“Think of the power we have in this room right now to make a difference.”

This was the uplifting opening statement from Carla Crenshaw, Director of MUSD Special Education and Student Services, at the district’s first SEPTAM (Special Education Parent Teacher Association of Milpitas) gathering on September 19, 2019.

The evening launched a district-wide effort toward creating a Special Education PTA for the benefit of families and students with differing abilities. The mission is to bring families and educators together to develop high-quality educational programs and a support network for the community.

Crenshaw continued, “What is a full life when you think about your children? What does that look like for you?” 

The presentation then turned heartfelt when Crenshaw opened up about her own life experiences to the community-filled room. She shared a personal journey with those close to her for whom she has provided profound support.

Crenshaw’s sister, Milly, is severely deaf and has multiple sclerosis. Their late brother, Raphael, had down syndrome. When Crenshaw started a family of her own, she and her husband took a frightening visit to the emergency room after their infant son, Sebastian, had stopped breathing. From there, a variety of health discoveries were revealed over time…

“We found out that he had a developmental disability at 11 weeks in utero.”

Sebastian has lived with Noonan syndrome, cerebral palsy, apnea, and chaotic tachycardia (heartbeat irregularity), and has also endured two strokes. Engaging in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and resource specialist support have greatly helped him. Additionally, being an accomplished drummer and mastering karate bolstered his well-being. Crenshaw added, “It was a collaborative effort between home and school that made this possible.” 

Last month, Sebastian entered his first year of college at the University of California San Diego. He is majoring in Math.

It is emotionally evident that Crenshaw’s own life course has had a monumental influence on the work she does today.

The announcement of SEPTAM drew a full room of parents, educators, and community members for an introductory collaboration, after which leadership roles shall be occupied in the near future. Crenshaw encouraged, “We are here to unite forces to make changes for our kids.”

Collaboration, respect, community, accountability, and diversity are SEPTAM’s core values. With engaged interests from the larger parent community, SEPTAM will provide a forum for all to connect, host speaker and training series, organize disability awareness events, create family events, fund motor rooms and materials, and provide legislative advocacy and teacher micro-grants.

More specifically, department goal areas focus on identifying the root cause of Attendance issues and increasing the capacity of Mental Wellness, while ensuring site support for both such endeavors. Additionally, Inclusion, Dyslexia, Specialized Curricula, Methodology, Professional Development, and SLPs (Speech and Learning Pathologists) are among the key focuses in terms of Instructional Practices.

Ultimately, the overall LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) priorities for the district are as follows: First, for all students to receive standards-based curricula in a safe environment via highly qualified educators so as to be fully prepared for college. Second, for MUSD students to be fully invested in so as to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally in a safe, nurturing, and culturally responsive school environment. Third, for students of unduplicated low income, English learners, and those with disabilities to make accelerated growth to close the achievement gap.

For the Special Education department, the next steps would be to further gather interested members, set up an appointment with a state PTA consultant, and meet to outline an action plan.

The revelation of Crenshaw’s family narrative brought an empowering comfort to a room of parents eager to know if their own current stories of their children, being lived out each day, are understood and felt. Fully aware that on an internal level, parents on similar journeys can feel alone and even lost and confused when it comes to helping their children, Crenshaw noted, “I really wanted the parents to know that we see them and can appreciate their journeys, and that by working together, we can create a more robust support network for our kids.”

Community members, educators, special education teachers, and especially parents are encouraged to engage in the SEPTAM movement. “Research shows that kids do better when their parents are involved in their education,” Crenshaw emphasized.

To inquire and stay connected, the community can contact MUSD Student Services (Special Education).

Stay with The Beat as we continue coverage on this developing district program.

 

Nerizza Besabe Manongdo
Nerizza is a parent and a PTA leader at John Sinnott Elementary. She previously held the position of President and continues her participation this year as Communications Chair. Outside of serving her school community, Nerizza is an eBook author and food writer.

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