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New group will support gifted students and their families

Janette Boik knows the kinds of challenges that exist for families with children who are academically advanced.

That's why she got involved with the local chapter of the Minnesota Council of Gifted and Talented when she moved to Rosemount six years ago, and it's why she's involved again now as the group reorganizes itself after disappearing for a couple of years.

The group serves as a resource for parents who have advanced students, or who think their children might be gifted but don't know for certain. It helps parents make connections they might not be able to make on their own.

"I think sometimes you feel very isolated as a parent of a gifted child," Boik said.

Boik has experience in that area. She has two children who are involved in gifted and talented -- or GT -- programs. Her son is a sophomore at Rosemount High School. Her daughter, a sixth grader, attends middle school in Inver Grove Heights because the school there offered a full-time program for advanced students.

Boik got involved in the earlier version of the MCGT in District 196, but that group fell apart when the parents who served as its co-chairs moved their children out of the district in search of better GT options. It was a district committee on GT programs that helped bring it back.

Pam McDonald, a teacher on special assignment who oversees GT programs at the elementary level, said the local MCGT chapter can function in much the same way as booster clubs function for sports or parent-teacher organizations function for schools. It's one more group to help create opportunities for GT students and their families.

"They might have speakers come in. Have advice for parents asking questions," McDonald said.

GT students and their parents can have a number of special needs. Boik said the group can offer information on the needs of GT students or even just opportunities for those students to get together with kids of a similar intellectual level.

"Many of these children interact at a much higher level," Boik said. "They often feel isolated."

The group can also serve as a sounding board as the district evaluates its GT programs. Boik said ISD 196 has made great strides in improving its GT offerings. The district conducted an audit of its GT programs in 2004 and has been working through the recommendations ever since.

Starting in the fall the district will offer a pair of self-contained GT classrooms at Pinewood Elementary School. Those classes will be available to students districtwide.

It's not clear yet exactly what form the District 196 chapter of MCGT will take. The group has had some organizational meetings, but it's still looking for someone to serve as chair. It will have its first official meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 27 at Valley Middle School. Anyone interested in learning more can call Boik at 651-322-2849.