So many families in our district are affected by issues surrounding special education and therefore, it is very important to me to learn how I can best work toward finding solutions to these issues. I have been listening to the personal stories of parents who have been frustrated and disappointed with what their child’s experience has been and how they feel our school district has failed to meet their childrens’ needs.
I am disheartened to hear about students who have had to leave Oakwood and seek out other schools in order for their needs to be met. This shouldn’t be the case. I want all students to receive the services they need right here in Oakwood and without so many roadblocks for parents in the process of trying to secure them.
You’ve probably heard me talk quite a bit about the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion. I believe those concepts are all intricately tied to special education. Equity means everyone having access to the resources they need to be successful. Diversity encompasses more than just diversity of skin color, religion, sexual orientation, etc. It also pertains to diversity of ability levels. And probably most importantly, inclusion means including students of all ability levels in our classrooms and schools. We value excellence in our schools and I believe an excellent school district offers each student the opportunity to reach their highest potential.
I believe in excellence for everyone, regardless of ability and also that what excellence looks like can be different for each individual student. I am committed to making sure that Oakwood provides an inclusive, accessible learning environment for students with a diverse range of abilities. Some specific things I hope to accomplish when I am on the school board:
Improving our methods for identification and providing structured support for students with a range of learning differences (intellectual and neurological).
Hiring more support staff and making the position of Special Education Director it’s own full time role.
Implementing the current best practices in education, such as the universal design for learning*.-Using flexible thinking and differentiated instruction.
Providing more educational opportunities that support all of our students from those that are gifted, to those who thrive in a traditional setting, to those who benefit from adaptations.
Preserving the historic character of our buildings while also ensuring that they are accessible for all our students.
I am here to listen to your concerns. Please feel free to message me if you’d like to talk more. By working together and listening to each other, we can create a more inclusive – and excellent – school environment for all of our students, including those with special needs.
*From https://udlguidelines.cast.org/…/frequently-asked…, “UDL is a framework to guide the design of learning environments that are accessible and challenging for all. Ultimately, the goal of UDL is to support learners to become “expert learners” who are, each in their own way, purposeful and motivated, resourceful and knowledgeable, and strategic and goal driven. UDL aims to change the design of the environment rather than to change the learner. When environments are intentionally designed to reduce barriers, all learners can engage in rigorous, meaningful learning.”
An essential piece in maintaining and promoting academic excellence is ensuring our special education services department is meeting the needs of each student. However, our school district can – and should – make significant improvements in this area. It is time to make Oakwood’s special education services department a beacon of excellence.
If elected to the BOE, I would first gather more information in order to identify problems and challenges. I would also want to know what is going well. I would team up with parents who have children in special education services to hear about their experiences. I would also work with parents whose children are not currently receiving special education services but who have been advocating for services for their children. The goal would be to identify the specific problems and the parts of the process the school district can improve – identifying children with special needs; accurately assessing needs/strengths; creating interventions; implementing interventions; communicating with parents before and after an IEP is established; and so on. I would like to evaluate if there are systemic issues that are causing problems including staffing or other resources.
One specific issue from my vantage point as a BOE candidate, an Oakwood citizen, and (most importantly!) as a parent is that our district needs a full time Special Education Services director. Currently, the person that holds this position is also a school principal. From a logistical standpoint, I would guess that the workload in being both a school principal and special education services director is high! From a human standpoint, it sends the message to parents that special education is not highly valued. I would like to make the Special Education Services director a full-time position. That way, complete attention could be given to special education services, and any problems that arise could be handled quickly and thoroughly.
Another specific issue that I would like to evaluate is staffing. I would like to know if we have enough school psychologists to conduct the assessments and enough intervention specialists to implement the interventions. Moreover, I would like to know if our staff have the range of specializations that our students require, and if not, I would like to know how the district accommodating those students.
As a parent, I know the benefits of a robust special education services, and it is essential that our school district meets the needs of ALL children.
One of the trends in education is a move away from special education as an independent program and toward specialized education for every child based on their individual needs. Special education is about equity in education; providing a special approach in the classroom based on where the student is currently while focusing on their potential for the future. This requires training and resources to teachers and staff to meet these needs.