1. Share any background or expertise, professional or personal, that you believe speaks to your experience and commitment to serving the students who receive special education in our district.
I have four grandchildren, three of whom are special needs students. I am well aware of the importance of providing every available resource to the education of these children so that they, like other students, can find joy in learning and in so doing enjoy a richly rewarding, free and inspired life.
2. How, as a BOE member, do you intend to keep students with disabilities as a part of the conversation in all aspects of decisions being made?
I intend to keep the needs of special needs children fully integrated into every conversation that takes place with regard to the health and well-being of all students regardless of the topic under review.
How will you solicit input from parents on policy that directly impacts students with disabilities and their families?
Soliciting parental involvement on this and every issue involving the education, health and well-being of all students, particularly those with special needs, is the main focus of my intention to serve the parents and the children of Madison. I think regularly scheduled "town hall-like" meetings between myself and parents would be a great way to begin to build the kind of rapport and collaboration between parents and members of the BOE that Madison and, indeed, every community requires in order to make sure that parents, who are the final arbiters of what is best for their children, are fully heard and integrated into every BOE decision.
3. If a parent approached you with a special education concern, and stated that they felt that this was a systemic problem, what would you do?
If a parent felt that their concern about a problem that their child was having was a systemic problem, then I would ask why they thought so. Was it because they recognized that their concern was shared by others, or worse, by the majority of other parents and students? I would need to look into this more deeply, and I would ask for the help of other members of the BOE and the school superintendent to help clarify and address the problem, systemic or not. The point is, every parent's concern, whether it is systemic or not, needs to be fully understood and addressed so that their child and other children may benefit from appropriate remedies.
What are some ideas you have to prevent issues from becoming systemic?
A focal problem becomes a systemic problem when an error that produced the problem in the first place is inadvertently integrated into the everyday life, routine, curricula, etc. of the student and the teacher. When a parent has a concern or faces a particular problem, it's important to discover if that problem or concern is shared by others so that it is addressed quickly, appropriately, and to the satisfaction of all so that it does not become a systemic problem; that is, it does not become a problem that is buried in the day-to-day routine such that it eventually becomes integrated as a non-problem when it really is.
4. Educating a student with a disability costs more money than educating a general education student. This cost impacts the school budget. How would you approach budgeting decisions regarding special education?
This is an area in which I have no experience and, therefore, no expertise. I would have to look to the guidance of others who are well-versed in these budget challenges to understand the rationale for budgeting for special needs children within the context of overall financial resources. I believe that soliciting input from parents of special needs children is an important part of this process, for if the parents understand what the overall resources and budgets are for the Madison school district, then I think it is easier for them to understand, as well as to advise, how best to spend the money that the district has at its disposal to meet the needs of all of the children, especially those who are most in need of those resources.
5. What do you think is the greatest challenge in Madison's school district regarding special education?
I do not know what the greatest challenge is regarding special education in the Madison school district. That question needs to be understood, and I will need to know the answer to that question. It will be an important learning item for me as a member of the BOE. I trust that current members of the BOE as well as the school superintendent will share what they understand to be the greatest challenge for special needs children in our district, and I will actively look to the parents, who know best, what they see as the greatest challenge. Often, what administrators and BOE members see as the greatest challenge may not be what parents of these children see, so it's important to get all perspectives on the table. That way, the needs can be prioritized and the greatest needs addressed as much as possible.
6. If elected, what do you see as your learning curve specifically for special education?
My learning curve will not include gaining in compassion or understanding for the special needs of the children or their parents. I've lived that life and my heart aches for the struggles of the children and those who love them. I've been a good student all my life; in fact, I've always loved school and am deeply in debt to my teachers and the fantastic opportunities that this country has given me with regard to the outstanding educational experiences I've enjoyed over the many (endless!) years of my career in medicine. I take the responsibility of serving as a member of the BOE as seriously as I did my medical education or any other learning experience in which is was relatively unschooled but needed to commit to learning FAST what I needed to know to do a good job and serve well. I bring that same commitment to this next challenge, which is nothing less than giving back to my country, here in Madison, what was so generously given to me over the past half-century.