We Can Do Better

Snkids.org statement to the San Mateo Foster City School Board on 2018 Annual Special Education Report

Thank you for bringing increased discussion and awareness to the issue of Special Needs and Students With Disabilities.  We hear frequently that we’re generally doing well, that teachers are content, and that we’re working as a team with parents.
My experience and that of many others could not be further from this.  In fact, the situation with my own child highlights so many deficiencies in the system – beginning at identification and failure to assess upon first request, to a 7 month delay in putting a 504 plan in place, expulsion from the Annex, suspension from Laurel, and the list goes on.  That said, Aaron’s needs are currently being met, but it is my very strong opinion that if his needs were attended to earlier, he would be mainstreamed in a class at Laurel today. However, as you know, he is not.
 
I stand before you and will be continuing to work toward better outcomes in the realm of special education because I do not want any other parent to have to experience what I have. I would be happy to talk further with any one of you at any time.
 
You, the Board, are the ones that set direction, focus and push the administration to attend to issues in a solution-oriented way.  You can make the difference, and I truly support you in this, as I know your other constituents do.  Please continue to make this a priority, bring more transparency and parent support to the process.  
Listen to teachers, parents and professionals when they suspect that a child has an issue — our children can not get back the years that are lost in the system.  
Children are resilient, yes, but we can do so much better for the many children with various special needs in our District (SPED under IDEA, those with 504 Accommodations and the many others whose needs fall short of the requirement to provide services).
Your charge is to ensure the education of ALL children in the District and to give them an equitable opportunity to succeed. 
Thank you for your service.
Chelsea Bonini
Co-founder, snkids.org

Requests: 

  • Be aware of the role of the SELPA and encourage use of the many resources they offer to Districts
  • Encourage more transparency regarding SST practices, sharing of information for the IEP process and services, consider adding a page to the Website with contacts, info, links to SELPA, etc.
  • Consider a review of all Board Policies re: Special Education – do we have all the policies we need? (i.e. suspensions, expulsions, behavioral interventions, etc.)
  • Implement 504 Policy, Notice of Parent Rights under Section 504 & Oversight (not SPED per SMFC); required per SELPA

Additional comments on the Annual Report

Basic, usual information – no performance data or analysis; however, I am encouraged by future looking statements – Thank you for this!

Suggested Goals

  • Improved academic achievement with numbers
  • Collaboration with General Education & Special Education

Additional Steps:

  • Promising Practices – already in practice at certain sites, such as Laurel (SPED 4/5 Mod/Severe w/ 3rd Grade Team (inspired by teachers) – meaningful integration in academics/PE/Social Dev through “Buddies”)
  • Also Zap the Gap – SMCOE publication re San Carlos; Raising Academic Achievement for demographic subgroups, incl SWD’s through collaborative classrooms, personalized learning, analysis of DATA! (lower SED% demographic)
  • Data – By knowing how & what we’re doing, we can improve

About SNKids.org

Co-founded by Steve Davis, Jenny McPherson & Chelsea Bonini
An association of parents and educators seeking better outcomes for all special needs kids through improved systems, policies & practices

How?

  • Convening of professionals to share information and learn current systems and practices
  • Researching & gathering anecdotal records of experiences 
  • Encouraging District focus on transparency, accessibility, accountability & outcomes
    Participation in legislative engagement and policy advocacy at the local, county, state and federal levels

Why?

  • Reality for parents’ of special needs kids is constant stress, frustration, exhaustion, confusion, fear, chaos – they need our help to navigate these complex issues
  • We’ve gathered many stories from parents and teachers re: apparent gaps in the system, in policy, and inconsistency in our practice and culture of identification
  • The answer should not be to “hire” and advocate or attorney, we hear this too often
  • We are hopeful that the District can do better for all kids, and want to work collaboratively to help identify ways we can improve

What do you think the district can do better to help special needs kids?

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