The Minority Achievement and Talent Development Advisory Committee will meet for the first time on Dec. 2 at the school district office, according to Superintendent Max McGee.

The committee is set up to deal with the  long- standing achievement gap in Palo Alto Unified School District.

“Our purpose is to develop a set of strategic actionable recommendations … that will assure that our underrepresented minority students, our students from socio economically disadvantaged … families will have access to programs, practices, services that they need to develop their fullest intellectual, creative and social potential,” McGee said.

The committee plans to look at data and practices implemented by other schools across the nation to meet its objectives, as well as hold open forums to allow community members to voice their opinions.

“We’re going to ask people to come give us testimony and tell us their stories and learn from what people in the community have to say,” McGee said.

This will be the first time that PAUSD will focus on reducing the achievement gap across all schools and groups.

“It [the achievement gap] starts early, and I really want to emphasize this is not a high school problem, this is a system-wide issue,” McGee said. “At any single elementary school there’s not a large number of kids from socioeconomically disadvantaged families … so it’s really not until students get to the upper levels that this problem becomes visible [and] if you’re not paying attention to these issues early on it just compounds.”

The committee will consist of several different groups of people, including four students, two from Paly and two from Gunn, alumni, parents, community members and faculty and staff members. According to McGee, there are four representatives of each group.

McGee hopes to have the recommendations done by April 2015, so that the school districts can implement changes to the curriculum and programs for next school year.

McGee has worked on the problem of the achievement gap in other posts and has high hopes for the committee.

“I think it is probably some of the most important work that we’ll do all year in the school district,” McGee said. “Frankly I think it might have the opportunity to inform ideally some state and perhaps even federal policies and practice but you know let’s focus on Palo Alto first.”