Friday, September 25, 2009

An Example of a Fine Government Employee

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been pretty unhappy with our elected officials as of late and I have been pretty vocal about it. I have mostly emailed my representatives. I have had some very good feedback from David Drier. But really horrible feedback from Diane Feinstein. A few months ago I sent a long detailed email explaining why I was against the Stimulus Packages and the current health care bill because of the state of our economy. I got an obvious automated reply that said, "Thank you for taking the time to email me. You are right. We do need these Stimulus Bills and this Health Care plan." I will be voting Diane Feinstein out of office the first chance I get, because if she can't reply to an email properly, then how on earth can she do her job as my representative.

Jack O'Connell, however, is excellent at his job. A friend recently emailed me an article called "Susan Goodkin and David G. Gold: In focus on proficiency, bright kids lose" by Susan Goodkin and David G. Gold in the Sacramento Bee. It spoke of 2 easy ways to challenge bright and exceptional students; by grouping children based on ability and allowing them to go into another classroom during instruction time. I felt the article was well written and decided to share it with those in the educational system. On my list was Jack O'Connell the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I found his email address on the state education website and sent an email detailing the highlights of the article and the link to the article. I explained to him that these simple, non-budget altering policies would help exceptional students to be challenged and continue to grow.

I got a well thought out reply from Mr. O'Connell (or one of his assistants/interns). But it was a stark comparison to the email I received back from Ms. Feinstein. I have posted the email below for comparison and also to exhibit a new policy change which will affect our exceptional students negatively.

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Dear Ms. Dickson:

Thank you for contacting the California Department of Education (CDE) regarding the Gifted and Talented Education program (GATE).

I appreciate you sharing your concerns and suggestions with me, including the Sacramento Bee opinion article. I am also gravely concerned about the impact of California’s budget deficit on public education. Reduced funding for education has resulted in school districts having to make difficult decisions such as closing schools, issuing layoff notices to teachers and other school personnel, and making cuts to programs. I am worried that these devastating cuts will interrupt our process in improving student achievement.

Please be aware that the jurisdiction of the CDE is limited to enforcing federal and state education law and regulations; and for continuing to reform and improve public elementary school programs, secondary school programs, adult education, some preschool programs, and child care programs. Policies regarding day-to-day operations, including implementation of GATE programs, are the responsibility of the local school district administration. In allocating their resources among the schools of the district, school district governing boards and district administrators must follow the law, but they also have the additional tough job of setting the educational priorities for their schools and weighing the importance and urgency of all of their educational needs.

The State Board of Education (SBE) is the governing and policy-making body of the CDE. The SBE sets K-12 education policy in the areas of standards, instructional materials, assessment, and accountability, as well as adopts regulations to implement legislation. However, because California is a local control state, each district determines the types of services they will provide for gifted students. For this reason, I suggest you contact your local school district to discuss your concerns regarding policies that effect gifted students. In addition, due to the Flexibility provisions of Senate Bill X3 4 enacted in February 2009, school districts may determine whether they will implement any or all of the GATE program and funding requirements.

To read detailed summaries of February 2009 and July 2009 actions on the 2008-09 state education budget, including frequently asked questions on implementation, please visit the CDE Action on the 2008 and 2009 Budget Acts Web page located at http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fr/eb/yr09budgetacts.asp.

For information and resources related to the implementation of GATE programs in California, please visit the CDE Gifted & Talented Education Web site located at http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/gt/.

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact George Olive, Consultant, Elementary Education Office, at 916-323-8901 or by e-mail at golive@cde.ca.gov.

Again, thank you for contacting the CDE.

Sincerely,

JACK O'CONNELL
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

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2009-06909

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