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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
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Special Education Advisory Panel Plans Road Ahead

Almost 30 people from throughout the territory with a vested interest in special education came together this week at the Carambola Beach Resort on St. Croix to discuss ways to improve services for students with disabilities.

The group, otherwise known as the V.I. Advisory Panel on Special Education (VIAPSE), is convening for their quarterly meeting to address any unmet needs of special education students throughout the territory: the meetings run Dec. 7–9.

The Assistant State Special Education Director Jill Singer said that one reason for the meeting was to ensure that the panel is ready for a visit next year by the U.S. Department of Education. They will be sending representatives to the territory to ensure that they are in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“They are coming to see that we are in compliance and to ensure that the State has effective general supervision and monitoring in place,” Singer said. “It’s our main responsibility to ensure that the students receive the services they are requiring and that we maintain compliance.”

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According to Singer, every five years, the federal government comes to the territory to monitor how the territory is doing compared to national standards.

VIAPSE is comprised of numerous stakeholders, to include policy makers, parents of children with disabilities, persons with disabilities, special education teachers, and others who have a vested interest in special education.

The Supervisor for Vocational Special Education and Transition Services, Eddie Parilla, spent Thursday morning covering the IDEA, the federal law, which was enacted in 1990. Part of the discussion was focused on the terminology within IDEA, as it was amended in 2004.

Belinda West-O’Neal, the former State Director of the Special Education, who currently runs the Inter Island Parent Coalition for Change, didn’t like the phrase “special education.”

“It should say students who receive specially designed instruction, instead of special education,” O’Neal said. “My job has always been to advocate for the students.”

O’Neal said that she hoped the conference would give parents more clarity with the education process and the language, and that it would sensitize the persons currently working within the Department.

“It’s one thing to know the language, and it’s another to be sensitive to what it’s trying to do,” she said.

Lilla Canton, the vice chair of the executive committee who represents the State Office of Special Education, said that the panel had been informative. She added that the stakeholders really just want to get the message across that being disabled should not mean being disqualified from access.

“We have people in our community who have special needs and we need to be compassionate and tolerant,” Canton said. “Individuals with disabilities have skills that they can give back to the community.”

Executive Committee Secretary Camellia Williams said she hoped that the panel would provide an outlet to bring education to the community to help them lobby for special needs.

“These people can give back to the community if they are given the opportunity, but a lot of times businesses and employers often discriminate and they just need to be patient,” Williams said.

The State Special Education staff also presented new data included in the 2011-2012 annual performance report, and updated both the panel on the status of improvement activities that could improve student results in the various areas covered by the report.

They plan to hold a meeting on St. Thomas Dec. 19th and 20th at Sugar Bay Resort, and will hold a two-day workshop in January – details of which haven’t been released.

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Almost 30 people from throughout the territory with a vested interest in special education came together this week at the Carambola Beach Resort on St. Croix to discuss ways to improve services for students with disabilities.

The group, otherwise known as the V.I. Advisory Panel on Special Education (VIAPSE), is convening for their quarterly meeting to address any unmet needs of special education students throughout the territory: the meetings run Dec. 7–9.

The Assistant State Special Education Director Jill Singer said that one reason for the meeting was to ensure that the panel is ready for a visit next year by the U.S. Department of Education. They will be sending representatives to the territory to ensure that they are in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“They are coming to see that we are in compliance and to ensure that the State has effective general supervision and monitoring in place,” Singer said. “It’s our main responsibility to ensure that the students receive the services they are requiring and that we maintain compliance.”

According to Singer, every five years, the federal government comes to the territory to monitor how the territory is doing compared to national standards.

VIAPSE is comprised of numerous stakeholders, to include policy makers, parents of children with disabilities, persons with disabilities, special education teachers, and others who have a vested interest in special education.

The Supervisor for Vocational Special Education and Transition Services, Eddie Parilla, spent Thursday morning covering the IDEA, the federal law, which was enacted in 1990. Part of the discussion was focused on the terminology within IDEA, as it was amended in 2004.

Belinda West-O’Neal, the former State Director of the Special Education, who currently runs the Inter Island Parent Coalition for Change, didn’t like the phrase “special education.”

“It should say students who receive specially designed instruction, instead of special education,” O’Neal said. “My job has always been to advocate for the students.”

O’Neal said that she hoped the conference would give parents more clarity with the education process and the language, and that it would sensitize the persons currently working within the Department.

“It’s one thing to know the language, and it’s another to be sensitive to what it’s trying to do,” she said.

Lilla Canton, the vice chair of the executive committee who represents the State Office of Special Education, said that the panel had been informative. She added that the stakeholders really just want to get the message across that being disabled should not mean being disqualified from access.

“We have people in our community who have special needs and we need to be compassionate and tolerant,” Canton said. “Individuals with disabilities have skills that they can give back to the community.”

Executive Committee Secretary Camellia Williams said she hoped that the panel would provide an outlet to bring education to the community to help them lobby for special needs.

“These people can give back to the community if they are given the opportunity, but a lot of times businesses and employers often discriminate and they just need to be patient,” Williams said.

The State Special Education staff also presented new data included in the 2011-2012 annual performance report, and updated both the panel on the status of improvement activities that could improve student results in the various areas covered by the report.

They plan to hold a meeting on St. Thomas Dec. 19th and 20th at Sugar Bay Resort, and will hold a two-day workshop in January – details of which haven’t been released.