Special Needs Education

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.

Thursday, October 25 at 7 p.m. on Ch. 5.1

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. Funding for PUBLIC SQUARE was provided in part by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. PUBLIC SQUARE is hosted & produced 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

Funding for PUBLIC SQUARE was provided in part by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

3 thoughts on “Special Needs Education

  1. I watched the program last night; it barely touches the “tip of the iceberg” on this issue. I sympathize with and had/have very similar experiences with all the parents on the program. I am a parent of brown haired son who happens to be blind. He was tested as GIFTED with an IQ of 130+ (at 4 or 5 yrs) by the Los Alamos Public School (LAPS) District. You would have thought he would have received the services he legally deserved. Not so, our struggles in support of his education required protracted hostile IEP meetings, culminating in an IDEA/FAPE based lawsuit (after going through administrative reqts., due process hearing , etc.), LAPS’ appeal, and ultimately settlement. The process is flawed; it takes so long to get through that the child and his/her education suffers. Fighting for a child’s right to FAPE is possible only if a parent has sufficient resources and stamina to fight a school district that receives legal support. School districts have little incentive to support their students with special needs despite what the law states. In general, they can slow-roll and outspend an individual. It is also my opinion that the State PED has little interest in this issue. Sorry for the pessimistic view, but it is pragmatic. You as a parent need to fight to get your child what they deserve. We have no concept of the long term impact on our child from this discrimination, but I am convinced it is there and it has a detrimental impact. The administrative process needs to be much shorter and simpler. The Federal law needs to be enforced at the state and local level, with severe consequences for the local district enforced in an expeditious manner.

  2. This program put the problems on the table in what I consider to be a very effective manner. However, like any typical government entity, unless APS is held to task by a follow-on program, little, if anything, will change. The PED must take the bull by the horns and follow through with additional publicity, addressing issues both legislatively and administratively, and become the advocate for all children in New Mexico.

    There were eloquent and assertive parents on the show whose children benefit from their advocacy. That is, obviously, not the case for a large percentage of New Mexican children. This is more proof that the bloated and often incompetent APS administration needs a thorough housecleaning followed by the implementation of an effective teacher evaluation program.

    The L.A. Times series showing teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement demonstrates the immediate need to train or replace administrators so school districts can develop teachers’ effectiveness or help them find new jobs before they damage more of our children! All the noise about public education on PBS will have little impact if parents (voters) don’t force change in their school districts. Special Education is an indicator of how well the system cares for all students. Wake up parents! Our school districts are filled with incompetence and mediocrity at all levels. Excellence is a goal for the minority of educators who become quickly ostracized by their peers and seldom rewarded in any way.

  3. If there were more after school programs for children, especially those with working parents, we could be assured that they all would be safer, having adult supervision and constructive activities. Schools could provide the space and some back up staff, while various community programs could be garnered to provide wholesome, challenging and fun activities. this would prevent youth wandering the streets or back alleys aimlessly and give a sense of belonging, a place they are welcome and developmentally appropriate growth experiences in the Arts, PE, Music, etc. Grant monies would be necessary and accountability. The research shows that this time period between 3 and 7PM is the most critical in prevention of substance abuse, delinquency (including bullying) and sexual acting out. Cooperation among all levels of state, county and educational services would be required. But is the one area that many good intentions could converge to support a glaring and obvious need.

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