Public Square: Special Needs Education



Ch. 5.1 – Thursday, May 31 at 7 p.m. &
Ch. 9.1 – Sunday, June 17 at 5 p.m.

Albuquerque, NM — Some 45,000 students in New Mexico schools have disabilities or special needs. One in ten students at Albuquerque Public Schools receives special education services.

They lag behind their peers in graduation rates and in reading and math proficiencies. Many families struggle to make sure their children receive the education they need to be successful and lead independent lives.

In this episode, parents and teachers meet with NM Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Representative Jim Smith, and Suzanne Starr, principal of Shining Stars School in Rio Rancho. In a candid and thoughtful conversation, they explore solutions to improving the outcomes for special needs students.

Join New Mexico PBS for a PUBLIC SQUARE, where civic dialogue takes center stage Thursday, May 31 at 7 p.m. on Ch. 5.1 and Sunday, June 17 at 5 p.m. on Ch. 9.1. Funding for PUBLIC SQUARE was provided in part by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. PUBLIC SQUARE is hosted by Megan Kamerick.

Quotes From PUBLIC SQUARE Participants:

“We focus so much on the disability we forget that these children also have an identity.”
— Ronalda Tome

“It was a tremendous shock to us that the school didn’t plan to educate our son.”
— Stephanie Varoz

“It was quite a surprise, as a parent, that not everybody shared my views. This child had incredible potential to be an incredible adult, and yet was sort of marginalized down to her disability.” — Katie Stone

“I recognize she has all these problems, but you know what? When we raise the bar, she meets it every time.” — Caroline Enos

Guests Include:
Community Panel:

• Dr. Veronica C. Garcia, Secretary of Education, Emeritus
• Pete Ciurczak, Dean of Students, Robert F. Kennedy Charter School
• Caroline Starita Enos, Mother of Two
• Paula Garcia, Special Education Teacher, M.A.
• Kevin Kirby, Social Studies Teacher, Bernalillo Middle School
• Sandra Moore, Mother of Twice Exceptional Student
• Katie Stone, Parent & Advocate
• Stephanie Varoz, Parent Advocate
• Ronalda Warito-Tome, Training Specialist & Advocate, EPICS (Education for Parents of Indian Children with Special Needs)

Leadership Panel:
• Suzanne Harper, Principal, Shining Stars Preschool
• Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, Title: State Senator
• Rep. Jim Smith, Teacher & State Representative

PUBLIC SQUARE is a part of New Mexico PBS’s commitment to community engagement through meaningful dialogue. PUBLIC SQUARE allows for a substantive dialogue between citizens and state and local leaders. New Mexico PBS’s goal is to establish PUBLIC SQUARE as an integral component of its community service to New Mexico.

PUBLIC SQUARE began last year with a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and was a component of New Mexico PBS’s long-running public affairs program, NEW MEXICO IN FOCUS. With the increased funding, PUBLIC SQUARE has become a stand-alone multi-platform program. The online and social media components will provide a focal point for the program with online streaming of programs, additional information on topics, and an opportunity for the community to engage in an ongoing dialogue.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, established in 1930, supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa. For further information on the foundation, please visit

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