HISD to host special education parent forums to gain community feedback

HISD is inviting parents to three special education forums where they can ask questions and provide comments as part of a broader effort to reform special education services in the district.

The meetings will be hosted by the HISD Office of Special Education Services, which supports students with disabilities in gaining college and career readiness and independent living skills through active engagement in grade level curriculum.

There are three opportunities to attend:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017
6-7:30 p.m.
Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center
4400 W. 18th St., Houston 77092

*(Spanish, Arabic and Vietnamese interpretations available)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
8:30-10 a.m.
HISD East Field Office
1102 Telephone Road, Houston 77023

*(Spanish interpretations available)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
6-7:30 p.m.
HISD South Field Office
4040 W. Fuqua St., Houston 77045

*(Spanish interpretations available)

Parents will be able to ask questions during the meeting, submit questions electronically at computer stations on site, email questions in advance to [email protected], or submit questions through an online form at HoustonISD.org/SpecialEducation. Parents can also ask their child’s school for a special education comment card, fill it out, and return it to the school’s front office.

In preparation for the 2017-18 school year, and in response to feedback from the community and HISD staff, HISD is re-evaluating how it delivers special education services to students and families.

“As I began my tenure as chief academic officer, I heard concerns from the community and I heard concerns from staff that led us to analyze how we can best meet student needs,” said Dr. Grenita Lathan, who was named Chief Academic Officer at the end of September 2016. “One of the first things we discovered was a disconnect between the referral and evaluation process, so we have moved those teams closer together. We continue to look for ways to better support students and parents throughout this process.”

Lathan said Intervention Assistance Teams, which help identify students who may be in need of special education services, were previously part of the office of Student Support Services and have been moved under the Academics office, which provides those services.

In addition to reorganizing the department to better serve students, an internal review has begun under the direction of an ad hoc committee chaired by Board of Education Trustee Anne Sung. Its membership includes trustees Diana Davila and Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, as well as members of the community: parents, teachers, a principal, a special education program specialist, a pediatric neurologist, and a child neuropsychologist. (See the full membership list below.)

“The HISD Board of Education put together this special education ad hoc committee in hopes of better understanding the needs of our parents and students,” said HISD Board President Wanda Adams. “The internal review will help shed light on the important issues that we need to fix in order to better serve our students.”

Recently, the district put out a request for proposals for an independent review of its special education program, and the Board of Education is expected to choose a vendor for that audit at its April 13 meeting.

The district also plans future meetings and opportunities for parents, teachers, and staff to participate in training and share ideas about special education services in HISD.

On Thursday, March 23, the Board accepted the resignation of Sowmya Kumar, assistant superintendent of special education. Dr. Joan Anderson will serve as the interim assistant superintendent for special education. Dr. Anderson recently served as senior manager of special education programs. Prior to joining HISD, she was executive director of special education services for Boston (MA) Public Schools and senior director of special education for Norfolk (VA) Public Schools.