said Arron Hendershott, who has two children in the program. He said he understands the district needs to look at cuts that will affect the fewest students but contended there would be a greater effect if the program is cut.

"The students that engage in Alert are our future's brightest," he said.

The program includes 109 students in first through seventh grade, said assistant superintendent Dr. Rita Fisher. There are also students in an eighth-grade science program, she said.

Among the speakers at the meeting was a fifth-grade student from West Lane Elementary.

"For me, Alert has created many opportunities," said Jimmy Hormann. He used the example of a class project to create and operate a company.

Superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson said Alert is part of a review of programs districtwide. As the district's budget shrinks by hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said he is working with building administrators to review enrollment numbers for programs and see where responsibilities could be combined. He said he does not yet know how many positions will be left vacant next year.

Last week, Gov. Jay Nixon announced more than $45 million in additional cuts to the state budget, including more reductions to school transportation and Parents as Teachers. Throughout the school year, transportation funding has been cut $12 million and Parents as Teachers was reduced by $6.9 million. Jackson and districts across the state also face a 2 percent reduction in the June payment from the state, which equals $270,216 for the district.

A group of parents in Jackson have been following actions regarding the gifted program because one of the program's teachers is set to retire. They initially worried the position would not be filled. Two parents, Hendershott and Elaine Allen, wrote letters to the school board asking them to reconsider the program. Allen also submitted a list of 14 questions to the board, including how the program would be restructured, what other positions would be lost through retirement and what other programs could be cut.

The board did not address the questions, and Anderson said the district would contact the parents before the next board meeting in two weeks. According to board policy, the board does not make decisions regarding issues presented by a group at the same meeting.

Board president Terri Tomlin said she understood their perspective on the importance of the program.

"We appreciate your comments and the point of view from the kids," she said.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

614 E. Adams St., Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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