From Wilmington News Journal
By EDWARD L. KENNEY
Brandywine parents talk to legislators, officials
Amy Gutowski addressed a panel of state legislators and others who had gathered at the Brandywine Town Center on Thursday as part of a forum on special-needs education in Delaware.
“We need to look for different ways to educate these children,” said Gutowski, who has a 10-year-old daughter with special needs. “It’s not just the cookie-cutter programs. I plead with you to give us the funds to help these children.”
Some of the people at the forum had particular issues to discuss. But all of the participants were bonded when it came to one issue: helping children with disabilities get the best education they can.
The forum was sponsored by the Brandywine Special Needs PTA, whose 125 members are mostly from the Brandywine School District, with a few from other districts.
“We were the first one in the state and we formed last year,” said Co-President Alex Rittberg, speaking of PTAs for parents of special-needs children. “And Christina and Red Clay are forming ones this year.”
Brandywine School District has about 1,500 students with special needs, he said. Overall, the state has about 17,000 students with disabilities.
First big meeting
“This is the first time we’ve had a legislative, town-hall type of meeting,” he said of the PTA. “Special education children are underperforming. They’re not being prepared to live an independent life.”
The forum included discussion on whether the Delaware Student Testing Program should be administered to children with special needs, funding questions, the academic performance gap between regular-education and special-education students and the need for more speech pathologists.
Several panelists called for an alternative testing method to the DSTP for special-education students.
Joan Kelley, a registered nurse who has an autistic child, said she was “overwhelmed” by the current testing.
“Autistic children are completely at a disadvantage,” she said. “I think they’re set up to fail, in my opinion.”
“There are lots and lots of accommodations [for testing] available,” replied Martha Toomey, an education associate in the state’s Department of Education who serves as the state director for special-education services.
“I want my child to get a diploma,” said Kelley, her voice breaking.
Could still qualify
Brian Touchette, an education associate for the Department of Education whose duties include DSTP accommodations, assured Kelley that her child could switch back to the DSTP after making improvement with an alternative system and could still qualify for a diploma.
Patricia Marvel, who lives in Gwinhurst, has two children with special needs, including one who goes to Carrcroft Elementary School and another who begins school next year. She joined the Brandywine Special Needs PTA when it first formed in the fall of 2004 and attended the forum to learn about things.
“I just want to hear what everyone has to say, and how we can make the Brandywine School District better,” she said. “I was lost before this Special Needs PTA. I did a lot of Internet searches.”
Rittberg said the Brandywine Special Needs PTA will hold its next monthly meeting March 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Brandywine Town Center on Naamans Road in Brandywine Hundred.
Contact Edward L. Kenney at 324-2891 or email@example.com.
Copyright © 2006, The News Journal.
Original source on the web: http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060210/NEWS/602100368/1006