I’m the parent of three children enrolled in Special Education at Thornton Creek Elementary. I’ve recently learned that the school district is planning to make significant changes to the special education program at Thornton Creek beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.
When it was time for my son, Sebby, to go to Kindergarten, I chose Thornton Creek. Having gone to a school that has an expeditionary learning curriculum myself, I knew it was something I was something I wanted my children to experience. Thornton Creek is very special in that is an option school with a self-contained classroom. This is a program that has been existence for nearly 20 years.
Thornton Creek, has an established program with a proven record of success with students of all levels of ability. The entire Thornton Creek program has built a culture of inclusivity. Welcoming students of all abilities into general education classrooms and all school activities is an integral part of their culture. I believe that this diversity teaches students compassion, empathy and gives them opportunities to interact with students with different strengths.
One of the special things about Thornton Creek is our strong community and the inclusion of all students. Whether it is having 5th grade reading buddies for kindergartners, school wide activities, or typically developing kids working with the self-contained kids, the message to our kids is clear: there is a place for everybody and we all belong here.
I do not understand why Seattle Public Schools is making changes to an established and highly respected program with a record of success with students.
Why Special Education at Thornton Creek is Important to Me
All of my children have IEPS (Individualized Educations), which are served in various ways.
My oldest son, Sebby, is in a self-contained classroom (SM4). Sebby has Autism. He has grown so much since starting kindergarten at Thornton Creek. Now a 3rd grader, Sebby is working on developing the social skills to interact more with his typically developing peers, and engage with them appropriately. The small class room size of his special education class helps him when he is having trouble with his anxiety and sensory triggers.
My daughter Quincy is in a first grade general education classroom, Quincy receives services including reading and social skills. The services Quincy receives from the therapists and resource room help her thrive alongside her typically developing peers.
My youngest son Edison, who recently turned four, is attending the newly established Developmental Preschool. Like his brother, Edison also has Autism. Edison is thriving in preschool. He is learning important Kindergarten readiness skills such as walking in the hall, sitting for group instruction and other social skills. In addition, his class participates in school assemblies, music and art classes. It’s a very special program with teachers who care deeply about what they do.
I am troubled that the district has plans to slash the developmental preschool program in half, creating an overcrowding of high needs children in September 2017 with no room for incoming 3 year olds. In addition, there are further plans to reduce hours for staff, causing loved and trusted teachers to be forced into part-time positions – and likely forced to find other employment.
As of right now, the district is not allowing any more kindergarten enrollments in SM4. This is troubling as Edison will benefit from the high staff-to student ratio and small class size found in a SM4 classroom. Edison loves going to school with his siblings, and it will cause a hardship on him and the entire family if he is forced out of Thornton Creek should the district choose to close the SM4 program. In order for him to receive the free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment, as he is entitled to by law, the best thing for Edison is to attend Kindergarten in the SM4 classroom for the 2018-2019 school year.
I’m heartbroken thinking of the effect these changes will have on my children, being ping-ponged around the school, and possibly the district. Change and transitions are a significant challenge for both Sebby and Edison, and the impending turmoil of the discontinuation of services could potentially cause them both setbacks in their social and educational development.
The diversity brought by our self-contained students and their families strengthens the Thornton Creek Community and improves our children’s citizenship. The experiences and relationships that develop with this broad spectrum teach our kids lessons that classroom instruction can’t.
I DO want an option school and the benefits that alternative education provides. I support the expansion of the Access program too, but not at the cost of our unique and wonderful community. There is room for all these programs and the developmental preschool. So I urge you to not compromise Sebby, Quincy and Edison’s education and our community.
As my reader, if you want to share you voice, the contacts for the Seattle School Board are listed below.
Who to Contact
Larry Nyland firstname.lastname@example.org
Wyeth Jessee (Chief of Student Support Services) email@example.com
Michaela Clancy (Director of Special Education) Cmclancy@seattleschools.org
Trish Campbell (Director of School Based Special Ed) firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Berdins (Supervisor for NE region) email@example.com
Alex LaRosa (Program Specialist for NE region) firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill Geary (Board member for Thornton Creek area) Jill.email@example.com
School board firstname.lastname@example.org