By Johnny Jackson
Lesley Dinoff and her husband, Lee, are taking a gamble. It is a gamble the couple hopes will pay off for their daughter, and others in the Southern Crescent area.
The Dinoffs plan to create a non-traditional school, designed specifically for gifted high school students like their 15-year-old daughter, Tamara Paled.
The couple has taken out a second mortgage on the chiropractic office they share in Griffin, where Lee Dinoff is a chiropractor, and she is a part owner.
"We said this is something we're going to do," Lesley Dinoff said. "I have the financial means to do it, and I saw that it needed to be done. If I lose some money, oh well. If this succeeds, look how wonderful it would be."
She said she is motivated to see the school for gifted students through its opening because few opportunities exist for gifted students to receive a talent-based education in each subject area.
"I grew up in the inner city," said Lesley Dinoff, an Atlanta native. "I lived in government housing, and I was a gifted student that didn't have all the opportunities that I would have liked."
Lesley Dinoff, a doctoral student at Georgia State University in Atlanta, said her daughter was tested in the Griffin-Spalding County school system and scored in the 96th percentile on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.
"I wanted a school that could teach her on a gifted level in all classes," Lesley Dinoff said. "In the public school system, they can only be serviced in gifted areas as much as public school funding will allow."
Lesley Dinoff will act as The Dinoff School's headmaster. She has a degree in psychology and her doctoral studies are in developmental psychology, with a specialty in adolescence. She plans to renovate an old sewing mill on Broad Street in downtown Griffin this winter, in order to open The Dinoff School in August to serve as many as 100 gifted students.
"I started the school for many reasons," Lesley Dinoff said, "but number one [was] because I have a gifted child that was not getting everything that she needed and deserved in either public or private schools."
She has sought school accreditation through the Georgia Accrediting Commission, one of the state's recognized school accrediting agencies, in existence since 1904. The agency's board of directors is set to determine whether The Dinoff School should be accredited, when it meets again March 7 and 8, according to its director, Garvin Brown.
Brown said The Dinoff School would be accredited for one year, if approved. He said the school would be required to apply for re-accreditation in its second year of operation, before it would be eligible for the commission's more conventional accrediting guidelines.
Lesley Dinoff, who intends to have her first open house in April, hopes to expand her school to a maximum of 200 gifted students living throughout the Southern Crescent. Already, she said, the school has 25 interested applicants.
She said the application process will be based on state standards which measure mental ability, and student achievement. She said applicants must score in the top percentiles on standardized achievement tests and other tests which measure mental ability.
"Our class sizes are 15 to 17 students," she said.
Tuition will be $7,000 per year, in addition to fees related to the application and enrollment process. Lesley Dinoff said the school's faculty will consist of eight instructors -- veteran educators from public and private schools and universities.
On the net:
The Dinoff School: www.thedinoffschool.com