In 2001, several months before her third birthday, one of my daughters was diagnosed with autism Over the course of the next several years, we worked hard to find treatments and educational supports to help her reach her full potential. But in the course of navigating the special education system for our daughter, we found that parents who lack financial resources, advocacy skills and English language skills are at a tremendous disadvantage.
Since I was elected to the Board in 2008, I’ve worked hard to change the conversation from “encroachment” and “adversarial” to “investment” and “collaboration.” Decades of under-funding have left our system under tremendous stress, and it has been challenging to build trust between administrators and parents, who are supposed to be acting together as equal partners in what is best for a particular child.
The district has made progress: the special education department has been entirely restructured and is under new leadership; the Superintendent commissioned a review of our special education strengths and practices, and released that review to the public to send the message that district leadership would acknowledge past failures and start a frank conversation about how to improve. Richard Carranza, our new Superintendent, has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he “gets it” with respect to inclusion and improving outcomes for our students with disabilities.
The system isn’t perfect by any means, and the overhaul begun with the 2010 review is only partly complete. But I also feel far more hopeful about the future for students with disabilities in SFUSD than I did when I first ran for the Board in 2008.
Below I have collected several past interviews, blog posts and published articles to help voters get an idea of my specific views on inclusion and other special education reforms.
“More thoughts on the special education audit,” blog post, Sept. 22, 2010
“What does ‘encroachment’ mean?” blog post, Sept. 9, 2009
2008 Senior Dad Candidate Forum: Special Education (podcast); Oct. 15, 2008
Video: “What would you do to improve special education?”
Oct. 7, 2008
Autistic Woman’s Story Shows How Far we Have to Go, guest post on SF Examiner’s education blog; July 24, 2008