By Andrew Ujifusa
After years of frustration in her attempts to expand education choice, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is picking up steam.
Fresh evidence that DeVos is continuing her push to prioritize choice with federal funds can be found in the April 24 edition of the Federal Register. That’s where the U.S. Department of Education announced a new proposed grant priority for its Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The priority would affect State Personnel Development Grants that help train those working in special education.
Source: Special Education Teachers a New Focus for Betsy DeVos Voucher Push – Politics K-12 – Education Week
For California’s most vulnerable students, including 1.2 million English Learners (EL) and over 700,000 students with special educational needs, remote learning in the wake of COVID-19 presents particular challenges. As districts across the state roll out distance learning plans to minimize disruption to K–12 students, educators must find alternate ways to meet all student needs.
English Learners and special education students typically require more in-person support, such as occupational and speech therapy, in their daily learning than students in general. Educators are struggling to devise and implement plans to address these requirements remotely. Access to internet and devices is one area of concern, but so is providing intensive learning experiences that can stand in for in-person services.
Most EL and special education students live in large urban areas with access to broadband, and school districts in these counties, such as in the Bay Area and coastal counties in Southern California, may be able to partner with philanthropy and technology providers to supplement households currently without broadband access. Rural areas, however, may not have the same supports.
Source: Remote Learning for English Learners and Special Needs Students during COVID-19 – Public Policy Institute of California
By Kimberly K. Fu
Sparkling jewelry, potted plants in cute containers, wood-backed string art and more are just some of the cool and eclectic finds at “This and That,” a pop-up store at McBride Senior Center in Vacaville.
Even cooler are the folks behind the store — Solano County Office of Education Adult Program staff and students.
The program is all about teaching special education students skills that will help them in life outside of school.
As part of their micro-enterprise projects, the students craft items in class to sell in the shop, advised Clarissa Tuttle, SCOE program administrator for Special Education.
Source: Vacaville shop a business lesson for students – The Reporter
By Carolyn Jones
Special education in California should be overhauled to focus on the individual needs of students, with better training for teachers, more streamlined services and improved screening for the youngest children, according to a compilation of reports released today.
Those were some of the recommendations proposed in “Special Education: Organizing Schools to Serve Students with Disabilities in California,” a package of 13 reports and a summary produced by Policy Analysis for California Education, a nonpartisan research and policy organization led by faculty from UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Southern California and Stanford University.
“By almost every indicator you look at, special education in California is in dire need of improvement,” said Heather Hough, PACE’s executive director. “We need to rethink the way we organize schools, so students with disabilities are at the center and not at the fringes.”
Source: Special education in California in need of overhaul, researchers say – The Reporter
By Amy Maginnis-Honey
Middle and high school students from the Fairfield-Suisun School District wasted no time seeking strikes and spares at the annual Adapted Physical Education bowling event.
More than 160 of them filled the bowling alley lanes at Stars. Pizza, soda and other treats were served to the bowlers, all with varying levels of skills.
Shirley Cavasos was accompanied by 30 young people from Rodriguez High School, Green Valley Middle School and Oakbrook Elementary.
Source: Adapted physical education students bowl for joy, thanks to Joy
By Tribune Content Agency
A few years ago, Mitchell Robins wasn’t able to tell anyone precisely what he was thinking. He lost the ability to speak when he was 4 and relied primarily on a system of pictures and limited sign language to tell his parents and caregivers what he wanted to eat or when he felt sick or how he wanted to spend his time. Then his parents realized he could spell.
Now Mitchell, 17, communicates deliberately, pointing letter by letter to a board that displays the alphabet. Ask him a question and his expression will flit between deep concentration and a jovial grin as he slowly spells his answer. Mitchell, who has autism and is nonverbal, said using spelling-based communication has changed his life.
“It changed everything because I could get my wants and needs met,” he spelled during a recent interview at his home in Highland Park, Ill., curled up in a couch corner while one of his therapists held the board at his eye level. “I am very happy people are finally figuring out how to reach people like me because it is a human rights issue we need to solve.”
Source: 17-year-old boy with nonverbal autism blogs to reach others like him: ‘People need to stop underestimating us’
By Richard Bammer
The December holidays are a special time of year for billions of people worldwide, but Silveyville Christmas Tree Farm in Dixon became an especially magical yuletide universe of its own Friday morning for more than 100 Solano County special-needs children.
