SEPAC held two forums with City Council candidates. Sumbul Siddiqui who was unable to attend is sending us her responses to the forum questions which we will post below when we receive them.
Session 1 candidates were: Theodora Skeadas, Alanna Mallon, Joe McGuirk, Robert Ekstut, Quinton Zondervan, Patty Nolan, and Nicola Williams (55 min 50 seconds)
Session 2 candidates were: Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, Burhan Azeem, Marc McGovern, Frantz Pierre, Tonia Hicks (camera unavailable due to Internet bandwidth issues) 42 min.
Candidates were asked to respond to the three questions below.
- Federal and state civil rights, disability and education laws require that students with disabilities are provided equitable access to out-of-school time and community activities. This includes having adequate, appropriate support so that disabled children can participate in a meaningful way. Insufficient Monday-to-Friday programming impacts families; caregivers may not be able to work and students don’t receive the multiple benefits that involvement in social and recreational activities provides. The city has been chronically underfunding out-of-school-time programs that support students with disabilities. Some of the challenges families face are as follows:
- Participation of children on IEPs delayed as the city’s Inclusion Initiative is extremely understaffed to evaluate the support needed (one person for the whole city)
- Difficulty hiring enough inclusion facilitators to meet the demand (e.g., pay is too low). Some students are never included and “age-out” at 14.
- Some families cannot participate because transportation home is unavailable for non-CPSD programs.
- Currently the City of Cambridge only offers Saturday programming for the children with the greatest needs. How do we ensure that those children are provided programming after the school day Monday – Friday as well.
How do you reimagine Monday-to-Friday out-of-school time programs that will serve all of our special needs students?
- The vocational options at CRLS need to be upgraded, updated, expanded, and modified to serve the needs of students with disabilities. How will you collaborate with the school committee, and use all relevant city resources and departments (e.g., for internships) to strengthen vocational programming?
- The City has built a “Universal Design Playground” in Danehy Park. But presently, even though there is a city-wide “Healthy Parks and Playgrounds Initiative” some children with disabilities cannot safely use playgrounds throughout Cambridge. How will you ensure that all city playgrounds, structures, and events are accessible to children with disabilities?