Beautiful Minds

Sandusky Schools opened the Regional Center for Advanced Academic Studies in August as the area’s only full-time gifted school.
Alissa Widman Neese
Mar 3, 2014


A humdrum curriculum just doesn’t cut it for the area’s brightest minds.

So on Thursday, with help from a college criminal justice instructor, fifth-grader Tamara Knight and her classmates pieced together a series of clues from a hypothetical crime scene.

They took on the challenging role of detectives in a classic case of “whodunnit”

“I really don’t think it’s coffee cart Doug,” Tamara said. “I mean, what’s his motive?”

Across the hall, another group of students analyzed a life-sized replica of a human skeleton.    They passed around its disassembled parts, while assistant professor Seth Gardner recited various parts of the brain. He encouraged freestyle discussion and curious questions.

Students will experience dozens of similar exercises at the Regional Center for Advanced Academic Studies this school year.

In mid-February, the school for gifted students debuted its Dorn Fellowship Series, a one-of-its-kind collaboration with four instructors from Bowling Green State University main campus and BGSU Firelands.

A $500,000 startup grant from the Dorn Foundation will fund the program for the next five years.

Want to enroll?
The Regional Center for Advanced Academic Studies is now accepting applications.
•Obtain an application on the district’s website, sandusky-city.k12., or at the board office, 407 Decatur St.
•To qualify, students must be in third grade through seventh grade and must be identified as “gifted,” according to state standards. Testing will be arranged after applying if test results aren’t already on file.
•Students not currently attending Sandusky Schools must also complete an open enrollment form.
•Call Julie McDonald, chief academic officer, at 419-984-1022 for more information.

The college faculty members enhance curriculum by providing on-site learning activities for students twice per week, such as Thursday’s criminal justice and human anatomy lessons. They’ll also take students on various field trips throughout the community, including trekking to their respective college campuses.

Just two weeks into the program, instructor Tracey McGinley, who typically lectures at BGSU Firelands, said the elementary-aged children aren’t the only ones learning.

“I’m adapting my hands-on lessons to these classes, to provide them with the foundations of critical thinking,” McGinley said. “It’s wonderful to listen to their questions. I love it”

Sandusky Schools opened the Regional Center for Advanced Academic Studies in August as the area’s only full-time gifted school. It currently enrolls about 75 students in fourth through sixth grade, but will expand its offerings to third-graders and seventh-graders this fall.

All students are currently housed at the old Jackson Junior High School building, but incoming seventh-graders will remain at the middle school building.

Students from any area district can enroll in the regional center, which is a free, state-funded school. Its students are considered Sandusky Schools students and can participate in all district extracurricular activities.

Ultimately, the school’s goal is to provide practical, engaging learning experiences so students can connect their lessons to the community, principal Tara Toft said.

They may be in little bodies, but their intelligence is well beyond their years,” Toft said. “These unique opportunities will hopefully get them thinking about what interests them, and possibly inspire them to pursue their future careers”

The students certainly know the best is yet to come.

Sixth-grader Tyler Franklin, who first met his college-level instructor Friday, said he’s excited for her environmental science classes.

“We’re going to make our own soaps without using harmful chemicals,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like that, so I’m really looking forward to it and seeing how it’s better for the environment”

Sixth-grader Gianna Colatruglio, meanwhile, said she’s anticipating intriguing animal dissections during marine biology.

“Some of my classmates think it’s gross, but I’m excited” she said.

In addition to Gardner and McGinley, main campus lecturer Matthew Partin and BGSU Firelands instructor Subhalakshmi Nagarajan will teach at the Regional Center for Advanced Academic Studies this year.

By next school year, the center will recruit two additional instructors to teach the new third grade and seventh grade classes. Any college faculty members can apply.



Kudos to all involved in making this happen. We tend to focus on those who are educationally deficient . It is just as important to support those who are gifted .


Not we you donut.

Whiskey Tango F...

Now this is great! Finally something more for kids WITH a gift. Hopefully if any of them have parents that are married, working, saving for college, and aren't minorities can quit all of that so their kids can collect all of the cash and prizes! The system HATES people who are married, working, and saving!


I'll bet everything I own that there will never be a student from Huron attending.

seriously 1137

Huron students don't need to...sanduskys idea of gifted kids are kids who aren't just at state min. I live in sandusky and my kids go to sandusky...the education is subpar and they aren't getting what they need because they are too busy raising and dealing with kids who's parents don't meanwhile kids with caring hardworking families are pushed to the side...they aren't "gifted" they aren't emotionally disturbed...that's why sandusky schools can't keep good families in their district


Huron's idea of being gifted is when a 15 year old can tie his or her own shoes. Notice they all wear velcro.


"Sandusky's idea of gifted kids are kids who aren't just at state min" FALSE. You have to meet strict qualifications to attend. Check the SCS website for the qualifications to enter RCAAS, and they include testing. If you think that most Huron students could attend this school, you are wrong! They have to be extremely intelligent. This is not a knock on any district, I am just stating that there are not many kids from ANY district that qualify.

44870 South

@seriously1137....are you ignorant???? In order to be labeled gifted, a student has to reach a certain score on either a state cognitive or national assessment. Sandusky can't decide who is gifted and who is not and make up their own standards!!! Seriously??? If you feel the education at Sandusky is so "subpar" then go somewhere else! You have a choice! That is if you really do even live in Sandusky and this isn't just smoke in mirrors to direct yet another negative comment toward Sandusky City Schools. However, if you indeed are as ignorant as your post reads, then please, do Sandusky a favor, pick up your family and LEAVE!


Huron has its own gifted program.


True, but not nearly as good as RCAAS. We looked at ALL the area schools for my child, and RCAAS was by far the best! We would have sent her anywhere, as long as it was best for her, and it turned out that RCAAS easily beat all the other schools' gifted programs. Yes, we did our homework, including having her professionally tested, then visiting many of the area schools. We talked with many schools to see what their gifted programs were like, observed them, and we easily came to the conclusion that RCAAS was by far the best choice for her. We would have been happy to pay tuition to a truly good school for her, if necessary. She LOVES this school!


So how much do you want to bet phroggy? There are currently students from Huron, Perkins, Margaretta, etc. that attend this wonderful school, because their "home" schools DO NOT offer a true, full-time gifted program.


double post


I deal with Huron folks on a daily basis. I've yet to meet one that would qualify to be gifted.


Hahahaha. Tell that to the Huron alumni that were accepted, attended, and graduated from places like the University of Michigan, Notre Dame, and ivy league colleges!


Graduating college does not make one gifted.


Getting into said colleges usually means that one is or close to it. Okay, what about all those Huron students who get 34+ on the ACT? Or don't you think those students might be gifted, either?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Where is it we can meet? I attended Huron Middle and High schools after moving to Ohio from Florida where I attended a gifted school. Education is certainly something I am concerned/passionate about so maybe we can talk about it over a cup of coffee?


You're not a born and bred Huron slob. It doesn't count.


There are plenty of gifted kids in Huron, just like there probably are in most area districts. What the heck is your problem? Maybe you need to surround yourself with some smarter people.


So you agree that Huron folks are unintelligent slobs?


Again what is your problem? Most people I know in Huron are very intelligent, educated people.


Again what is your problem? Most people I know in Huron are very intelligent, educated people.

Brick Hamland

If you take all the gifted kids out of a school/classroom and put them into one school, what is the net effect on the "ungifted" classrooms? Will "ungifted" kids step up to be leaders, role models, etc. or will the "ungifted" classes have a lot of educational, behavioral, or phsycological issues. Hope it works out as this area could really use gifted kids that come back to town after they graduate from college.