District will invest earmarked funds for the first time in five years

    For the first time in a handful of years, the Crookston School District is going to spend funding it receives that’s earmarked for initiatives targeted at “gifted and talented” students on the launch of a gifted and talented program focused on Highland School.

    Unused gifted and talented dollars can be placed in a reserve account, and some of those accumulated dollars are going to be spent on one-time costs that help get the program up and running. But, not wanting to be overburdened in the future by ongoing costs, the program’s launch will be buoyed by a staff member working on a 2/10 FTE (full-time equivalent) contract. In other words, it’s a part-time, 20 percent-time position. While stressing that he fully supports the investment of gifted and talented dollars in such a program, Crookston School Board member Dave Davidson questioned this week what kind of qualified, ideal candidate would want to work on a 2/10 FTE contract. To that, Superintendent Jeremy Olson said he’s confident a person who’s a “right fit” will emerge.

    “We believe we can (find someone), otherwise we wouldn’t be coming forward with this proposal,” he said. “We’re going to hire the right person.”

    Olson said he put the “challenge” to Highland Principal Chris Trostad to put a gifted and talented program together. Trostad, working with Highland teachers and staff, has come up with the best investment of the gifted and talented dollars, Olson said. Trostad also attended a couple gifted and talented workshops in the Twin Cities.

    While the Highland gifted and talented program will include Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming, Trostad said it could also cover the arts and any number of curriculum areas, depending on how high-achieving students need and/or want to be challenged.

    Students who could benefit from the program will be identified through various test scores as well as through teacher input. “Twice-Exceptional” (2E) students who are high-achieving in certain areas but might fall somewhere on the autism spectrum and struggle in other areas could also benefit from gifted and talented programming, Trostad said.

    “We have some students who are extremely high functional but maybe struggle with writing or cognitive things,” he explained. “This could benefit our 2E kids, too.”

    Olson said it will be important to identify students who are high-achieving as well, but their exceptional skills might not be obviously apparent because they lack motivation in the classroom.

    Trostad said the gifted and talented program will “have a little bit of everything” for students who participate in it. “When you look at how this operates in other districts, it takes a very creative person,” he said. “It presents a major differentiation challenge for the person who does it, but people who do gifted and talented seem to already be good at that.”

    The program will be conducted during the normal academic day schedule.

    The plan is to launch it in the fall, but Trostad said he’s hoping to possibly jump-start some things this spring.

    “We need to push our students,” board chair Frank Fee noted, adding that he thought it was “ridiculous” that the district hasn’t invested any of its gifted and talented money in five years.