The Vanguard has had a lot discussions with people in the community about the GATE/AIM program. At this point, the sense seems to be that, while there are groups polarized within the community on the future of the program, it is not all that clear where the lines are drawn exactly.
On the one hand, while there are those in the community strongly supportive of the current program, they don’t seem unwilling to make some changes to the program. On the other hand, those who seem to want to change the program have not seemed, in our view, to articulate what they would like to see changed or why.
The goal was to stimulate conversation, understand the concerns, and hope that, during the course of extended discussion, some sort of a consensus emerged.
Five questions were submitted to each of the board members and the Superintendent that seemed critical to the issue of GATE/AIM. These questions seemed to get the heart of the matter.
- What are your concerns about the current AIM program?
- Are you concerned that the program is too large – and if so, what size would you prefer?
- Do you envision AIM as serving high achieving students, students who are clearly intelligent but underachieving, or some combination?
- Are there aspects of the current program that should be available to all students?
- Do you see a way forward that most parents can agree with?
As they say, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
However, while the questions were submitted on Friday with a requested deadline of Monday evening, the Vanguard received two responses, one from a board member and one from the Superintendent, neither of which answered the questions.
The board member, while thanking the Vanguard for the questions, decided to hold off commenting in order to give staff the time and space to their research. They indicated that “these and other questions are what we should be discussing in an open meeting.”
The item will be agendized for September and, therefore, concern was expressed that if “all of us are to make comments where we can all read each others’ comments is getting into Brown Act territory.”
These are reasonable concerns. The Vanguard’s hope was that, by starting the discussion early, there might be common ground that could be reached.
Superintendent Winfred Roberson told the Vanguard, “Staff anticipates bringing recommendations to the Board for consideration at the September 17 regular meeting of the Board. In the meantime, we have a team of talented and qualified staff members working with various researchers, looking carefully and deeply at AIM identification and differentiation best practices across the nation. Our findings and preliminary recommendations will be vetted with some of our DJUSD teachers and school principals prior to bringing specific recommendations back to the Board for consideration.”
He continued, “We are fortunate to have an intelligent, supportive and engaged parent community that has provided us input through hours of public comment. All are still welcome and encouraged to share their thoughts, ideas and suggestions at AIMinput@djusd.net. My staff and I personally read every email.”
We are now putting these questions out to the public in hopes that people on both sides of the issue can answer them. There have been concerns raised to me that some people fear speaking out against the current GATE/AIM program, believing that they would open themselves to personal attacks.
While that is always a possibility in any discussion where passions run high, we are hopeful of raising the level of discourse on the issue. In addition, the Vanguard brings the protection of anonymity, which can allow people to speak their mind without fear that they will be personally attacked.
We want to hear from the community on these very important questions with the hope that maybe there is more common ground than people initially believed.
—David M. Greenwald reporting