National PTA’s Every Child in Focus campaign for the month of December centered on the child with special needs. As part of the campaign to celebrate, raise awareness and elevate support for families and children with special needs, National PTA President Otha Thornton and Special Needs Committee Chair Enrique Escallon visited Detroit to meet with state and local PTA leaders, education and community leaders, and parents to discuss the challenges they face and solutions to help support student success.
The visit to Detroit began with an education town hall meeting at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History hosted by the Detroit Council PTA. The event included discussions on serving families of children with special needs, increasing access to resources and services, and empowering parents to advocate for children. President Thornton and Enrique Escallon served as panelists along with a member of the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education, representative of the Detroit Parent Network, member of the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative and education consultant for the United States Chess Federation, who is working with educators across the country to bring the game of chess into classrooms as a tool for teaching and learning that engages all students and reinforces critical thinking skills.
Following the town hall meeting, President Thornton and Enrique had the opportunity to visit the Charles R. Drew Transition Center, a unique post-secondary vocational center that serves special education students ages 18-26. At the Charles R. Drew Transition Center, instruction is delivered through simulated work and living environments located on “Main Street.” The center features a clothing store, flower shop, print and copy center, bank, laundry facility, beauty salon, convenience store, fitness center, post office and foods and arts programs. Students learn in a non-traditional classroom setting that promotes independent living and employability skills. The goal of the center is to provide students with life and skill training and real-world connections to prepare them to be productive citizens and succeed in work environments. While at the Charles R. Drew Transition Center, President Thornton and Enrique met with administrators, parents and PTA members.
After visiting the Charles R. Drew Transition Center, President Thornton and Enrique joined Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin, members of the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education and Detroit Public Schools staff for a discussion on PTA, the Every Child in Focus campaign, families and children with special needs and current challenges in Detroit. Detroit Public Schools has been experiencing an enrollment decline as well as staff turnover with the closure of school buildings. On the other hand, the proportion of students in the district with special needs has been growing. And the higher proportion of special-education students has led to shortages in services and the reassignment of students to larger classes.
The visit to Detroit was an important opportunity to bring together PTA, education and community leaders to spotlight, discuss and advance issues facing families in Detroit. Check out photos from the events below.
National PTA invites state PTAs to host their own events in conjunction with the Every Child in Focus campaign or partner with National PTA for a joint-event. Read the call for proposals and submit your ideas at PTA.org/ECIFevents.
National PTA President Otha Thornton and Special Needs Committee Chair Enrique Escallon discuss the
Every Child in Focus campaign and elevating support for families and students with special needs during a town hall meeting at the Charles H. Wright Museum of
African American History in Detroit.
President Thornton and Enrique Escallon meet with parents and PTA members at the Charles R. Drew Transition Center.