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updated: 1/31/2014 5:31 AM

District 25 parents confront board on transparency, gifted program

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Parents spoke out at Thursday night's Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board meeting about what they said is a lack of transparency and unwillingness to listen to their concerns about the eliminated gifted program, but district officials said they will not be making any changes.

More than 10 parents and two students spoke before the board on Thursday with a variety of concerns, but board President David Page said it is policy not to respond to public speakers.

Several parents asked that the meetings, which on Thursday didn't start until close to 8 p.m., be recorded and put online for parents who need to be at home but still want to know what is happening.

Parent Monica Stahlman attended a board meeting in December and asked that the meetings be recorded and put on YouTube or the district website for parents to watch. She asked again Thursday for an update on the issue.

"I can't think of any legitimate reason in this day and age for why that is not done," she said.

Later, during a presentation about common core math implementation where board and staff members were referencing a presentation that was not visible to the audience, several parents called out asking to see a copy of the data.

Page asked the parents not to interrupt the meeting and said the presentation would be on the district website later.

"This is a business meeting in public, not a meeting with the public," Page said.

"Parents are being left out," Stahlman said.

Page said the District 25 school board looked at recording the meetings to put them online two years ago, researched the topic and decided against it because of cost and logistical reasons.

He said it is not something the board will be looking at again.

Another decision parents weren't happy with was one made months ago to eliminate the district's Odyssey program for gifted students and replace it with a Problem Solving Innovation hour for all students. Parents have attended nearly every board meeting to speak out on the issue since the change was announced in May, and on Thursday night two Odyssey students also spoke.

"I always look forward to going to Odyssey. I love my teacher and all the fun activities we do in it," said Sylvia Merz, a fourth-grader at Dryden Elementary School. She referenced projects the class did such as reading Shakespeare and tracking the stock market.

"This program gave students instruction from a teacher who was skilled at working with gifted kids and understanding their social and emotional development. It gave them a supportive peer group. How will we make up for that loss?" asked parent Amy Merz.

Page said the district will not be reconsidering the changes to the gifted program, either.

"There is always going to be resistance in transition years," Page said. "Right now it is a big unknown. We did two years' worth of research. If Odyssey was best for our students, we would be going forward with it."

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