District Hears Input on AIM, Firing of AIM Coordinator


At both the June 4 and June 18 meetings, it seemed that the majority of people from the public were in favor of changes to – if not the ending of – the self-contained AIM program. However, that changed in a dramatic way on Thursday night.

The meeting began early at 6 pm, but the supporters of AIM and the recently terminated longtime AIM Coordinator Deanne Quinn let the district know that there is a large presence in the community supporting the program. Community members spoke for nearly an hour and 45 minutes on Thursday.

Superintendent Winfred Roberson began the meeting clarifying the GATE/AIM program. He said that the district “will continue to offer AIM Services. Based on the June 4 Board of Education decision, we eliminated the use of private testing to qualify students and my staff is working to prepare a plan for how to identify who would first be admitted to the AIM program beginning in the 2016-17 school year.”

The Superintendent announced that that plan would be brought back in the early school year, in the fall, for consideration. Board President Alan Fernandes confirmed with the Vanguard that there will be a July meeting where they will take public comment – but that date has not been set as of yet.

While the Superintendent reassured the public for the coming year, parents on Thursday were clearly shaken in their confidence, with a number of speakers calling on the board to renew Deanne Quinn’s variable services agreement, while others threatened to oppose the school district on school parcel taxes.

Here is a flavor of a few speakers’ comments.

Kristen Lagattuta is a professor of psychology at UC Davis. She objected to using “obsolete grammar school achievements tests” as the basis for evaluation of the Davis AIM program by some researchers for UC Davis. She said, “If the school board wants to substantially reduce the size of AIM, there needs to be a clear, transparent plan of how to implement this change. Drastically changing this program that has been in place for decades will take very careful planning and should be rolled out gradually.”

Chian Ohler expressed concern about recent decisions by the board. She said, “I just heard that the Superintendent is working on a plan so it seems premature to discontinue an existing plan before you have new planning in place.” She also criticized the termination of Deanne Quinn, calling her “a well-loved AIM coordinator and a great resource for teachers… and she has vast experience over 20 years handling AIM issues.”

She said that these two decisions suggest that a major change is in the making. When doing so, she said, “I believe that the board should follow the Brown Act to properly notice particular change or intent to make certain changes…” She said when she looked at the agenda, none of these items were mentioned specifically in the agenda.

Heema Govindjee-Merchant expressed disappointment with the decisions regarding the AIM program. “I do not understand why you have chosen not to reinstate Deanne Quinn as the AIM coordinator. By doing so you are not representing me or other AIM families with this decision. You have not given us any opportunity to give our opinion and it seems as though you have made your decisions before even coming to the meeting… I am very disappointed. I have lost my trust in you.”

She added, “AIM families are surprised and in fact shocked about the way in which you have voted. They are saying shouldn’t we be notified or surveyed about our experience in the program prior to the board making decisions that will define AIM and change the way it operates in the future.”

She challenged the contention by Board President Fernandes that AIM has not been changed. “By voting to end private testing and firing our acclaimed GATE coordinator, you are making very big changes.”

Marla Cook, a longtime teacher in Davis, said, “If what you wanted to do was change the program, I’d like to suggest a better way to approach it than a late night vote on an item somewhat on the agenda and one not listed on the agenda.” She suggested the district take the entire next year to hold public meetings on the subject of AIM and differentiated instruction. These meetings, she said, should include those happy with the program and those “happy to have it gone.” She said, “Lead a productive dialog, listen to them all.”

Ms. Cook stated that for years the district has heard primarily from two groups – those who love the program and those who hate it. She said, “But what are the real concerns and how can they be resolved through grown up dialogue?” She suggested looking for ways to resolve these issues “rather than by choosing a side – provide solutions that will work for all.”

She added, “For awhile now the school board has been accused of playing to personnel issues – the volleyball scandal comes to mind – when the AIM committee suggested changes in the program five years ago we suggested raising the qualifying scores, offering training to all teachers… board members then looked away…”

Christine Farnum expressed concern about the process. She said that she’s been paying attention to the school board meetings, but “I was completely blindsided by these two decisions, didn’t expect them, didn’t see anything about them on the agendas or have any reason to expect that the process for eligibility would be so drastically changed and that the coordinator would be eliminated.”

