Thank you ILRC  for hosting this We Vote rally and for being the voice of Jacksonville’s Disability Community.

Equality is fostered through an educational system that is public. We need to empower teachers and turn our classrooms into creative, collaborative learning spaces where students work together sharing ideas guided by the teacher.

My focus is on legislative policies that guarantee that our principals, teachers, students, and the families of Duval are granted the best we can give. I would like to raise the quality of education for all children. That does not mean more rigor, that means more collaborative learning, more arts and music education, more recess and time for play centers in the primary years, and more time for teachers to work with children on social-emotional growth.

Included and not advocated for enough are children of varying exceptionalities; those who are gifted in many ways, but do not have an opportunity to show their talents because of the strict curriculum and timeline, because schools don’t have a full time nurse or accommodations to help our children with auditory, verbal, or physical challenges. Parents should not be forced to choose between an inclusive-class and self-contained classroom, or be forced to leave their neighborhood school to ensure the education their children are receiving, the education that is guaranteed to them, is challenging.

We have many programs in place in Duval to ensure each child receives an education rich in arts and academics, but many schools are still lacking the funds to guarantee neighborhood schools will be able to handle the needs of all our children, not just some.

IEP teams work together to provide a plan that will distinguish each of our children’s learning objectives and styles. The goal is to create authentic and creative learners, not test takers. The goal should be for each child to excel beyond their dreams and have parents part of the process every step of the way from deciding not only what services are needed, but also when they should start and when they should end.

The law says that the school has 60 days to complete an evaluation once the parent asks, that is 2months, that is a lot of wasted time a child is not getting services, then add to that the Response to Intervention time the child may have been receiving before the parent or teacher realized more action was needed. We don’t want to deprive children of individualized services that will help them succeed.

What is the answer, I am not sure yet, but I would love more input from parents and organizations that will help make our schools a better place of every student, every day.

Thank you

Stacie Dern