Seattle Special Education PTSA is recruiting board members

The Seattle Special Education PTSA is recruiting new board members, that is parents (and students) ready to join the fight for equitable education. The executive board’s mission: to take inroads in public awareness and advocacy made by the organization during the COVID shut downs and continue to move them forward.

Nominations are due April 24.

“In the last two years the board has really gotten some great work started. . . reaching out to teachers and administrators so that they know what the needs are and where they aren’t meeting them,” says Cherylynne Crowther, the board’s co-vice president and chair of its nominating committee.

Among the successes listed on the PTSA’s 2020-21 annual report are the organization’s support of the “no confidence” vote in Seattle Schools in 2021, testimony before the state legislature and several parent/public education events.

Advocating for 8,000 students with special needs

The Seattle Special Education PTSA advocates for the district’s more than 8,000 special needs students and their families.

Currently the organization is focusing its advocacy work in three main areas:

  • inclusion of special education students in education opportunities available to the mainstream students,
  • literacy pedagogy
  • pushing Seattle Schools to examine use of isolation and restraint on special needs students.

The latter, Crowther says, “has been a long time issue and it’s time to set some rules.”

Board role

The role of the Special Education PTSA executive board is to guide the organization in setting goals as well as deciding the areas of advocacy upon which the organization will focus from year to year. The PTSA tracks issues and concerns facing special needs students and advocates for change. It also connects parents to resources and provides information to parents and teachers on effective teaching/learning strategies. Keeping track of universal problems of students with special needs and their parents is a big part of the work.

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“We are seeing parents who are presenting again and again with the same problems,” says Crowther. “Our job is to bring these numbers together and bring them to the school board and bring them to the media so that they better understand how the education system is not designed for children with disabilities.”

Lessons from COVID

Crowther says that COVID didn’t create new problems for kids with special needs and their parents, “it simply exacerbated problems that have always been there.” But the pandemic also allowed the parents, the district, and the public to “see the magnitude” of special needs challenges that need to be addressed. (See District has failed to deliver on special education during the pandemic.)

She pointed to her own family’s experience by way of example. Crowther’s daughter is an advanced placement student, her son has special needs.

“Watching the difference in how the high school adapted during COVID to my daughter versus my son who has special needs was horrible,” she says.

Striking while the iron is hot

Crowther hopes that the concerns and education equity failures experienced by special needs students and highlighted by COVID in the media and myriad public forums since 2020 will inspire new parents to join the Seattle Special Education PTSA and become part of the fight for inclusion and better outcomes.

“Part of the struggle is that many parents don’t know we exist,” she says. “They don’t know we have a lot to offer them in terms of information and advocacy.”

Benefits of joining the Special Needs PTSA

According to Crowther the benefits of board membership are substantial. Volunteer members (mostly parents of special needs students) gain knowledge about the disabilities community, education strategies that work, the newest research in special education and ways to improve education for their kids. Board members make connections that can help them to advocate for their own students while at the same time improving outcomes for special needs students districtwide.

All nominations are welcome, especially volunteers from the BIPOC community. The positions currently open for nominations include co-president, co-vice-president, co-secretary and co-treasurer. To learn more, email to [email protected] or lyrics 206-651-5017.

To fill out a nomination form click here. Nominations are open until Sunday, April 24 at midnight.