In its 28th year, the annual Special Needs Day at the Silveyville Road farm serves to brighten the holidays for these children. Most come from Solano public schools, from Vacaville and Dixon to Fairfield and Vallejo school districts, plus some from programs managed by the Solano County Office of Education in Fairfield.
By 10 a.m., teachers and parents herding excitable groups of children, 130 in all during the two-hour event and ranging in age from 3 to 18, walked happily through the farm’s gates, oblivious to the light rain falling, temperatures in the mid-50s and gloomy skies.
Source: A special two hours for special-needs kids in Solano County – Times-Herald
By Mike TeSelle
During the busy holiday shopping season, retailers go to great lengths to capture the attention of shoppers.
But a gift store aimed at selling the handmade goods of special needs students in Solano County is hoping shoppers will consider a visit to their unique gift shop inside Vacaville’s McBride Senior Center.
“They have worked so hard, but we have very few customers,” read a Facebook post advertising the gift store.
Source: Special store needs customers, wants San Francisco 49ers’ attention
By Maggie Fusek
More than 200 high school students from Solano and Napa counties took a trades tour last week during which they visited local training centers for trade workers in Napa, Fairfield, Benicia and Vacaville. The tour has taken place for the last several years and is sponsored by Napa-Solano Central Labor Council, Solano County Office of Education (SCOE), North Bay Apprenticeship Coordinators Association, and Napa-Solano Building Trades.
During this year’s tour, which took place from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, the high-schoolers received information on the opportunities a union construction career can offer.
Source: 200 Students Take Part In Napa-Solano Trades Tour | Napa Valley, CA Patch
By Nick Sestanovich
For a few hours Wednesday night, Vacaville Cultural Center felt like Hollywood as actors attired in tuxedos and fancy dresses paraded down a red carpet and cameras flashed while they made their way to the premiere of their new movie.
While it may have looked like a smaller scale premiere of the new “Star Wars” movie, it was actually the debut of a film by students at Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films camp, which took place at Golden Hills Community School in Fairfield this past summer.
Travolta — a veteran filmmaker, producer and actor from a famous show-business family that includes his younger brother John — founded Inclusion Films in 2007 to teach filmmaking skills to individuals with developmental disabilities. His organization currently hosts a variety of film camps throughout California, and Solano hosted its first this past summer largely funded through donors like NorthBay Healthcare, Soroptimist International of Vacaville Twilight Club, Solano County Office of Education and Dutch Bros. Coffee of Fairfield.
Source: Film shot by differently abled adults debuts at VPAT – The Reporter
BY Amy Maginnis-Honey
There was a red carpet premiere Wednesday in Vacaville.
The almost 50 adults involved in the film showed up in suits, ties, dresses and hats. They sat in the first few rows at the Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre to see the first Inclusion Films project done in Solano County.
“The Bizarre Zone” was played before a packed house. In the crowd was Joey Travolta, older brother of actor John Travolta. He’s also a former special education teacher.
“It takes a village,” he said. “This is an unbelievable village.”
Source: Stories to tell: Film camp opens doors to young adults with disabilities
By Nick Sestanovich
The athlete oath for the Special Olympics is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.
”That motto was definitely reflected in Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District’s annual Special Olympics soccer event at Fairfield High School’s Schaefer Stadium. The event was less about competition than it was about providing students with special needs a chance to have fun and strive for successful athleticism in a supportive environment, although the competitive aspect was certainly there.
Approximately, 400 students from nine elementary schools in the district turned out to participate in the fifth annual event, which was the first unified sports event held after FSUSD became a part of the Special Olympics Northern California Schools Partnership Program in 2015.
Source: Students get a kick out of soccer at Fairfield Special Olympics event – The Reporter
By Times Herald
Arc-Solano is hosting the Sprout Touring Film Festival on Saturday which will include many excellent short films featuring people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
There will be two screenings with the first event scheduled for Saturday inside The Rizza Auditorium at the California State University Maritime Academy campus in Vallejo. The event opens at 5 p.m. and the films begin at 6 p.m.
There will be a no-host concession stand, a raffle/silent auction, and a live auction during the intermission. The live auction will feature artwork created by individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The evening will finish with a questions and answers session about the films by Anthony Di Salvo, the director of Sprout Films.