She added, “I’m not the only person that feels blindsided and whose trust in this and the board has really been shaken.” “I know that GATE can be a divisive issue in our community. People feel like it creates a divide. These last two decisions have created a huge gap.”

This was just a brief flavor of the over 100 minutes of comments received by the board on Tuesday. The board will likely hold a hearing in July and then again in September, as they work their way through this process.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    while others threatened to oppose the school district on school parcel taxes.”

    My children being long past the age of AIM/GATE considerations, I have no direct stake in this issue. However, this is far from a new issue and I can help but note some lack of integrity and lack of foresight on the part of those who are making threats as part of their tactics. Threatening opposition of school parcel taxes unless their particular favored program is upheld is in no way acting on behalf of the children of the entire district. Do they think that opposition to parcel taxes hurts the board members ?  Those who are impacted by a withholding of funds are the children, not the board members. So the tactic of “preserve my program” or I will try to defund you is a selfish, vitriolic, and short sighted strategy and should be called out for what it is.

    If the issue hear is that people feel that the process was bad and did not allow them to have adequate input, then that opinion should be fully respected and the school board should take whatever steps are needed to give a full and impartial hearing to all points of view prior to policy change.

    About the employment situation of Ms. Quinn, I have mixed feelings because I really do not understand the point being made. This would seem to me to be a personnel issue. No matter how loved, well respected, efficient or knowledgeable an individual may be, they are not irreplaceable and eventually there will be a time either decided by the individual or the employer for any number of different reasons when they will leave their position. Is it the position of her supporters that only Ms. Quinn should have the right to decide when to end her employment ?  Is it their position that they should have a say in when her employment should end even though they are not her employer ?  Is it their opinion that they should have a say in who fulfills this function regardless of how Ms. Quinn’s employment were to end ? Would they support any other district employee in the same way, or are they supporting special rights for her specifically because they see her as an integral part of their special program ?   Perhaps I am just not understanding what is being protested here and someone would like to clarify.

  2. iWitness

    Tia, let’s not exaggerate.  One (1) person spoke about not paying his parcel taxes.  I hope he is over 65 because if not, he will lose his property, won’t he?   So call his idea what it is — hot-headed, short-sighted and totally unrepresentative of the pro-AIM speakers.  About the parcel tax measures, maybe it’s a good thing, with our lousy voter turnout, that there are so many gifted in Davis and their parents vote.  Of course, Tia, you have a direct stake in this issue:  “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

    AIM parents haven’t seen any other of the District’s parent-choice programs attacked like this by the ideologue Board majority.  GATE children need to be taught somewhere, and they don’t go to school to make their classmates easier for their teachers to handle, or to teach other children things they themselves learned years ago.  Those who would quibble with that, I hope you heard the kids who spoke.

    Tia, assuming you still pay school taxes, you must realize that the only people you and I don’t employ in the School District are the Board members.  I  support almost all the District’s employees, except those few who are philosophically opposed to educating all of our students to their best potential.  They don’t deserve our support.  Of course I see Ms. Quinn as an integral part of the AIM program.  She’s the best person for the job that we can possibly find.  She’s done it for decades during which Davis as a District lived up to its potential with multiple honors in gifted education and a reputation that attracted families into town who had other choices of where to live.  Taking her away from the program now would be like replacing all the Spanish Immersion professionals with new hires who would be twice or three times more expensive, barely speak Spanish (or English) and know nothing about bilingual practice.   The AIM and Spanish Immersion professionals by and large have spent years learning about their students’ educational needs.  Experience counts.  Quinn has more than anyone else, and yes, people, big and little, really do love her.   I don’t want to pay more for less.  Do you?



    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      Excellent points, iWitness. There is not a lot left to say that you haven’t covered. But, perhaps it’s helpful to emphasize that the firing of Ms. Quinn is NOT a personnel issue, although that is how the ideologue school board majority was hoping it would be viewed. Her firing is the first step in a deliberate process of dismantling an excellent program, with the planned destruction motivated by prejudice and ignorance, a process that if allowed to continue portends only bad things for both public education in Davis and the quality of life in Davis over time.

      To those who don’t “get it,” try substituting “AIM-identified students” with terms like “LBGT students” or “African-American students” or “English language learners” and see how the pre-coordinated attacks on the program coordinator and the program itself stack up against the liberal ideals of Davis. Oink!

