In this blog post:
critical issues with a critical board document
100+ hours of volunteer work to address concerns
public presentation to the board (video)
I feel very strongly that the needs of children in our schools must come first. When those in positions of power make decisions, they must be able to see the "big picture" while upholding commitments to meeting the needs of kids in classroom, every day.
Every school board is required, by the government, to have a Special Education Plan that details how special education happens in that board. It's important because of legal aspects of special education and because special education funding is "enveloped" (money received from the government for special education can only be used for special education like early literacy intervention, mental health, social workers, educational assistants, etc).
For me, special education has become increasingly important for everyone in the community as our board works to include children with special education needs in classrooms while also providing the necessary support. When done right, everyone in the classroom benefits.
In the spring, I spent over 100 hours of unpaid time (volunteer) to review the board's special education plan as part of my commitment as an appointed advisor on a critical committee of the TVDSB. My expertise and understanding of the Education Act helped uncover major issues with the current plan. What I found would end up being a 70 page report detailing the issues.
With the information from that review in hand, I presented as a member of the public to the Board of Trustees on June 22. My hope was to help the board members understand the significant issues with the Special Education Plan and why addressing some of the issues really could not wait.
As a member of the public providing input, I was provided 5 minutes to speak. Unfortunately, I was unable to speak about the draft Special Education Plan for 2022-2023 specifically because it was not yet a public document. How could I let trustees know about the concerns under these circumstances? I decided to use the time to present some guidelines for reviewing the report that would be submitted later in the week.
It was so encouraging to see several trustees asking questions to inform themselves about the concerns. I appreciated their interest on behalf of special education students - and all students. As we know, when we meet the needs of our students with special education needs, the whole community benefits.
To learn more about the concerns in the Special Education Plan, click the hyperlinked text above.
The following week, for the first time in memory, many trustees voted against a motion to approve the plan. It was a clear sign that the representatives of the public were holding staff accountable. Even those who were willing to approve the plan were only willing to do so with an extensive plan in place to improve.
My message now is the same as it was then: our children are directly impacted by the decisions made at the board level and they can't wait a year for corrections to a plan that affects them every day they are at school.
Our kids deserve better and I'm committed to being there to speak on their behalf, even when it means more than 100 hours of work - as a volunteer - to review a complex document or seeking expert advice to speak to concerns that board practices aren't in line with the Education Act. Accountability matters.
I'm happen to be a special education expert but I'm much more than this too. Read more about me here.