PARKERSBURG - The Wood County Board of Education is being asked to consider a change in Wood County Schools' gifted program, but not everyone is in favor of the plan.
Jefferson Elementary Center Principal Christie Willis presented information to the board Tuesday on the district's gifted program. Willis was placed in charge of the elementary gifted program when it was moved last year from Fairplains Elementary School to Jefferson.
Officials recently have begun to focus on inequalities of the gifted program at the middle school level, which Willis does not oversee.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Frieda Owen, former assistant superintendent of curriculum, speaks Tuesday to the Wood County Board of Education about the gifted program.
Willis proposed hiring a "program director of gifted" to oversee talented and gifted throughout Wood County. The position would oversee administration and monitoring of the program as well as admissions for students and assessments of teachers.
Willis said to supplement the position, she would recommend the board hire a school psychologist to assist in evaluations and a secretary to aid the two with records and administration.
Under the proposal, the three would be based at Jefferson but would do site monitoring throughout the county.
Willis said the change would be at the discretion of Superintendent Pat Law and the school board, but pointed to the start of the new school year which is set to begin Thursday.
"The sooner the better," she said.
However, not everyone agreed with Willis' plan.
Frieda Owen, former assistant superintendent of curriculum for Wood County Schools, spoke at Tuesday's meeting. Owen had overseen talented and gifted during her time at Wood County Schools, and last week Law said when Owen's position was eliminated several years ago, those responsibilities accidentally went unassigned.
Owen said based on her experience, she believed Willis' proposal was wrong.
"The proposal submitted tonight needs to go back to the drawing board," Owen said.
Owen said the program must have a focus on secondary education and should be based at the district's special education department, two things that cannot happen if it is based at Jefferson.
Owen also said there is no need for a director position.
"Leadership of talented and gifted has never been a full-time position," she said.
Owen said the board would be better off assigning those responsibilities to a qualified head teacher trained in gifted education.
Board member Tad Wilson during board member comments said he too was troubled by the proposal.
"I don't think we as the board want to put ourselves in a position where we have groups throughout the county coming and making proposals," he said. "I don't want to get us in a position where we micromanage. I don't think that is our role as board members."
"Tad, I couldn't disagree with you categorically more than I am about to do right now," said board member Jim Fox. "I couldn't disagree with you more tonight."
At the board's Aug. 13 meeting Fox had requested for the board to hear Willis' presentation, and was the board member who first brought up issues with the middle school gifted program. Fox argued the board's role is to provide oversight of programs and to listen to concerns from staff and community members.
With the gifted program, "we trusted the process was working according to the chain of command, and it wasn't," he said. "It wasn't looked into as quickly as it should have been."
"I'm not saying we don't want to hear ideas," Wilson said. "Proposals and recommendations need to come through the superintendent."
Wilson said while Willis' proposal contained no financial numbers, implementing it would cost the school system about $250,000 a year.
Board President Tim Yeater interrupted the discussion, saying he feared it violated the state's Sunshine Law for public meetings because it was not a discussion item on Tuesday's agenda. Yeater asked for it to be put on a future agenda for discussion.