As a public school district Traverse City schools is forever faced with the challenge of being all things to all people.
Right now, however, the district is poised to cut back a program for high-achieving students (and the parents who support it) as part of a budget-balancing effort. It's an unfortunate decision that again prevents the district from putting its best programs forward to lure more students.
As part of an effort to cut at least $2.1 million from the budget to help balance a $3 million deficit, the district appears ready to eliminate at least one year of the current three-year Talented and Gifted program to save $130,000. The cuts would include two certified teaching positions; the program was put on the block in part because a third-grade pilot portion has operated for only about five months, officials said.
District officials said the district isn't ending the TAG program, just trimming it back. Testing that is part of the admissions process to get into TAG has been announced only for incoming fourth- and fifth-graders, a sure sign that the third-grade portion is probably kaput already, though a final decision has not been made.
Last year the district dropped a Chinese language "immersion" program at Traverse Heights elementary because, district officials said, enrollment had dropped. The program had been partly credited with Traverse Heights gaining 51 students just the year before.
The district has also shied away from creating so-called "magnet" schools that would focus on a curriculum tailored to various interests -- math, music or science, for example. Magnets have been used successfully around the country to boost enrollment and lure high-achieving students from other districts who might otherwise attend private or charter schools.
The district did give its popular Montessori program its own home this school year -- it closed Glenn Loomis and then reopened it as an all-Montessori building -- and has seen success. That's the model the district should be following.