Modeling great strides: Since 2014, when Mount Royal’s GAL program started, the number of Mount Royal elementary kids going on to the school’s selective middle school programs has more than tripled. Last year, thanks to the work of Abbi Marchesani or “Ms. M,” the school’s beloved GAL teacher, the Mount Royal was recognized by Maryland’s Department of Education with a prestigious certification for Excellence in Gifted and Talented Education (EGATE). A major, statewide honor, EGATE certification was awarded to just 10 schools last year, most of them in wealthy districts. GAL programs for K-5 students at Title 1 schools, where the majority of students come from low-income families, are a rarity, and Mount Royal’s has had enough success in a few short years that it’s already a model other schools are watching. “We’ve made so many strides,” says Principal Grotsky. If we lose this program now, “I fear we’re going to go backward.”
Deep and broad benefits for kids: The program has meant small-group interactions, pull-out work with over 30 students identified by the school or district as gifted, and in-class enrichment with another 250+ students. In the past few years, GAL kids have made in-depth, hands-on studies of the water cycle, birds, t’ai chi, poetry, and gardening. The kids light up with excitement discussing these projects, in a way they don’t over regular classroom work.
It’s about equality: When Mount Royal’s Principal, Job Grotsky, came to the school in 2013, he realized almost none of the school’s majority-low-income elementary students were testing into its selective middle school programs – Ingenuity and Advanced Academics – which were drawing more advantaged students from across the city. That seemed wrong. Looking for a way to prepare Mount Royal’s kids for the rigors of its most coveted programs Grotsky recruited a trusted colleague to identify and nurture the intellectual talents of its elementary students by creating the GAL program.
We’re recruiting: As Baltimore City Public Schools enrollment has shrunk in recent years, so has Mount Royal’s. The school is actively working to draw involved families, and families new to the school say the GAL program has been a significant draw. “No question, it helps with recruitment,” Grotsky confirms. Last spring, when Ms. M’s departure was announced, he says, some prospective families cited that as a reason they decided to send their kids elsewhere.
Now is critical: This year is a crucial one for the development of Mount Royal’s GAL program, to cement the gains it has made and build on them. Without a GAL teacher, advanced learners are understimulated in traditional classrooms, and the school’s EGATE certification is likely to lapse. So concerned parents, working with the school, have devised a plan to bring Ms. M back part-time this 2017-2018 school year to work with GAL students. Meantime, we’ll work behind the scenes to ensure that next year’s school budget supports a full-time GAL teacher.
2.5 days a week: The plan would be for Ms. M to spend two and a half days a week this year working with Mount Royal kids. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, she would continue to work with small groups of students identified by state tests and teacher recommendations. On Thursdays she would spend a half-day evaluating kids new to the school, keeping up the paperwork for the school’s EGATE certification, and assisting with the creation and implementation of Individualized Learning Plans for kids.
Raising money: The cost to fund the GAL program is $35,000 for FY2017. Mount Royal school has set aside $5,000. That leaves $30,000 we still need to raise from individual donors to preserve and grow this award-winning program. Can you help us with a donation, either now, or as a monthly payment plan this school year? If you choose to make a monthly contribution, please note this in your comments so we can track these amounts separately (e.g. "Donating $100 this month and will donate another $100 each month until June"). We are hoping to have enough funds secured to re-start the program November 1, 2017.
Email us at [email redacted] to donate by check or learn how to spread your donation out over monthly payments.
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