Dear Parents and Guardians,
I hope this message find you and your families healthy and well. The past few months have been a virtual whirlwind of activity in our department. I’m excited to see all that has been accomplished while also recognizing that we have much more work to do! Here are some of our highlights so far this year:
- We initiated a special education workgroup comprised of parents, teachers, administrators, paras and office staff to consider how to improve remote learning for our struggling learners. This workgroup identified a variety of strategies and ideas including:
- Increasing technology support
- Expanding options for in-person support
- Creating social opportunities for students and tools for teachers, and
- Considering how we might serve our students in special education when K-1 students return to school.
- Our next steps include working collaboratively with other district departments and our teachers’ association along with teams coming together to move forward with some of our recommendations.
- Special education staff recently participated in progress monitoring training, considering how to track and monitor IEP goal progress with their students.
- We are continuing to engage with our partners at the University of Minnesota TIES Center and the University of Washington Haring Center to support inclusion across the district. Our pilot schools – Rockwell Elementary, Twain Elementary and Kirkland Middle School have been hard at work supporting staff in the learning and implementation of inclusionary practices. In addition, Twain hosted other school districts across the state to learn from their inclusionary practice work. Our PTSA Special Needs Group recently hosted a parent event to share this work and you can see the video here.
We are deeply grateful for the parents who have been partnering with us on the special education workgroup and in our inclusionary practice work. We also have amazing partners in our district PTSA Special Needs Group. We recognize however, that the parents currently working with us are limited in number and do not represent all the diversity in our district. As such, we have scheduled community listening sessions. A listening session is a facilitated discussion with a group of people, aimed at collecting information about their experience. We would like to hear from all members of our parent community regarding your experiences in special education, your thoughts and ideas for this year and the future, the challenges you have experienced, and anything else that would inform our practices. We will be hosting listening sessions for each of our district learning communities. Further, we are creating listening sessions for specific affinity groups. These groups will have access to interpreters and can share their experiences around the intersectionality of race and disability. Our district Equity Department will be partnering with us for these sessions. The dates, times and other meeting information is available below. So, please mark your calendars and consider participating. We will hold these listening sessions virtually. If you have any questions or need assistance, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to our listening sessions, I hope you will join me in celebrating on November 29 - the 45th anniversary of President Gerald Ford signing the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142), now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In adopting this landmark civil rights measure, Congress noted that the law would accomplish two important goals:
- It would guarantee a free appropriate public education to every child, regardless of disability, on an equal basis with all other children; and
- It would advance all Americans’ understanding of disability by bringing children with disabilities out of the shadows and into American schools where their gifts and strengths could be recognized.
Finally, since many parents are working in the role of teacher this year, we wanted to provide families with some instructional resources. We partnered with Dr. Mike Guittierez in creating some instructional videos. These videos cover some fundamentals on instruction and supporting student behavior. We hope you find them helpful!
Here’s to the gifts and strengths of our students,
Dr. Shannon Hitch
Director – Special Services
All Listening Sessions are Microsoft Teams meetings, please email email@example.com for link to join.
- Lake Washington Learning Community: December 1, 2020 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.
- Eastlake Learning Community: December 3, 2020 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.
- Preschool District-Wide: December 7, 2020 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.
- Redmond Learning Community: December 10, 2020 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.
- Black families district-wide: December 17, 2020 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.
- Juanita Learning Community: January 7, 2021 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.
- Asian families district-side, interpreters available – Chinese, Hindi: January 12, 2021 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.
- Hispanic/Latino families district-wide, interpreters available – Spanish: January 14, 2021 | 6:30-7:30 p.m.