In lieu of a forum, we asked each candidate to answer the following two questions: What is your vision for Special Education in Hingham?
What do you think the biggest issues facing special education in Hingham are?
We've shared each of their answers below and listed the candidates' responses in alphabetical order.
Hello SEPAC parents.
I know the past few months have placed incredible demands on your time and I sincerely appreciate your graciousness in taking the time to read the posts from myself, Stephanie, and Jen (candidates for School Committee) as we prepare for election day on June 27th.
When I ran for School Committee in 2017, I had an opportunity to sit down with SEPAC parents at Bruegger’s Bagels on 3A (remember when we could do that?) and heard the struggles and challenges that our students with special education needs face in the Hingham Public Schools. It was eye-opening for me. I was embarrassed at how little I knew about the issues our students faced and the concerns their parents had. But I was also inspired. I was inspired to listen, to learn, and to take action to improve the educational experience of our Special Education students; to ensure that students and their families were respected and that most importantly, they were receiving the same level of education that every student in this district deserves.
During the past three years, I have never taken for granted the trust that those parents put in me when they told me their stories and I’ve worked to keep earning that trust. I have been the liaison between SEPAC and the School Committee to be an effective sounding board for families facing issues; I have ensured the district hires talented and dedicated leadership to drive Special Education forward; I have served on the Special Education Sub Committee of the School Committee for three years to advocate for funding and resources; and I always consider the needs of our Special Education students when making any decision on behalf of the School Committee.
I know that serious struggles still exist and that we have new and even more critical issues to address due to the pandemic. In my heart I know I’ve done a lot of work to help improve Special Education services for our students but I also know there is much more work to do. If you would once again put your trust in me and use one of your two votes to re-elect me to the Hingham School Committee, I will keep listening, keep learning, and will keep working until the needs of every Hingham Public School student are met.
Thank you, SEPAC for all you do.
Thank you SEPAC for giving me the opportunity to answer these questions.
I think the biggest issue facing special education in Hingham right now is equity in the era of COVID-19. How can we provide meaningful and appropriate processes for learning with students in our district who learn differently?
When schools closed this spring, our teachers were forced to pivot and adjust their pedagogy and skills to online learning. It was challenging for our children, parents/caregivers and teachers to adapt to remote learning, and parents were required to take on the role of educator, healthcare provider, therapist, playmate in addition to their regular roles and responsibilities. For many students with disabilities and their families, those challenges were even greater because we know that face-to-face versus online instruction is often delivered to and received differently by students with disabilities.Many students on IEPs and 504 plans require in-person, or at least synchronous, instruction to learn and progress.
As Hingham prepares for the fall, which could include a potential second wave of COVID-19, we must continue to adopt innovative technology and evolving best practices by learning from schools and districts who are successfully remediating students who have regressed during school closure and have found ways to effectively implement remote learning.
Our plans need to be focused on the needs of each individual student and the district should avoid blanket statements and one-size-fits all approaches to educating students. We need to improve communication at all levels to ensure that IEP goals set for students reflect high expectations from the school and robust input from parents and guardians.
Effective communication between home and school is vital to student success, especially now, and allows parents to better monitor and motivate their child with their school work. Should remote learning become necessary again, we need to recognize as a district that our parents will continue to be part of the co-teaching team.
My vision for special education in Hingham is one that is equitable, is inclusive of all students, and ensures that all students receive the education they deserve. Educational equity has been part of my platform since I entered this race, and that includes a focus on diversity, inclusion and anti-racism within Hingham Public Schools.
As educators, we often speak about growth mindset. As educational leaders in our community, we need to listen, learn and represent best practices and implement new policies that support those goals. If we focus on addressing the challenges of our most vulnerable population of students by providing up-to-date technology training and equipment for the teachers, the district as a whole will be stronger and better for it.
My name is Stephanie Gertz and I would be honored to receive one of your two votes for School Committee.
As a parent of a child on an IEP, I know our kids put the I in IEP. On top of our regular challenges, we’ve had the additional challenge of remote learning - and the variable we don’t always mention, unexpected remote learning.
As a rule our kids have difficulties with change and in our day to day life we explain and prepare our kids for any change. Then the pandemic hit.
Because I'm a mom of a child with special needs, I'm personally invested in making sure all our kids get everything they need to succeed.
And because I'm an educator, I know that this is made much easier with advance planning. Especially in this next year, I'm going to push to ensure that all teachers prepare and share remote plans for our children. Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, we must assume that remote learning is going to occur again. This time there must be a plan for the parents to review before our children are sent home. I will be available as always to both parents and teachers to help in any way I can.