PHOTO: Trustee Anne Halsey was the San Marcos CISD board’s most forceful advocate for doubling the number of elementary school gifted and talented facilitators, from three positions to six. The proposal failed 3-3 at Monday’s school board meeting.
by BRAD ROLLINS
San Marcos CISD trustees voted on Monday to hire one additional gifted and talented teacher instead of the three proposed in an Internet petition signed by about 80 San Marcos area residents.
Led by Amber Walter and Eduardo Rios, the parent group’s proposal would have brought the number of gifted and talented teachers up to six, one for each elementary campus. Currently, three GT facilitators are assigned two campuses each.
Pointing to disparities between the percentage of students identified as gifted and talented among SMCISD elementary schools, trustee Anne Halsey pitched the new positions as an investment in reaching lower-income, minority and other students at-risk of disenfranchisement.
The school district’s 231 primary-level students designated as gifted and talented last academic year were not evenly distributed between the school district’s six primary-level schools. On one end of the spectrum, 68 students are designated as gifted at Crockett Elementary, comprising about eight percent of total enrollment; by comparison, only 3.4 percent of Bowie Elementary (36 students) and 2.2 percent at Mendez Elementary (15 students) were identified as gifted and talented.
“I do think having a full-time GT coordinator at each campus is an issue of equity. I think our current coordinators [are] stretched too thin. … In order to cultivate and identify [gifted and talented] students in an at-risk population takes other means,” Halsey said. “We are trying to do more with less all of the time. And I think this is one of the times, you can’t do more with less.”
Superintendent Mark Eads said three additional gifted and talented facilitators would initially cost $180,000 annually in salary and benefits, a few thousand more than the $176,700 price tag calculated by Walter and Rios.
Eads recommended that trustees authorize one additional GT facilitator, at a cost of $60,000, to be assigned as needed to identify and instruct gifted students in under-represented schools.
“If this were a zero-cost proposal, I would be very quick to support it,” trustee John McGlothlin said, adding later: “I would like to get to a place where we have a coordinator in each campus but I don’t think that has to be the leading edge.”
Halsey’s motion to fund three new GT positions starting with the forthcoming 2016 fiscal year failed to win a majority, 3-3, with support from trustees Juan Miguel Arredondo and Kathy Hansen. McGlothin and trustees Margie Villalpando and Lupe Costilla voted against; John Crowley was not present.
The board then voted 6-0 to approved Costilla’s motion to add one new GT facilitator to the current three.