Tag Archives: Highline School Board

Inclusive Practices, Inclusive Education

In June, we sent this letter to the Highline School Board, Deborah Holcomb, and Dr. Susan Enfield. Today, we received this from Susanne Jerde. We are extremely happy and excited about the work to change our culture in Highline Schools to be one of inclusion. Read on and share!

From: Susanne Jerde
Sent: Monday, August 24, 2015 4:29 PM
To: **Principals and Assistant Principals
Cc: Susan Enfield
Subject: Inclusive Practices

Dear Colleagues,

As we heard from Dr. Enfield and Dr. Martin earlier this month, each and every student should feel and experience the sense of belonging as a general education student first, regardless of additional services and needs. Creating a climate where all students feel a part of the school is the first step as a system in creating an inclusive culture district-wide.  To this end, we have changed our “Student Support Services” department to “Inclusive Education” to support a culture where all students belong.

Ensuring that every student feels membership in a school community is just one of the values and beliefs necessary on the journey towards creating an inclusive culture.   Inclusive practices provide opportunities to learn about and accept individual differences, lessening the impact of harassment and bullying.  As a leader, it is imperative for you to lead and model the way, staying actively engaged in pushing for innovative solutions to barriers that exclude learners from general education settings.

This year, ensuring that all students are part of a general education class and are included in general education learning opportunities (beyond PE and music) is our goal.  This includes having all students with special needs having a name on a posted class list of a general education teacher or general advisory at secondary.  A seat is not defined as just a desk and a nametag (if appropriate), but as opportunities for learning along peers in general education classes.

Supporting teachers in working with students at multiple ability levels, who have emotional and social challenges in their lives is critical. Many of you have focused on developing inclusive practices across your school, with some of the examples below.  While this list is not exhaustive, I share it as a starting place. My ask is that you each reflect on how you can lead a school where all students are included, message inclusion as a part of your school culture, and identify school-wide strategies to support a vision of students learning and participating together.  My hope is that you will share with colleagues your successes in changing beliefs and culture at future convenings.

Inclusive Examples Strategy
No program labels Always refer to a child’s classroom with teacher name and not a label, “They are in Mr. Smith’s room.” vs. “They are in the ILC room.”
Assemblies/ Awards Students are not excluded because of noise, etc.  Work to provide needed accommodations to support if needed.

Students with special needs are included in receiving awards at the school for attendance, academic/social growth.

Provide the option for students receiving supports in EBC, IAM, ILC to sit with general education homerooms at assemblies and lunch time (as it is appropriate for each student)

Clubs Use of peer tutors to support club participation
Cafeteria Students with special needs are not at a corner table, but interspersed among their peers
Field Trips All students included with their general education peers
General Education Classrooms Not a seat in the back of the room, but one where the student is expected to take part in the learning experiences provided in general education.  Students are provided with cubbies, name tags, “space” in their homeroom classroom.  Assign a buddy to those students who may not be in the classroom for the entirety of the day (includes LRC as well!) who will be responsible for sharing any missed information/communication that happens when they are out of the room. Provide time and routines for regular check ins between these students.
Parents Parents/guardians are included in PTA and SLT

 

Leadership Ensure that all older students are included in rotations for leadership opportunities (lunchroom helpers, conflict managers, etc.) with supports as appropriate
IEPs Principal/AP knows every students’ IEP (Strengths, needs)
Collaboration Staff are given time to work together—gen ed and sped—to collaborate on scaffolding core instruction

 

 

Over the next few weeks, your ILED will be discussing with you ways to message and lead this important work with a strong instructional leadership lens.  I look forward to continued conversations about how we can use inclusive practices to truly know every student by name strength and need. 

