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.