Issalma Franco knows what she wants from the next chief of the Chicago Public Schools’ department that manages special education services. The Belmont Cragin resident is the legal guardian of her brother, a high school student with an Individualized Education Program, and said communication will be important in the future.
Her brother is doing well in school because he works with a good special education classroom assistant — something she hopes all students with disabilities have, said Franco. “I think communication with students and the community, but also hearing what students need is really important,” said Franco. “I’m really thankful he has a SECA that listens to him and knows that he’s capable of achieving all his goals.”
Franco was among a handful of Chicago parents, educators, and community members who attended listening sessions on Thursday and Friday hosted by the Chicago Board of Education’s special education advisory committee to get the public input on a new chief. Those who attended said they want the next head of the Office of Diverse Learners Supports and Services to communicate with them, provide support for students, and offer professional development for current educators.
Asking for the public’s input in the hiring process is an unusual move that comes at a time when the department has faced state investigation and public criticism. The office of diverse learners is one of the largest departments in the district and provides services for nearly 64,000 students between 3 and 21 years old with Individualized Education Programs and 504 plans — about 15% of the district’s 320,000 students.