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          The mission statement of the Reaching Exceptionally Able Children (REACH) Program is as follows: “Our mission is to meet the unique needs of academically gifted and talented students by implementing an accelerated, in-depth and affective curriculum, providing counseling and guidance services, and offering opportunities for students to interact with gifted peers throughout Florence School District One”.

           As a parent of former and current REACH students, I have been hearing the news about the intended upcoming changes to the program. Recent talks have included the possibility of decentralizing the program. This means that REACH students would not meet at one facility anymore like it has been the past 40 years. Instead, each school base will have one REACH teacher that will direct and teach the gifted and talented students at their own school. A notable fact herein, regardless being in their own school bases, the students will not get more instruction time than they have been getting currently. 

            However, enforcing the intended changes to the program will simply violate the mission statement of the FSD1 REACH program itself. Based on its mission statement, the program has two directives:

1. To meet the unique needs of academically gifted and talented students,
2. To offer opportunities for students to interact with gifted peers throughout FSD1.

            The program is designed to be very interactive and conducive in providing hands on education to the GT (gifted and talented) students. It offers an array of experiences, diversified curriculum, and weekly exposure to other GT students. On this platform, the intended changes to the program will cause:

1. Teachers’ inability to concentrate on becoming an expert in their areas of expertise. Currently, the students are being taught Coding, Forensic Science, French, Algebra, Bridge Building, Newsletter Publication, etc. Each teacher dedicates himself/herself to a specific subject. With the upcoming changes, one teacher will be assigned to each school base. This will force each teacher to juggle several different subjects at once instead of focusing in becoming the best at his/her area of expertise.
2. A situation that can be detrimental to the GT students. We are not all the same in our abilities and intellectual levels. The school system should be able to accommodate all students, including the gifted and talented. SC Law (§ 59-29-170. Programs for talented students. Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976, Amended 1986) protects the rights of GT students to receive an education tailored to meet their needs. Enforcing the new changes will starve the GT students’ intellectual need for a more advanced curriculum.
3. A complete halt to students’ weekly interaction with other gifted peers in the school district. As it stands, this program shuffles the students from one class to another and changes them quarterly. Each class provides an experience that is tailored to each student's individual needs and interests. Not to mention the fact that this shuffling process does create more confident students since it teaches them not only to respect multiple authorities (teachers) with each their own philosophy, but also to learn to adjust to a constant changing of friends and classroom environments. In turn, they find themselves with broader like-minded friends, who they meet again when they go to public places as well as when they go to Middle Schools. They learn from an early age to think outside the box, to dare step out their comfort zones, to reach out beyond self-imposed limitations. And to me as a parent, that is priceless, an experience that will benefit them a lifetime. As a matter of fact, both of my children have asked me numerous times throughout the years why everyday cannot be a REACH day. They have always loved and looked forward to their REACH day. I can attest that the same sentiments are shared by many other students and parents. 

            As many of us may have known, this program has been developed and improved over many years. It is unsurprisingly touted as one of the best models in the state of South Carolina. I clearly don’t see why the school district would want to take the delivery of this service to the GT students backwards instead of continuing to improve upon the stellar model that we already have.

           Nonetheless, based on the mission statement of the FSD1 REACH Program itself and the SC Law providing the gifted and talented students opportunity to receive adequate education that meet their needs, I urge parents, teachers, students, and partisans to sign this petition, focusing on keeping the program centralized in one location, be that a REACH Program very own facility or within an available school as it is currently at NVE.

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Rebecca Bird needs your help with “FSD1 Superintendent ( KEEP REACH PROGRAM CENTRALIZED”. Join Rebecca and 450 supporters today.