This is the fourth in a series on serving students with severe special education needs. Please read the first part for an introduction to the issue.
"I believe that professionals... who work in the trenches can guide policymakers in making the right decisions for our special education students, parents, and professionals." - Board District 2 Candidate Raquel Zamora
Jose Huizar may be awaiting trial for the corruption charges that have been leveled against him, but his political machine is still active as a replacement is sought for his protege', Monica Garcia. InnerCity Struggle, an Astroturf group that pretends to represent the community while representing the charter school industry has put forth their own candidate, Maria Brenes. Should Brenes win, the district can expect the number of public school closures to accelerate while under-regulated, privately controlled charter schools take their place.
Raquel Zamora is well versed in taking on Huizar's political machine. Two years ago, she ran against Monica Garcia as a candidate for Los Angeles City Council District 14. While Kevin de Leon was the winner of this race, Zamora beat Garcia by 1,261 votes to take third place.
Professionally, Zamora worked in the LAUSD as a teacher for 11 years. She then became a Pupil Services and Attendance Counselor. This experience gives her an appreciation for the professionals who work directly with students to provide them with the education that they need to reach their full potential. She would allow those who "work in the trenches" to guide policy decisions.
Not only does Zamora "pledge to keep Special Education Centers fully funded," but she also believes in promoting this option to parents during IEP. She also says that she would support a magnet school housed on the campus of one of these centers for students who are interested in a career in special education. She would also promote policies that prohibit district officials from stigmatizing special day classes and Special Education Centers.
Zamora's complete responses are as follows:
- While inclusion and mainstreaming have benefitted many children with special education needs, these programs are not suitable for all children. For many children, Special Education Centers provide the best option for helping them reach their full potential. Do you commit to keeping these schools fully funded and the option of attending made available to parents during the IEP process?
As a candidate for School Board District #2 with 16 years of experience working at our schools, I pledge to keep Special Education Centers fully funded. I believe all students have different needs to reach their full potential. Special Education Centers are a great option for some of our students to reach their full potential. I don't believe that all special education students benefit from being mainstreamed to general education classes. I once listened to Wade Kyle, a Special Education Teacher at a Special Education Center, speak about his teaching experience with deaf & hard of hearing students and how his students would not benefit from being mainstreamed. The students, teachers, and parents were not in favor of his student being mainstreamed. I believe that professionals like Kyle Wade who work in the trenches can guide policymakers in making the right decisions for our special education students, parents, and professionals.
I also believe that promoting Special Education Centers to parents as an option during the IEP processes is important. I believe our parents should always be informed of all the options and services that their students may be eligible for.
- To ensure that children enrolled in Special Education Centers have exposure to their typical peers, do you commit to ensuring that magnet programs are included on these campuses? These magnets would serve children who are interested in pursuing careers in special education.
I would definitely support a magnet school at a Special Education Center for those students who are interested in pursuing a career in special education. I believe it's a great idea to bridge the need for future special education teachers with a magnet school at a Special Education Center. Both student populations would benefit from this type of school campus.
- How would you support programs like Peer Buddies that find innovative ways to ensure that children with severe special education needs are integrated with their general education classmates even if they are pursuing an alternative curriculum.
I would support a program like Peer Buddies by creating focus groups of students, parents, and special education teachers to help guide a successful program. I would also allocate funding for the success of these types of programs.
- Do you commit to ensuring that all members of the staff at the Division of Special Education support children with moderate to severe special education needs and prohibit them from stigmatizing special day classes and special education centers?
I commit to ensuring that all staff at the Division of Special Education support children with moderate to severe special education needs. I would support policies that prohibit Special Education professionals from stigmatizing special day classes and special education centers.
- Do you commit to removing any targets limiting the number of children enrolled in special day classes?
I commit to keeping special day classes small in size to meet the needs of the students.
Up Next: Miho Murai
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.