By Kristen Kushiyama, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
The U.S. Department of Education welcomed Glenna Wright-Gallo as the assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), May 15.
Wright-Gallo, confirmed by the U.S. Senate as OSERS assistant secretary, May 10, 2023, has spent more than 25 years supporting students and adults with disabilities.
Jonathan Stricklen teaches Spanish at the Ohio State School for the Blind. He holds master’s degrees in Spanish and Special Education and is a certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI). Combining his specialized knowledge and skills with his lived experience as a person with visual impairment, an assistive technology user, and a braille reader, Jon is uniquely positioned both to teach and to be a role-model for his students. During the month of May, in recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), OSERS has been highlighting challenges and successes related to digital accessibility. We met with Jon to learn more about his experiences with accessibility as an educator.
By Meghan Whittaker, OSERS Special Assistant
Today, more than 60% of students with disabilities spend at least 80% of their day in general classes. This wouldn’t be possible without special educators who help to customize curriculum that is accessible to all and ensure the individual needs of students with disabilities are met.
Special educators serve a critical role in our nation’s public school, yet 45% of schools reported vacancies in special education roles, and 78% reported difficulty in hiring special education staff. Special education teacher shortages have been a longstanding challenging in most states and have only worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting State Systems of Early Childhood
Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. Wendy earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from Gonzaga University, a master’s degree in sociology from Portland State University, and a doctorate in sociology from the University of Akron. Dr. Grove has a wide range of experience teaching experience, from preschool students, to middle school students in special education, to undergraduate and medical students.
By Valerie C. Williams
Director, Office of Special Education Programs
When my cell phone rings in the middle of the day and I see my son’s school is calling, I immediately have a moment of unease: did Matthew get hurt, is he sick, what happened that warrants this call in the middle of the day? Matthew is a sixth grader with Down syndrome, but I know these feelings are shared by parents of children with and without disabilities alike.
I count myself lucky that with each of these calls I am relieved to hear about situations that, while important enough to call, are typically intended to share information about my son’s day or report on a minor issue. I am thankful that the school staff overcommunicate and keep us informed, as well as share potential solutions if a problem arises. In short, they are proactive, so after a brief chat with school personnel, I resume my day.
Kara Georgi is a parent to two children in New York and is a Member of the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance Birth Parent National Network. She is an Alliance Certified Trainer for the Bringing the Protective Factors Framework to Life in Your Work.
What do you remember most about your experiences with early intervention?
Early Intervention was a game changer for me and my family. It was where I got the help and support I needed most for helping my child with some of the challenges we were facing. The best part is we went from being strangers to a family team to working to build on strengths and skills for long term success for not only for my child, but for us as parents too.
By Valerie C. Williams
Director, Office of Special Education Programs
This is the total number of disciplinary removals students with disabilities experienced over the 2019-20 school year. Each removal represents a child’s time away from their typical learning environment: time away from their teachers, their peers, and their friends. For many children with disabilities, particularly those who find comfort in routines, it can be an uprooting and distressing experience. It is hard for a child to learn when they are removed from their class.
B. Gerard Woodrich is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Board Approved Clinical Supervisor. He obtained his Master of Social Work degree from Southern University, New Orleans, and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge. Mr. Woodrich specializes in treating depression and trauma-based anxiety due to emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. His greatest passion is centered around helping young African American males and at-risk youth using innovative and relatable techniques.
By Thomas Delaney, EdS School Psychologist, Interagency Partnership Supervisor and State Personnel Development Grant Director for the Minnesota Department of Education
When I was in high school in the mid-1980s, I got a copy of Richard Bach’s book “Illusions” into my hands. I can’t remember how that came to be, or who put it there, but there is a quote in that book that can always help you look in the mirror and recognize who you see, and it reads, “Remember where you came from, where you’re going, and why you created this mess you got yourself into in the first place.”
Katherine (Katy) Neas, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of Education
Sherry Lachman, Associate Director for Education, Income Maintenance and Labor, White House Office of Management and Budget
Bert Wyman, Program Examiner, White House Office of Management and Budget
The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to improving the lives of young children with disabilities and their families. We are working to ensure that every child who needs individualized and high-quality early intervention services receives them as early as possible. We have called on Congress to double funding for these services and we have made strategic investments to expand the number of early intervention providers, including in underserved communities. We are also developing user-friendly resources and technical assistance on expanding access to early intervention for early childhood state and local administrators and service providers, families, and advocates. As part of this effort, on December 14, the Department of Education, in partnership with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, hosted a webinar where we released informational guides for early childhood stakeholders to promote innovative and effective strategies for identifying and serving all children eligible for early intervention services.