Loss of Deanne Quinn Will Be Felt Deeply

gate-2by Evelyn Falkenstein 

It’s a sad day when someone is canned for doing her job too well.  Deanne Quinn, the GATE/AIM coordinator, has met all the expectations that the DJUSD asked of her for over 20 years of gifted teaching and leadership.  Who would be foolish enough to leave another position for AIM coordinator, given the caliber of the person who has been summarily turned out without cause?

Quinn was already a GATE teacher when she and an associate Fran Martine got their masters’ degrees and certification in gifted education at CSUS in the early 80’s.  An integral part of the CSUS Academic Talent Search summer program, she and Martine taught study skills for the gifted, writing, and the literature of prejudice to students as young as fifth and sixth grades well into their teens.  Each summer between 1500-2000 students participated in these short courses that drew participants from all over the central state.  Quinn’s courses at CSUS were so successful that Center for Talented Youth Director Julian Stanley came from Johns Hopkins University to observe and model CTY’s national writing programs on them.

Just being there helped the gifted understand themselves, often for the first time.  The ones I know still speak of the relief at finding themselves and their aspirations mirrored in their teacher and classmates.  Former students say, “She made me feel normal.” “She saved my life.” “I finally met other kids like me.”

Quinn taught English and gifted students at all levels in Sacramento.  She served on the board of the Fifty Mile Club, a monthly meeting of GATE coordinators that for years brought the latest research and programs to the Sacramento area, on the Board of the CA Association for the Gifted, one of the biggest associations for gifted educators in America, and as president of the Sacramento Area Gifted Association.  She is a frequent presenter at CAG conferences and a popular outside speaker.  She has extensive experience with the underachieving gifted and has written papers and pamphlets for CAG for use on the subject.

Quinn moved to the DJUSD 23 years ago, teaching Literature around the World and English in the GATE program at Holmes JHS before becoming GATE coordinator.  Under Quinn, Davis was one of three districts in California that received a five-year evaluation (the highest) from the State GATE overseers at COE.  Most GATE programs are reevaluated every year and only a few every three years to assure adherence to GATE principles.

In 2005 Quinn raised $450,000 for the DJUSD with a five-year grant from the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education program, one of fourteen grants from a field of 250 applications nationwide.  The purpose of this program is to carry out a coordinated program of scientifically based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities designed to build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the special education needs of gifted and talented students. The major emphasis of the program is on serving students traditionally underrepresented in gifted and talented…”  

Quinn’s grant further addressed the technique of Lesson Study for increasing teacher skills.  Lesson study provides a format for on-going small group discussions and peer observations among practicing teachers, precisely those skills considered important in improving teacher competence in differentiation in heterogeneous classrooms, whether self-contained AIM or not.

When the GATE psychologist was terminated for fiscal reasons, Quinn assumed testing for hidden gifted students as well as universal testing with the OLSAT.  She personally administered TONI testing to small groups of students with risk factors of many kinds as well as students who scored within the 5% margin of error of the OLSAT.  The combination of the OLSAT and the TONI, according to Prof. D. Jelinek’s 2005 evaluation of David GATE ID procedures, is the best that DJUSD’s minimum budget for gifted identification can provide.

In the past year, Quinn arranged a trial of the Slosson Intelligence Test for several students individually (and for next fall by CSUS student volunteers) as the next best option.  The TONI measures non-verbal cognitive ability best and the Slosson measures verbal ability best, with results indicating that students who qualified through TONI also qualified as gifted via the Slosson sample.

Quinn has offered unstinting, accessible support to AIM families with health, educational and emotional issues and is always supportive of AIM teachers.  Anyone hired to replace her will need many years to acquire the institutional knowledge properly to evaluate and restructure the program.  A new coordinator will not have Quinn’s long relationships with GATE/AIM teachers and may not even have current GATE experience.  Replacing Quinn just when her experience is so vital to the program appears to be a blatant attempt by the Board to undermine the program itself.

