- Joanna Bache Tobin
For ALL Our Students: Supporting Southern High's Program for Special Needs Students
The chief topic of the Board of Education meeting on February 19 was approving the superintendent's proposed FY 2021 budget. BOE members proposed 24 amendments. I testified in support of an amendment that sought to replace a program previously operated by the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Southern High School with AACPS staff. The Kennedy Krieger program offers a contained classroom at Southern for students who have strong academic abilities but suffer from complex learning issues, including dyslexia, discalculia, and disgraphia. It is the only program available in Anne Arundel County that provides services for children with learning disabilities such as these. Families of children who participate in this program were notified in late January that the program would be closing at the end of this school year, making it particularly difficult to find a substitute program that could serve their children’s needs.
In testimony, I stated that I know first-hand that helping children enrolled in a program, such as Kennedy Krieger’s, is a highly specialized niche within special education. It can be very hard to diagnose these children, precisely because they are very bright. My brother was such a child; and my parents made huge sacrifices to get my brother the kind of instruction he needed. They essentially gave up their retirement to send him to a tremendously expensive private program because there were no other options at the time. My brother was fortunate because our parents’ sacrifice paid off — he has been a fabulous teacher for over 20 years, teaching middle school English and changing a lot of children's lives for the better. I don't know if my brother’s outcome would have been so positive without my parents’ sacrifice. But I do know that other families should not experience the struggle mine did.
I'm please the amendment passed to become part of the superintendent’s FY 2021 budget.