The racial makeup of the Alexandria public schools' program for gifted and talented students has caught the eye of the city's school board.
After receiving a detailed report of the program at last week's board meeting, board member William D. Euille expressed concern about the racial breakdown of students in the program, which is 83 percent white, 12 percent black and 5 percent other groups including Hispanics and Asians.
After learning that minority membership in the gifted program has not increased since the program started in 1974, Euille questioned the school staff about the methods used to determine which students can enter the program.
"I'm concerned about whether the referral or selection process has also remained constant over the years," he said.
"This is an area we are concerned about, and we are looking hard into it," said Superintendent Robert W. Peebles. He told board members that a follow-up evaluation of students who had been in the program in past years was in the works.
"It's a sensitive area," said Peebles in discussing the staff report on the program, which is offered to children who are shown through extensive testing to possess capabilities for high performance.
"Every kid is gifted as far as the individual parent is concerned," said board member J. Harvey Harrison.
Assistant superintendent Donald E. Dearborn told the board that 321 students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades are currently taking the gifted and talented classes in one or more of the areas in which they are offered -- language arts, math, science and social studies.