By Jo Mathis
AAPS District News
AAPS parents whose children have an IEP or 504 Plan say they appreciate the effort to include them more and more in the educational process.
“This has been a wonderful show of support for parents,” said Mary Duerksen, co-chair of the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education (AAPAC), at this week’s SISS conference at Washtenaw Community College. “This is a new initiative by SISS to include parents in appropriate staff development sessions.”
Parents appreciate the fact that last week, every school was well represented by teachers and administrators at an SISS parent orientation.
“A lot of the principals came with teams,” said Kat Wolfe, who has two students with special needs at AAPS. “It was very impressive.”
“Every parent had someone from their building to visit,” said Duerksen, whose son, Matthew, is enrolled in special education at Skyline High School, “whether it was the teacher consultant from that building, or an assistant principal in charge of special education. And usually it was four or five people a parent could talk to, and that’s really what parents are looking for when they come to parent orientation.”
Elaine Brown, executive director of Student Intervention & Support Services (SISS), said that this week’s conference, which is titled, “Empowering Exceptional Educators” is the type of professional development SISS/AAPS wants to bring to staff and parents every year.
“As we surveyed teachers and staff, they showed interest in the sessions we provided,” said Brown. “We heard their voices loud and clear. It is crucial that we build relationships with teachers—general education and special education—as well as ancillary staff, parents, principals, and all stake holders to provide the most appropriate support to our students.”
She said all educators benefit from understanding measurable goals, the assistive technology decision making process, and the other topics that are presented this week at the conference.
Duerksen said the conference is important because parents are learning the same things staff learn about procedures, writing measurable annual goals and short-term objectives.
“For us to be able to hear the same thing makes it a lot easier for us to go into meetings with staff and know what’s going to be happening, and know that care has been taken to prepare us to decide,” she said. “SISS has done a wonderful job of including parents in this whole back-to-school time of year.”
Wolfe hopes other parents take advantage of the SISS expos, conferences, and orientations.
“That makes it more of a team effort here in Ann Arbor Public Schools,” she said. “I love that we’re including parents, so we can come see people from their buildings, and understand what they’re learning, too, so that it’s more of a team feel.”