A Positive IEP Is Not A Myth

Today at Challenger Elementary, we had a good IEP meeting that is best characterized as a meeting where everyone sitting at the table, I am completely convinced, had my boy’s best interest at heart.

For this, I want to publicly thank Mrs. Patti McCord, our regular education classroom teacher for leaving her classroom for an extended period to stay with us, answering questions, and providing guidance to us as we sought to address the boy’s needs even though she had much that she needed to be attending to. We couldn’t have addressed his needs without you. We’re excited that the boy will be in your classroom next year. Our boy will be in kind, wise and loving hands.

I would also like to thank Ms. Karen O’Hear who represented the special education needs as his regular teacher, Mrs. Niki Bowling, is out for maternity leave. Ms. O’Hear was drafted to do much of the work on the IEP even though she is not the boy’s teacher. She did much of this work on her own time despite the fact that she is one of the approximately 150 teachers who have received pink-slips so far. Even though this is the first time that I’ve worked with Ms. O’Hear, it was clear to me that she knew and cared about my son. She cared about meeting and finding ways of addressing his needs. It is a tragic loss to Huntsville City Schools that this dedicated teacher has been pink-slipped. I implore her principal, the Special Education department, and the School Board to find a way to undo this tragic loss. Our children need teachers like Ms. O’Hear in their lives.

Finally, I would like to thank Mrs. Nancy Barnes a special education liaison from the central office. The best advice that I have for parents in the Huntsville system who have concerns about their IEP is to contact Mrs. Barnes. While I have been particularly hard on the central office as a whole of late, Mrs. Barnes is proof positive that it is possible to work there and still be concerned about students’ needs. Mrs. Barnes listened, carefully to every concern that we raised about our boy, and she found a way to address those concerns. Others in the Special Education Department should make a point of learning from her how to keep the students’ needs first and foremost in the process of providing education to all.

The IEP process isn’t an easy one, but the entire system could learn from this one. Each person went into the process seeking only one thing: the best possible education of the boy. Thank you for your commitment to my child. Years from now when he is graduating from college, he will be singing your praises as he gives the valedictory speech for the work you have done today.

In addition, I would specifically like to thank two of our boy’s Instructional Aides who have also been pink-slipped: Mrs. Kim Collins and Mrs. Terry Klinkhammer. These two, despite massive uncertainty in their own futures, never fail to great our boy with joy and compassion. Without their work our son would not have managed to make the amazing progress that he has made this year. Both of them should be re-hired immediately. We cannot afford to lose them and their dedication to our students.

As teaching is always a community process, I must also thank Mrs. Susan Cooley for stepping in when Mrs. Bowling had to leave. Mrs. Kelly Smith his OT teacher who made it possible to hear cheers of joy. Mrs. Alison Johnson his speech teacher who helps the boy express himself. Ms. Kim Lam, Ms. Deborah Chavers, and Ms. Judy Stinson for their dedicated commitment to the education of our boy. He loves you all and so do we.

These teachers (and I can think of no higher title or praise for any of them) have committed their lives to helping give a voice to the voiceless. Teaching matters, and it’s time for us, all of us, to support our teachers rather than using them as scapegoats for mismanagement. Our teachers are not responsible for the financial issues that Huntsville City Schools are facing. Everyone of these that I have mentioned and millions more like them throughout our nation have given their entire lives, just as completely as those in our military have done so, to make our nation the greatest in the world.

They deserve our praise. They deserve our support. They deserve to keep their jobs. They deserve a significant raise.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. Ms. O’ Hear is the teacher I told you about regarding Zackary. Glad she was there.

  2. I’m glad to hear that you had a positive experience today. If Patti will be your boy’s teacher next year, then you will have a great time; she was our boy’s teacher for Kindergarten, and I don’t think I could say enough wonderful things about her enthusiasm & forbearance & sense of humor. (And as you might know, her daughter is the Special Ed teacher at Farley.) We’ve also had positive experiences with Ms. Barnes, as well, who reassured us only 2 years ago that our son would very welcome at Challenger Elem. and that she would make sure everything was an easy transition for us. After we’d been asked to leave 2 different pre-schools.

    Our son has integrated well, and we are very grateful; with his limited needs, the other teachers will be able to concentrate on those who need more directing out of their shells. But, as a preview to our IEP on Friday, Ms. Jaquie Aune has reassured me that he will still be in the program, and if he needs extra care some days, it will be there.

    I’m sorry that other people are having harder times with their IEP and getting their children’s needs met. I know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But even as we are once again relieved to know that things are progress as we hope and as our son needs, I’m taking notes. As he grows things may continue to improve, or take a sudden change for the worse.

    Like with any child, we hope for the future, but take things day by day.

    1. LizzieV:

      That’s how parenting works, isn’t it.

      Yeah, we love Mrs. McCord! 🙂 And Miss McCord–we’ll she’s still Miss for a few more days anyway! (She was supposed to be the boy’s K teacher before he was moved from Farley to Challenger last year.)

      We were lucky. Our boy isn’t being moved again, so we’re not having to directly fight that battle. But we’re fighting anyway. And we’re going to be watching. Closely. To make sure that he has the support that the IEP says he’ll get.

      But yeah, it’s been a good day. And it’s important to celebrate that. I hope that all the other IEPs happening today, tomorrow and over the next week are as positive.

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