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Students to DISCOVER new way to excel in math, science

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 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Middle school students who have excelled in math and science could be part of a new program starting in August.

After much discussion, the Bullitt County Public School Board voted 3-2 to start the Discovery School program.

What was “discovered” during the discussion was a strong sentiment to see the program started by several parents of middle school students who hope to be selected.

Another sentiment “discovered” was that test scores were not a major concern of those in the audience.

As outlined in a story in Monday’s Pioneer News, the Discovery School would allow a select number of middle school students attend a new program to be housed at Hebron Middle.

The program’s focus would be math and science, similar to the BAMS program for high school students.

One difference would be that youngsters would be part of the regular Hebron program and would participate in other classes and all extracurricular activities.

Robb Smith, director of secondary education, said that of more than 200 families invited, 124 students were represented at a presentation. Of the 119 surveys, 107 said they would be interested in filling the available slots.

To be invited, students had to be identified as being gifted in math or science and scored at the 80th percentile or higher in the last MAP assessments for reading and math.

Board members Dolores Ashby, Lorraine McLaughlin and Tim Wiseheart voted in favor of the program, while Darrell Coleman and Roger Hayes were in opposition.

Before the vote, there was no need to dig for comments. They were very apparent -- on both sides of the issue.

Leveda Hayes, who is a retired educator and whose husband is a board member, said that she didn’t think the issue was being voted upon Monday.

She also shared a concern of a colleague who could not attend that the current Gifted and Talented program could suffer.

Gwinn Hahn, another retired educator who worked in the Gifted Program at Bullitt Central, voiced several concerns.

Included was the issue about the future of the gifted program if the Discovery School was implemented and how it would affect test scores at the students’ former schools.

The ability to be involved in extracurricular activities concerned Hahn, as well as why such a program couldn’t be implemented at each of the six middle schools.

Mike Frey, a volunteer at Mount Washington Middle, said he could see both sides of the issue.

He was very pleased with the many advanced-type classes offered at Mount Washington Middle.

He didn’t think there was anything wrong with the Discovery School; however, he didn’t understand why every school didn’t do it.

“Every child matters,” said Frey. “I hope we make every school successful. Every parent wants their child to be successful.”

The main thing is that children should be allowed to dream and to believe they can achieve.

One mother in the audience said she could care less about test scores at the schools.

“I care about education,” said the parent of a Bernheim Middle student who wants to attend the Discovery School.

She agreed that all schools should have some programs but they don’t. Her goal was to find the best opportunity for her son.

“I want this opportunity for my child,” said the mother.

Another parent was a student in Bullitt County and participate in the I Leap program. She went to a Catholic high school and was behind educationally.

She wants her daughter to now have the opportunity to attend the Discovery School.

“My daughter is so excited,” said the parent, who has been very impressed with the school system today.

While her child would be attending Mount Washington Middle, she is much more excited about going to the Discovery School.

“It’s an excellent opportunity,” said the parent. “It’s about time Bullitt County pushes its kids.”

She wasn’t concerned about test scores. Rather, she was excited that students would have another choice.

Another parent said one of the reasons he moved his family to Bullitt County was to avoid busing in Jefferson County. But he likes the local district’s willingness to challenge its students.

Another person was concerned about the transportation issue for the students.

Board member Roger Hayes led the discussion among those voting on the proposal.

Holding a pamphlet from Mount Washington Middle, which listed all the programs for talented students which were being offered, Hayes had a simple question.

“Why can’t the other five do this?” asked Hayes.

He said the board is not spending anything extra at Mount Washington Middle and there are a lot of advanced programs being offered.

Hayes said all the middle school students deserve such opportunities but no one is pushing it.

Plus, if he was a principal, he would would be outraged if his best math and science students would be leaving for another school.

And, no matter what is said, the taking of those students will affect test scores.

“It’s unfair,” said Hayes.

He said every school should be offering the math and science opportunities proposed in the Discovery School.

In an ideal world, McLaughlin agreed that the same program could be offered in every middle school.

However, much of that is a decision of the individual site-based councils and how long would it take to convince each that this should be done.

“Our kids can’t wait,” said McLaughlin. “This is an opportunity now for them to do something great.”

Wiseheart, who as board chair got to make the deciding vote, said that the program would not hurt the other schools. He agreed with Hayes in wanting to see this type of program be available at every school.

Representing the district where Eastside and Mount Washington Middle are located, Wiseheart said he was sure that both would continue to excel with or without the Discovery program.

He said it would be a disservice to the students if the district did not give them an opportunity to excel.

In the beginning, Wiseheart admitted he had serious concerns. But as the discussions went further, his questions were answered and he felt much better.

Ashby said everything should be about the kids, not the adults at the schools and not even about the parents.

“They need to be challenged,” Ashby said of the gifted students. “It’s not about us. It’s about the kids.”

In response to Hayes’ comment, she felt this might wake up some of the middle schools to provide a few more programs.

Superintendent Keith Davis said that the program is totally optional. And he knows there will be some youngsters who will start the program but wish to return to their original schools.

Davis said there should be no misconception that the Discovery School is a knock on any of the existing schools or against any of the work done in the past.

The bottom line is that this is an opportunity for a small group of students who are gifted in the areas of math and science.

“We have a lot of magical things happening at all of our schools,” said Davis.

The school-based councils determine a lot of the things which happen in their buildings in terms of programs to be offered, said Davis. Some schools may want to develop such a program and others may not.

He strongly disagreed with any discussion that test scores should be part of the equation or that the program is set up to fix any test scores at Hebron, which was second of the six schools in the latest Explorer scores.

“This is to provide an opportunity for our students,” said Davis.

While being in the minority when the vote was taken, Hayes thanked those who showed up to voice their opinions about the proposed program.

Davis said there is still a lot of work to be done to have it ready by August, including figuring out transportation options.