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AS A FORMER Stafford
First, I was relieved that this issue is being recognized and addressed by the county. SCPS certainly does need more special educators, various service providers such as social workers and other therapists, more special education classes and programs. Without these teachers, classes and supports the students who require such programs are ultimately the ones who suffer.
Having worked for SCPS for three years I saw firsthand how this need for special education teachers and programs negatively impacted students. Since disabilities are unique to each individual, not all programs and/or classes can accommodate every student who has a disability.
Due to the "lack of funds" faced by SCPS, the students who require a more self-contained classroom often do not receive that support. When a child is not given an environment they need to learn in, they tend not to. This causes an array of issues for the student, the teacher and the school.
Instead of creating a solution to this problem, the students are made to repeat the class or are moved into
When I taught at Stafford High School my "self-contained" classes usually had more students than the eight maximum that is mandated by the state. On top of that challenge, the students who were in my classes had various disabilities and were often times on different grade levels. This was not just a onetime occurrence it was the norm.
Special educators do not only teach. We are also case managers who are responsible for all the different facets that the individualized educational plans entails. During my three years working for SCPS, I had a caseload of nearly 15 students. It was nearly impossible to teach six classes (at times, up to four different subjects and grade levels) and maintain my caseload, but with the help of many late nights I was somehow able to manage my workload.
Special education tends to be the department that requires the most assistance but is the last to receive any. At the school I taught at we had two computers among nine special educators (not including our paraprofessionals). Our classrooms were the smallest, had the oldest desks and equipment. We also had to share these ill-equipped rooms among the nine of us.
The issue regarding the lack of funding for special education services is just one that SCPS is currently being faced with. Many teachers, including myself, have left SCPS for nearby counties where students are more likely to receive the education they deserve.
The tired excuse of "it's not in the budget" needs to stop being accepted by everyone in the Stafford community before any more students do not get the education that they are legally entitled to.
Nichole Cunningham lives in