Here’s to a great start for the 2015-2106 school year,

Susanne

  Susanne Jerde

    Chief Academic Officer

15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW

Burien, WA 98166

Highlineschools.org

Letter to the School Board

June 17, 2015

Dr. Susan Enfield, Superintendent of Highline Schools
Deborah Holcomb, Director of Special Services and Student Support
Highline School Board Members:
Tyronne Curry, Sr., Angelica Alvarez, Joe Van, Bernie Dorsey, and Michael Spear
15675 Ambaum Blvd SW
Burien, WA 98166

Dear Dr. Enfield, Deborah Holcomb, and our Highline School Board:

I am writing to you as a parent, an advocate, and a community leader. I have a great concern that our students with disabilities are not being fully included in Highline Schools, nor are their needs being met.

As a parent and advocate, I have experienced first-hand, or had a parent tell me directly the following incidents over the last month: a kindergarten student in an ILC class was not included in their school’s kindergarten promotion. A principal asked an ILC teacher, in front of me, not to bring her class down to the cafeteria on the day parents were invited to eat with their students because it was too crowded. Third grade students in the ILC class at an elementary school, where they are to have Chrome Books as part of a 1:1 technology program, never received their Chrome Book computers despite having raised the issue to the principal and to Highline administration. A high school student’s parent was told at an IEP meeting that the teacher and the principal did not know enough to help support their student and that they should consider paying for private school. An elementary school student’s parent was told, in front of me by the assistant principal, that their student would not receive the supports their son needed, despite having it outlined in the IEP. Three students who use wheelchairs at an elementary school were not included outside on the field because their wheelchairs could not go on the grass, so they were brought to the edge, rather than bringing the activities to where they could participate, and three paraeducators had to stay with them.

These examples are not meant to throw any teacher, administrator or staff member “under the bus,” by any means. These examples do not show what has happened behind the scenes, and often this is a miscommunication or misunderstanding. These examples, however, do point to a climate and culture that disregards students with special needs. Our students with disabilities are often forgotten about or disregarded when it comes to basic inclusion. Their academic learning, along with social emotional learning, is halted by the climate and culture of our schools. As a result, we know many parents who are choosing to homeschool their students because they do not find their student’s needs are being met in current Highline classroom settings and do not have any other appropriate options.

This is not something that can be fully changed by Highline Schools—it is going to take all of us who live in Highline to change the greater culture as this is a systemic issue. As learning disabilities are diagnosed earlier and the rates of Autism diagnosis are increasing as reported by the CDC, we must work to change our climate and culture to one of inclusion for all. All of our students are students first, regardless of gender, race, language, culture, economic background or ability. All must mean all. If we truly are to know every student by name, strength and need, that means that every single student of all abilities are known and their needs are met and strengths acknowledged.

To change our climate and culture around inclusion we must change our language. I am requesting that our district become fluent in student-first language. I am requesting that we stop using program-based language and models. My child is not an ILC student. My child is a first-grade student at Midway Elementary School.

All must mean all. Schools with 1:1 technology must have that technology available for all students, regardless of ability. If you plan on 25 students in a classroom, you plan on 25 desks and chairs. If a student uses a wheelchair, after assessing the student’s needs you might move a chair out, but you plan on having 25 desks and chairs. Promotion and graduation ceremonies must include all students of that grade who are being promoted and graduating. Field trips for a grade level must include all students. Activities for families at schools must include all students. In addition, all students benefit when certain accommodations are made. Just as we all at times use ramps that are installed primarily for wheelchairs, all of our students will benefit from smaller classrooms, better technology and more support.

This is a plea from a mother of an almost second grader, and other parents of students with differing needs. The clock is ticking on our students. This is the opportunity for us in Highline to be leaders in our community. This is the time for our students to learn from each other through inclusion so that when the time comes and they are in the workforce, they already know people of different abilities. Our segregated model and language must end. We know that most of the time people have good intentions and it isn’t intentional that our students are left out. However, we must make it intentional to include them, and include everyone.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Mindi Welton-Mitchell, President

Co-Signed:
Erin Baker, Vice-President
Melissa Feroe, Treasurer
Nicole Gifford, Secretary
Michelle O’Dell, Family and Community Engagement

Highline Special Needs PTA Board of Directors 2015-2016