  3. Tia Will


    OK, let’s not exaggerate. Without having done a thorough search, we don’t actually know whether or not Ms.Quinn is objectively “the best person for the job that we could possibly find.  I don’t know whether or not such a search has been conducted, do you ?  What I am seeing is a lot of support for this woman which I think is great ….. But no answers to the questions that I posed.

    1. aimteacher

      Tia Will –  you pose some very good questions….ones that I would like answered also; however, only the Board Members can do that….

      Just a quick glimpse into hiring in DJUSD: (1) people apply for job & their files are screened by district personnel, (2) interviews are scheduled for people that seem like good candidates, (3) after the interviews are done, the interview committee send the names of the best (either top 1, 2 or 3 candidates) onto the next “tier,” (4) higher up district personnel meet with those “best” candidates and a decision is made to put forth the ONE NAME to the Board for approval.

      Personally I do not know how many candidates applied; however, clearly Deanne Quinn made it through to the end since it was her name being brought to the board.

      It seemed a little (unsure of what word to appropriately use here) that of about 20+ job positions up for approval on June 18th, Tom Adams only asked for D.Q.’s contract to be pulled out and voted on separately….

      So, given the June 4th motion and vote, and then not renewing DQ’s contract…..it seems fairly clear to us that this is a deliberate attack to the program…..

      1. SODA

        Tia: “Personally I do not know how many candidates applied; however, clearly Deanne Quinn made it through to the end since it was her name being brought to the board.”


        Tia, do we know others applied?  Was there an “RFP” for applications. I had not heard that before….and question whether there was….?

  4. iWitness

    Tia, some of us do in fact objectively know Deanne Quinn’s value from experience with children, teachers, parents, other GATE programs, knowing other coordinators and their programs.   Why would you think the parents believe they should make personnel decisions?  Although post-Nancy Peterson… Because no one in Davis has ever been known to defend and praise teachers?  Why ask whether a thorough search has been conducted yet?   Only every year for the past, oh, five since Ms. Quinn “retired.”    If Ms. Quinn was terminated for cause, why would you ever imagine the public would support her?  Wouldn’t you support any of the district’s employees if they were terminated without cause?   Letting her go in the dead of night didn’t look sketchy to you?  Do you believe the administrators have any idea how they are going to proceed from here, other than to dismantle AIM, if not next year, then ASAP?   Do you think the Board majority has any play book for the great number of students who need it?  Or even those they intend to serve, for a pathetic minority stripped of a peer group?

    One mother told me her kids were identified for the GATE program but she didn’t believe in it and they did just fine without  self-contained classes.  Of course she has no way of knowing how much better they might have done in them with teachers who went for the additional training to challenge them.  A lot of that training is in differentiation.  It’s needed in the self-contained classes as much as in all the other classes.  It just does not work throughout the entire range of intelligence in our schools.  There’s a year-long State teaching certification course for teachers in GATE.  Just like differentiation, not everyone can do it, no matter how excited they are about it. The more training and experience, the better.  Thirty-three years, the best.

    This program was one of only three GATE programs in the State to receive the most prestigious best-practices commendation the last time they were evaluated.  None of the current Board or administrators were in place when we got that recognition.  Deanne Quinn was, and she secured that prestige to DJUSD and those best practices to our children.  She’s a State-level leader in gifted education. What’s the Board majority’s problem?  Don’t they like the diverse population she has brought to the program?  Do they think AIM parents elitist, did they even listen to them the other night?  Do they want to create Bright Flight?   Are they ageist?  Don’t they “approve” of some students as much as they do of others?  We the People elected them.

  5. MrsW

    When Ms. Quinn negotiated her current 40% position, the AIM community lost.  We lost 60% of her time, our children were scattered all over the district, the high achievers high jacked the program, and the numbers of low achievers initiating the 504 process flooded the system, monopolizing teacher and councelor time. Meanwhile, historical program shortcomings have magnified. The position is for a coordinator, not a Director, and no one has taken responsibility to mediate the social and community impacts of having the program.

    1. Davis Progressive

      it would be helpful to understand what she was doing before that she couldn’t do now?  also remember her “retirement” was a way for the district to save money.

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