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We’ve Got a Real Race for School Board

May 4, 2014

This year, for the first time in several years, we actually have multiple candidates for the school board positions. We asked each candidate to answer the question, “What, if anything, would you change about the Bozeman gifted program?”  They didn’t get the question until the Friday before the election, so we may not get responses from everyone, but what we do get will be posted here.

Three candidates are running for two seats representing the Bozeman elementary district:  Gardy Lusin, Heide Arneson and Marty Livingston.  Cynthis Bradford Lencioni is running unopposed for the high school district seat.

From Heide Arneson:

Thank you for your question. I am a parent of gifted students myself, one gifted, one highly gifted with a learning disability. More than fifteen years ago there was an excellent program that took gifted elementary students from across the district out of the classroom for high level activities one afternoon each week. For many years Bozeman had a gifted after school program that exposed gifted 3-5 graders to a wide variety of activities. Regrettably such activities are not currently available for our students.

On the positive side, as we increase learning through hands on activities, we are providing educational opportunities for all students to gain knowledge and experience. As our classrooms became more crowded, many teachers removed the hands on activity centers that had been in their classrooms for use by gifted students. Now through common core, teachers are creating more of these experiential activities to challenge each student at their own level.
I am pleased that we are doing a lot more these days to challenge our gifted students, both in and out of the classroom. I wish we had more resources to further challenge these students. With Response To Intervention, we are no longer focusing on the weaknesses of gifted students with disabilities, but enabling them to develop in their strength areas as well. There are greater opportunities for kids to explore their interests in middle and high school, with a wide variety of course offerings and club activities.

As a school board it is our responsibility to manage the limited resources available, ensuring that we are meeting the basic requirement of Montana law and educational best practices, and then providing resources to help each student further develop their potential. We are lucky to have a supportive community and a dedicated staff of educators who work hard to help each student succeed. We may not always meet the needs of every student, though each year we improve. As a parent of two gifted students, this is an issue I am acutely aware of. I try to ask good questions as curricular activities are presented to the board, working to understand how we are challenging our gifted students as well, and calling out educators when the “added activities” are busy work and not a true expansion of learning. I am pleased that the busy work activities are happening less often and that the new educational focuses are expanding learning opportunities for all our students.

There is no single thing I would change, though I wish we had additional resources to provide more challenging opportunities for our gifted youth, in the classroom, out of classroom and through partnerships. As a school district and board, we use educational best practices to create new opportunities, including our partnership with Montana State University and others, but we can always do more. I hope I have answered your question, and am open to any further questions you might have.


Heide Arneson
Current Bozeman Trustee and Candidate

 From Gary Lusin:

Our current Long Range Strategic Plan has a major section of Personalized Learning and this is where the gifted program would fall.

Our efforts have been to improve the learning opportunities of all students, including the gifted students. Under that effort, and now with the effort we are putting forth relative to the Common Core, we are continually looking at ways to expand the opportunities for gifted students, as well as all other students.

With all of our programs our resources dictate much of what we can do and with the last legislative session providing at least some additional resources we may be able to expand offerings for gifted and other students. We are constantly looking for partnerships to expand programs and fortunately we live in a supportive community.

At this point I am not sure exactly what we could change, or how much we could change. I know for a fact that our board and district will continue to address the legislature, and our federal government for ways to provide the resources we can use wisely to expand the gifted program, as well as other programs. We have several unfunded mandates that, if adequately funded, could provide us the resources to expand the gifted program. The funding issue is complex and political, and will take time, but I can assure you our district, through our LRSP, does include the gifted program in our Personalized Learning goal and we will continue to do that on a yearly basis.

I suspect you have contact with someone in the district and hopefully that is helpful. Personally, I would love to expand many different educational opportunities for all of our students, including a challenging and productive path for gifted students.

I hope this is helpful. I will know the outcome of the election either Tuesday night or Wed and if I am re-elected to the board please let me know if you have other questions. Thank you.

Gary Lusin


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