New group will work for special-needs students

debbie.cafazzo@thenewstribune.comDecember 26, 2013 

If you’re a parent of a special-needs student in Tacoma Public Schools or are otherwise involved in advocating for them, the school district needs your expertise.

The district’s Student Services Department (formerly known as the Special Needs Department) is putting together an advisory group to help guide services to kids with special needs or disabilities.

The group will help the school district act on recommendations from the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative. Experts from that Massachusetts-based group spent months studying Tacoma’s special-education services, then made 18 recommendations to the school board in February.

One of Tacoma’s big pushes is an “inclusion model,” which would integrate more special-needs students into mainstream classrooms.

Tacoma Public Schools offers services for special-needs students from age 3-21. The district’s Student Services office works with about 4,000 students.

“We will focus on the bigger picture, and what we want to do as a result of the Urban Collaborative,” said Betsy Minor Reid, director of student services for the school district. “We want this group to be aware of those initiatives and help us as an advisory group to move forward.”

Reid said that in addition to parents of special-needs kids, the district hopes the advisory group will include school staff members, medical professionals, representatives of community organizations and agencies that support students with disabilities. It also could include parents of kids without special needs.

The group’s first meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Jan. 29 at the district’s Central Administration Building, 601 S. Eighth St.

Reid said parents can apply for membership in the group prior to the meeting. Or, they can attend the meeting to learn more and see if they are interested.

Application materials can be found on the school district website: Click on “About,” then click on “Departments and Programs,” then on “Student Services.”

Reid said she hopes the group will include representatives of students from all parts of the city and from all grade levels. She also hopes it will include parents and others with expertise and interest in a variety of special needs.

“We want parents no matter what their prior experience has been,” Reid said.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635 @DebbieCafazzo

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