Introducing Louisiana BESE District 5 Candidate Johnny Fatheree
On May 31, 2015, I wrote a post about Louisiana’s next state board of education (BESE) elections, to be held on October 24, 2015.
Regarding BESE District 5, I wrote the following:
District 5 (Claiborne, Union, Morehouse, West Carroll, East Carroll, Lincoln, Ouachita, Richland, Jackson, Madison, Caldwell, Franklin, Tensas, Grant, Lasalle, Catahoula, Concordia, Rapides, Evangeline) currently has Jay Guillot, an engineer who has contracts with RSD and is often absent from BESE meetings.
Guillot had not filed a campaign finance report related to the October 2015 BESE election. This could mean that he has applied for an extension– or it could mean he is not planning on running.
The District 5 seat is ripe for a representative who genuinely supports Louisiana public education.
That same week in May 2015, Monroe native Johnny Fatheree threw his hat into the BESE District 5 ring.
Fatheree is running for the District 5 BESE seat.
I invited Fatheree to write a post in which he introduces himself to my readers and details his position on pertinent issues in Louisiana education. Below is his response, which he has tailored to special education:
My name is Johnny R. Fatheree, and I am a candidate for the BESE District 5. I am writing this letter to clarify my position on Special Education.
First, let me provide my qualifications to write this post. I have served on the Evergreen Ministries Board, St. Mary’s Parent’s Board, President and Board Member at Northwest Developmental Center. In addition, I have been a parent of a special child who my wife and I fought for educational opportunities for our daughter for 32 years. I lost my Special Child in 2011.
In a civilized society, we MUST provide for God’s Special Children. In the following I would like to re-count some of my experiences, some current observations and offer some possible solutions or ideas.
It has been my experience and observation Special Needs Children have been and continue to be the “Step Child” in the education synopsis within Louisiana. Lack of focus on the needs of special children in the classroom has been continues to be an issue.
Currently, there are not enough spaces allotted for children, and it has become extremely difficult to get a child qualified for special education. There was a time when too many children were declared as special education students, but now there is so much effort to mainstream these children many are being left behind. In my recent interviews with special education teachers and supervisors, they told me a child can only fail a grade once. But what about the child who needs to fail twice or three times, or is just not capable of learning at the ridiculous “common core” rate. Does this child just keep continuing to be passed along failing? Some of these children just keep struggling along until they become dis-interested, become problem children, and finally quit.
I recommend struggling children not just special education, but any child who struggles be tested early and an IEP or 504 be written for that child. The IEP/504 should be a set of visualized, predetermined goals formulated with the parent, teacher and support staff. New legislation will allow a pathway for those deemed to be special education students to receive a high school diploma, but current regulation still require them to take high stakes tests with results being used to evaluate teachers. It also allows local development of IEP’s. In the many IEP meetings I have attended many of the goals and tactics were canned, mis-appropriate, or way to complex. They were presented by professionals who were great people, but had very little interaction with my child. My daughter was profoundly mentally challenged, and once she was given a goal to recognize all the letters of the alphabet by year’s end. How about teach her to make a sign for potty? The new law may allow for local control, but it does not give direction or funding for training committees, or allow for the development for IEP’s with parental input. We now have another very complex vehicle to implement. Great idea, but implementation is a challenge. There was no mention of 504’s.
The attrition, or “burn-out,” rate for special education teachers is extremely high compared to most other professions. 50% of special education teachers leave their jobs within 5 years. Half of those who make it past 5 years will leave within 10 years. This equates to a 75% turnover rate every 10 years (Dage, 2006).Teacher training is not what it should be to equip teachers to teach our Special Children. Jason France wrote in his blogabout how the LADOE has mis-appropriated millions of Federal Dollars which was earmarked for the training of Special Education Teachers. He also illustrates how employees at LADOE document their time spent on special education. Currently, most of the training is being done via webmail. Teachers tell me they can’t get phone calls or emails returned from LADOE, and when they do they can’t get answers to their questions. One superintendent I talked with said, “We are fed up with LADOE and we now just want them to leave us alone.” Does that sound like LADOE is very effective? Several educational leaders have asked for an audit of LADOE from the BESE, Inspector General, legislators, and the Attorney General, but to no avail.
We MUST provide EXTENSIVE hands on training for our teachers. All children can learn if placed in an appropriate environment for learning. Currently, my wife is teaching at a physically challenged day care where she is teaching children ages three through 12. These children have many and varied problems, and need help. This is an all Medicaid facility where these children have an opportunity to learn, and learning they are. Where are the other physically challenged children going? They are not in Charter Schools, many can’t go to public schools due to the lack of school resources, and if they do they become lost in the mainstream classroom. So, what happens to these children? One year my wife had 17 children in her classroom. Three children were (not politically correct) what teachers call “crack babies”, one had Turret Syndrome, one autistic child, one child with Asperger syndrome, four diagnosed with ADHD and several others should have been. Now someone has to explain to me how you meet Common Core Standards in this class and then be evaluated on a high stakes test which will determine the teacher’s career. Teachers are trying to do it every day, however maybe not to this extreme but not far from it. It’s not fair to teachers, the special needs children, or the other children in the classroom. We are so afraid we might label a child because it might not be politically correct, but we have been quick to test them along with all the other students and punish the teachers for being inept. We have a lot more issues to address in public schools. Each child is different, each class is different, each school is different, each school district is different, and each state is different. Not every situation is the same, so how can we just say let’s compare every child, school, district, and state without knowing the unique variables related to each. Things like poverty, language barriers, community involvement, resources, trained teachers, parental involvement, etc.
Special Education and Common Core do not belong in the same sentence. We must stop this madness of assuming all children are equal in terms of intellectual competency, this is ridiculous. There are far more children in the classroom which need a variety of assistance they are not receiving.
If I am elected to the BESE, I promise Special Education will have its own special voice.
BESE by District:
Light blue (right), 1; dark purple, 2; orange, 3; violet, 4; pink, 5; yellow, 6; darker blue (left), 7, and green, 8.