Source: Sprout Touring Film Festival scheduled for Saturday – Times-Herald
By Todd R. Hansen
Lynda Donahue has for weeks been training as though she were about to run a half-marathon.
In reality, the Fairfield resident and retired director of special education at the Vacaville School District is just preparing to go out to play a round of golf – a 100-hole round of golf.
“I’m actually doing it for the Youth on Course Foundation, which is an organization that is part of the Northern California Golf Association,” Donahue said from Texas, where she is playing in another tournament.
Source: Fairfield woman ‘100 percent’ committed to youth, women’s golf
By Laura McKenna
When Stasi Webber decided it was time to uproot her family from their Michigan home to find a better school for her 11-year-old son with autism, she turned to the internet for answers.
The public schools in her state don’t provide the specialized behavioral and life skills training, known as ABA therapy, that her son needs; he skips school every Tuesday and Thursday to receive these essential services. But recently, Webber learned from parents on social media that her son could get both academics and ABA training in schools in New Jersey, where she grew up.
With a tentative plan of returning to her childhood home in Mahwah, she found three or four local social media sites run by special education parents and asked about ABA services at the local district, its willingness to send students to specialized schools and comparisons with nearby towns. She put her house on the market.
Source: Parents of Kids With Special Needs Find Advice Navigating The System Online – Mindshift
By Nick Sestanovich
In 2007, filmmaker and producer Joey Travolta founded Inclusion Films to teach filmmaking skills to individuals with developmental disabilities. This gave way to a series of camps aimed at imparting these skills to children and adults with disabilities and helping them make their own short films.
This past week, Solano students got their turn when Inclusion Films partnered with the Solano County Office of Education to bring the camp to Golden Hills Community School in Fairfield.
For the past two weeks, 48 students in the camp have been coming up with story ideas, writing scripts, memorizing lines, shooting film and doing everything that is typical of a Hollywood production.
Source: Adults with developmental differences learn film skills at camp – The Reporter
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today congratulated the Trabuco Hills High School Unified Champion School Program in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District for winning the 2019 Grazer Outstanding Achievement in Learning (GOAL) award. This award is given annually by the California Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE), recognizing an outstanding program that serves students with disabilities.
Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools provide students with and without disabilities opportunities for peer-to-peer engagement through sports and leadership programs.
“The inclusion practices initiated through this program provide a tremendous benefit to not only the students participating, but the entire school community,” said Thurmond. “When students with and without disabilities are provided authentic opportunities to learn and play together, this creates a climate where inclusion is the norm and diversity is honored.”
Source: State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Congratulates Winner of Special Education Learning Award – CDE
By Christina Samuels
An Obama-era Education Department policy relating to racial bias in special education was on, then off, and now is back on again.
The rule was supposed to have gone into effect for the 2018-19 school year but was delayed for two years by the department until a court blocked that move.
The implementation whipsaw is expected to cause problems for states that had relied on the delay of the policy, which relates to disproportional representation of minorities in special education. And these new rules could affect how millions of dollars in federal special education funds are spent at the district level.
Source: Ed. Dept. Reverts to Original Timeline for Rules on Racial Bias in Special Education – On Special Education – Education Week
By Richard Freedman
It was a day Spider-Man, Captain America and Wonder Woman gladly surrendered the spotlight Friday to the lesser known super heroes — Special Olympics athletes.
With a weather reprieve between unusual May rains, roughly 100 special needs students ran the 50-yard dash, hurled a javelin and leaped some hurdles in the annual event at Vallejo High School’s Corbus Field.
Seven Vallejo elementary schools, three middle schools, Bethel and Vallejo high schools, Adult Transition School and the Benicia Unified School District participated — all to the delight of Dr. Adam Clark, Vallejo City Unified School District superintendent.
Source: Special Olympics athletes get weather break at Corbus – Times-Herald
By Nick Sestanovich
Over at Armijo High School’s gym, the bass was thumping and fists were pumping for Solano County’s annual prom Friday morning for students with special needs, which proved to be a good time for all.
With the theme being “An Evening in the Enchanted Garden,” the room was strewn with flowers and images of iconic Disney fairies. The feeling of a magic garden was captured as special needs students throughout the county got to dress in their finest outfits, play games and dance to their hearts’ content, all while getting to be themselves.
Lynne Lee, a teacher in Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District’s adapted physical education department, said the event started more than 25 years ago.
Source: Solano special needs students dance the morning away at annual prom – The Reporter