Two-thirds of AIM identified students, 20% of the student population, enter the program in fourth grade.  Most of these students continue in AIM at the junior high level (three full strands of 100 per grade at Holmes and one or, recently, two strands at Harper).  One-third of AIM identified students do not participate in AIM.  Self-contained classes do not denude these students from heterogeneous classrooms.  Ten percent in the regular population is 2-3 times more than in most other districts, which have only 3-5%.  This is a significant program and deserves an competent, experienced leader.  Quinn’s dismissal is punitive, shortsighted and a blot on the reputation of Davis schools.  I challenge you to find a replacement who won’t bring the program down through inexperience.

Evelyn Falkenstein  was a GATE parent, and AIM grandparent, and AIM AC 2013-2015.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Davis Progressive

    i can understand the june 4 vote a lot more than the june 18 decision to sack quinn.  this feels like lovenburg’s nancy peterson moment.

  2. Robin W.

    Agree completely with Davis Progressive’s perfect analogy. This was Lovenburg’s Nancy Peterson moment – small, petty, personal, vindictive, without any concern for the students. The Board needs to fix this.

  3. zaqzaq

    I agree completely with DP and Robin W. that this is a personal and vindictive action orchestrated by Lovenburg. Hopefully Lovenburg gets a Nancy Peterson outcome and resigns from the board and moves out of town in shame. It would get really interesting if a recall was started over this issue.

    1. hpierce

      Why “interesting”?  If you raise the issue, why not start the petition for a recall of any and/or all?  We have one “legacy” member, an “appointed” one (Gerald Ford is sometimes referred to as His Accidency),  and three who were elected last November.

  4. Napoleon Pig IV

    This kind of deceitful practice by Lovenburg and her mindless minions is going to render the entire Board incapable of maintaining public trust – something it may have already lost. How did we get saddled with this laughable excuse, with one exception, for “Trustees?” Trust is about the last word I’d use in connection with this particular local porcine enclave. No amount of professional propaganda from Archer is going to (toilet) paper over this blindingly obvious hole in their credibility.

    In the loss of Quinn, Davis has started down a rock slide (not merely a slippery slope) to educational mediocrity. I wish her well, and condolences to the rest of us.

    It remains to be seen whether or not DJUSD administration can be trusted or not. I hope they have free minds and free wills and the necessary anatomy to do what is right. I guess we’ll see. Oink!

    1. hpierce

      Well, if you wish that DJUSD Administration folk would set policy, rather than the elected Board, perhaps we can save money by not having elections for a Board, and just disband the Board.  Maybe we could make your “one exception” Queen. [or, Empress]

      1. Napoleon Pig IV

        In theory, I don’t think the administration of a school district should set policy alone. However, in this school district, we clearly have an incompetent school board majority, so they should clearly NOT set policy. We are fortunate to have an exception, and I hope after the next election, or after a recall vote, we will have more. As for now, most of the board we have is worse than having no board at all. Oink!

  5. iWitness

    In this district even the administrators should not set policy in a vacuum.  They too have to do their homework!  A Board majority can’t save them the trouble.

    It takes capable people to appreciate someone who is capable.  Even so, I don’t know if personal animus is all that’s behind the true disbelievers in gifted education.  There are other things — one example is perceiving gifted children as children of privilege, when they are most often not, even in Davis.  People here make all kinds of sacrifices for their children’s needs if they possibly can.  We need to be able to catch those whose parents can’t and help them, just as we do other kids in our schools with lunches and ESL classes and fund-raising.  No matter how many times Don Shor gives us the stats for gifted kids in other districts comparable to ours, people still maintain that the numbers of gifted in Davis are outrageous, when they aren’t.  Thanks for the reality check, Don.  And as someone pointed out elsewhere, it’s normal in kids to be spiteful to one another sometimes.  In adults, one would hope not so much, and yet… Parents, not children, do a disservice to their kids by comparing them negatively — and positively — to gifted children.   It’s never okay to tease or bully someone who can’t catch a ball or run as fast as you can or find something else to tease them about when they can run faster than you.  It’s never okay to tease a kid for having a lower score on a test than you do, or a higher one.  Parents should teach their kids it’s not their business how others do.  It’s not the business of the board to decide for everyone without notice, input, or public discussion.  Discussion, not what passes for it when no one wants to answer to the public!

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