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The investment in children with disabilities is one of the most important responsibilities in our public education

While the author of this letter, Sheillah Dallara, is a member of the Hoboken Board of Education, the letter expresses only Ms. Dallara’s personal opinions and has not been authorized by or written on behalf of the Board of Education.

Dear Editor:

My name is Sheillah Dallara and I am the proud parent of a 6th grader at Hoboken Middle School (Go Tigers!), a 5th grader at Wallace Elementary (Go Wildcats!) and a 2 and ½ year old.

I write to you today from my own personal opinion and in no way speaking on behalf of the Hoboken Board of Education.

I am currently towards the end of my second term serving on the Board of Education. And I must say I have had an honor and a privilege to serve alongside a true visionary and leader, Dr Christine Johnson. Our board reflects and shares in a sense of unity and equity for ALL children, and I am proud of how much progress we have made and will continue to make together.

On January 25th, our community has an important decision to make. And I want to share my own personal reasons on why I will proudly be voting YES.

I’ve heard the argument of “it’s too expensive” being thrown around on various social media pages. And yes, it does cost money to ADEQUATELY support and educate our children. It does cost money to adequately house 27 general education and inclusion classrooms, 11 specialized learning classrooms, 8 science labs and 6 special education classrooms. It does cost money to have Science on a Sphere, an Aquaponics and Hydroponics Lab, a Biomedical Science Lab, an Engineering Science Lab, a Graphic & Gaming Design Classroom, an IT Networking Lab, a Theater Arts Classroom , a Set Shop / Design, a Culinary Arts Classroom, a Small Group Team Areas (6 in total), a Collaborative Learning and Activity Center, and a Life Skills/Community Based Instruction Suite. All of these programs will be made available through this proposed new high school. More information and actual facts can be found here http://www.hoboken.k12.nj.us/ you can also find the Board of Educations FAQ’s here https://docs.google.com/document/d/11MW9ZIi6q5nUkcYby7bFZ7g5YvcuMtuLm7hSvBBO7Do/edit

You see, a good public education system is a great equalizer in this city. It is a path by which every child can pursue the bright future they deserve. That is a promise I made when elected, no matter a student’s circumstances or needs, we must provide them the tools and resources they need to have a fair shot at success. This promise is especially important for students with disabilities. The investment in children with disabilities is one of the most important responsibilities in our public education.

And this is the core, the heart, of why I implore you to Vote YES. Because as a mom of a child with Autism I look at our District through a lens of equity and access to all. My son, who started his journey in our District schools at the age of 3 in our Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) class, has had limitless opportunities to participate in school plays, school sports, after school programs and student clubs such as Student Council, Chorus and more. At the same time he is given the tools and support he needs to succeed in his academics, through self contained and inclusion classrooms, a paraprofessional since the age of 3, multiple hours of physical, occupational, social and speech therapy and a child study team that has helped my husband and I navigate the ever changing and complex aspect of special education and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

A new high school will provide endless opportunities to our most vulnerable children. It will provide programs such as a Yearlong Program to Life Town in Livingston, Job Coaching for Community Based Instruction, a Life Skills Program, Partnership with Amazon in Hoboken to Assist Special Needs Students Entering the Workforce, and a College and Career Readiness Lab to name a few. These are programs that are important to children with disabilities and IEPs as they begin the process of applying for colleges, scholarships and as they begin the transition out of special education and into the world on their own. Every parent of a child with a disability knows that the transition into adulthood is challenging, but even more so for those with special needs. It is something that keeps parents up at night, thinking if their children will be ready to take on this world on their own, if we have provided them with all the tools they need to succeed. By voting YES, you are providing these children the accessibility to succeed in the real world. You are providing children like my son the proper programs, facilities and resources to succeed in life.

There are elected politicians and groups against this proposed new high school who claim to “support education” and “care about our children”, however, this claim could not be further from the truth. By voting no, or by voting “not now” and delaying the process they are choosing exclusionary approaches, simplistic slogans, personal vendettas and punitive strategies that substitute for real solutions. The time is NOW to vote YES, to stop the divide and instead become the impetus of our efforts to force a true commitment to programs and facilities designed to invest, not disinvest, in public education, enrollment growth and ensure opportunities for lifelong learning. We must stop undermining public education, which is the institution that has the potential and purpose of creating equal opportunities for ALL children.

On January 25th, I will be voting YES. And I hope you do too. Let’s go Redwings!

Sheillah Dallara

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