FRAMINGHAM – For the past six years I have held the title as the Framingham Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) Chair. Effective immediately, I will be stepping down from this position.
When I started on the SEPAC I became involved as a parent wanting to meet others who had children with school related learning issues. I wanted to be instrumental in making improvements. My daughter had just been diagnosed with a Language Based Learning Disability (Dyslexia).
Receiving this diagnosis was a whole new learning experience for me, as well as for her teachers to understand how she learned best. I was thrust into a whole new world of learning, educating myself and others of the disability and how best to advocate for her. Soon I became a source of advocacy and encouragement for others facing similar challenges in the school system.
My role on the SEPAC became more than just a part-time advocate. I looked beyond just the district’s yearly requirement of hosting a Basic Rights presentation. Some of the issues I was asked to help parents, guardians, and teachers face were: non-compliance issues with IEP’s, lack of understanding on both parent and teacher side of a disability or learning challenge, resistance and denial of issues by
teachers and administrators, cases of suicide, administration non-compliance reports from teachers, parents not being able to get into the building for team meetings, and teachers contacting me regarding poor communication regarding special education in the district. Why would they come to me you ask?
1. Private family advocates are expensive and not everyone has someone to turn to for advice about the best way to approach a school related issue.
2. Many teachers and parents felt that if they stood up for themselves, they would be subject to retaliation and retribution from the
administration. I became their anonymous voice.
Although hard to prove the school system does in fact find a way to retaliate against anyone who advocates strongly for their children or for students.
I have heard from working with the disability community that disabled persons often feel marginalized when it comes to access or inclusion and they are frustrated if they are not part of the conversation or when their needs are not met.
If I hadn’t experienced this discrimination myself by advocating for my children or the many families for whom I advocate, I would find it hard to believe. Having seen these issues with my own eyes makes me realize that we have to act in a fashion that tackles the problems head-on and without falter. My work in Framingham and the country is not done!
I want to fix the issues, make the voices of people with disabilities be heard and provide solutions.
Sadly, as far as I have seen, the Framingham Public School district hasn’t been open or receptive to the changes proposed or has been slow to respond to the needs of our children. The health safety and education should be the first priority of everyone working with the children in our district. A child doesn’t have another chance to be 10 years old again, and repeating a grade might not be an option.
Why are we so slow to respond to issues that are impacting our children, including those revolving around mental health, by waiting it out and giving it time or suggesting they will grow out of it? As we have seen over the course of several years we all are affected by behavioral issues even if your child doesn’t receive special education services.
I have grown overly despondent over the past four years about what has transpired in our school system between the revolving door of superintendents, lack of accountability from our administrators and School Committee.
As far as I see there has been little to no movement in the right direction in the Special Education Department. When are we going to hold those responsible for the education of our children accountable for disregarding some very serious concerns?
I know that I can do better for families in other roles that I serve in our city. It has been a great pleasure serving families in this capacity.
While I am resigning, I am not going away. I am always available to hear parent concerns and find a way to solve the issues.
All the best,
Sheryl L. Goldstein
Framingham Special Education Parent Advisory Council, Chair
Framingham Disability Commissioner
Parent and District 3 resident