June 26, 2023

Dear families with Gifted and Talented students in GCISD, 

As the advocacy organization for GT families, students and teachers in GCISD, we’re updating you on time-sensitive district changes that directly impact you. In this email, we’ve summarized three items, and then offered more details for you to keep reading. Our ultimate purpose is to keep you informed.

Urgent items: 

  1. The Advanced Academics Department staff is down from 5 in the 2021-2022 school year to only 1 at this time. 
  2. We’re in discussions with Administration to voice our concerns and ensure no time is lost in making the right plans for our students and staff to start the school year with everything they need. 
  3. SAGE President Jamie Weatherall will be speaking at the School Board meeting Monday June 26, which starts at 5pm.

From 5 to 1 in 3 years: Advanced Academics is at a Crossroads

GCISD has successfully managed a 1000% growth in ASPIRE over the past 10 years. This spring, GCISD tested 1,700 students for GT and ASPIRE, and admitted a record number. Despite having 12% more ASPIRE students enrolled for fall 2023, it is very possible we could start the 2023-24 school year with only one staff member supporting 22 ASPIRE teachers, 632 ASPIRE students, 11 GT LEAD teachers, and more than 2,000 GT students across the district. 

Take a look at this graphic to give you a better snapshot of the progress of our Advanced Academics programs over the past 13 years, when SAGE was first formed. 

ASPIRE Liaison Dr. Cheryl Taliaferro, the recent winner of a NAGC GT educator award and this year’s GC SAGE Educator of the Year, has submitted her resignation, effective Tuesday. That brings the 2-person Advanced Academics department down to 1. Dr. Taliaferro has been responsible for so much of ASPIRE Academy’s successes and cohesiveness. We’ve created a snapshot of all the progress the department has made over the past decade. 

Doing what is right for the students and teachers

It is vital that teachers of GT students receive the appropriate staff development and support for the upcoming school year. With new faces coming on board in both GT LEAD and ASPIRE Academy, our students and staff cannot afford lag time while waiting for new hires at the administration level. At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect one person to provide all of the training and curriculum oversight that is needed to serve such a large portion of GCISD’s students.

As SAGE is an advocacy organization for all GT families, we’ve spent all year meeting with District Officials to be proactive about sustaining the team and resources that keep GT LEAD and ASPIRE Academy operating, and make it possible for students to achieve nationwide recognition. We do not want to lose momentum. 

Speaking for all GT-identified students and their families and teachers:

 There is a School Board meeting tonight starting at 5pm. As President, I’ll be requesting the Board hold District Leadership accountable to fill not one but two key roles for Advanced Academics. Our message: GT students need the district to maintain the team dedicated to GT and ASPIRE students. Success like what we’ve seen for GCISD’s Advanced Academics department does not happen on its own. It takes a great team behind the scenes and an involved community to support them. 

We encourage families to sign up at the Administration Building before 4:45 pm to speak for 1 minute during Open Comments. You can emphasize why differentiated learning matters to your family. Families who share their experiences with GT and ASPIRE programs will be the best way to remind our Board and district leadership how specialized programs impact everyone. 

Your Partner in Advocacy,

Jamie Weatherall

President, GC-SAGE