Voyagers program remains with long term sub while district continues searching for a Gifted Facilitator

Changes to the format and content of the Voyagers program raises concerns among Gifted students


By Gabby Delpleash

Sitting in the PAC, students apart of the Voyagers Gifted students program listen to Dr. Holder explain the changes that will be made to the program for this year Monday Aug. 29.

Emma Clement and Avery Gathright

To start the 2022-2023 school year, the Gifted Program, known as Voyagers, has a long-term substitute, Cimony Mahoney, after the resignation of the previous Gifted facilitator. In addition to the substitute, the program itself is undergoing changes in scheduling and content which are proving controversial among Voyagers students.

The Voyagers program consists of over 50 students who are required to come to the classroom during seminar or class time in order to complete a certain amount of minutes per quarter of academic enrichment. Prior to this year, the room was open every day of the week during class and seminar to have as many options as possible for students. However, Mahoney, and the district hired gifted paraeducator, Jodie Hurt, are required to spend Thursdays and Monday afternoons teaching gifted students at Riverview Elementary, limiting students’ choices to meet their minutes.

Senior Sarah Johnston has been in the Voyagers program all throughout high school and has seen two facilitators come and go prior to Mahoney. Johnston has concerns about students’ ability to meet their required minutes with the lessened potential times a week.

“[Mahoney and Hurt] have demonstrated to us how excited they are to be involved with Voyagers, which we are really appreciative of,” Johnston said. “However, several students still have concerns about what the program will look like as the year progresses. A major concern for students surrounds meeting our quarterly minutes requirements, as the opportunities for us to work on our IEP Rubric Goals are somewhat limited.”

According to principal Dr. Gail Holder, the district is still working to hire a permanent gifted facilitator for the school. However, in the meantime, she hopes to make the best of the current situation and help students find their place in the evolving gifted program.

“What we’re really trying to do right now is to get the students to become acquainted with Mrs. Mahoney and Mrs. Hurt so they feel comfortable in that space,” Holder said. “Then we are going to start adding programming to enrich what we have here for our gifted students. I am very fully committed to making sure that we hire the best person for our gifted students here at Mill Valley. It’s very important to me that we serve all students, whether they are students that struggle, our gen-ed students [or] our students who are more accelerated.”

Johnston hopes that the administration and substitutes will take Voyagers’ opinions into consideration, as many students have already tried to convey their thoughts.

“Before the school year began, I reached out to several members of the Voyagers program to talk about what the program might look like and to get their thoughts on what we hope to get out of it this year,” Johnston said. “I knew that a lot of students were nervous about what would happen after [former gifted educator Inga Kelly] left since she was such an important person in all of our lives, and I hoped that by talking with other students that we could form our own support system, which I feel like we did.”

In the past, Johnston found Voyagers time to be helpful in the college-planning process, which Mahoney plans to continue as much as possible. One such plan includes having a speaker come in from KU Honors College. In addition to this, Mahoney has many other plans in the works.

“I have so many ideas, and we’ve gotten a few set up already,” Mahoney said. “We have someone from a nonprofit coming to speak, we have two field trips setup – just fun activities that are specifically geared towards Voyagers kids.”

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